There is a moment in the fairly strong pilot episode of Gotham: The Adventures of Batman's City Before Batman that made me roll my eyes a bit. We are introduced to Edward Nygma, forensics specialist for the Gotham City PD, and the dude just cannot stop talking in riddles. It's played for laughs in a fairly grim episode, but it comes off like "He likes riddles. Riddles. Because he's going to become The Riddler. Get it? Get it?"
The premise of Gotham is strong. Seriously, I'll sign up right now for seven seasons of Young Jim Gordon tries to clean up a corrupt GCPD with the occasional hat tip to the characters that will eventually make up comics' deepest rogue's gallery. That is a solid series with some great stories to tell.
Yet the premiere episode opened with Young Bruce Wayne walking down that infamous dark alley with his parents. You know it's not going to end well because you've seen it before. In fact, the website Vulture edited together a super-cut of all the times you've witnessed Thomas and Martha Wayne being gunned down in Crime Alley. I mean, they even showed them getting killed in the cartoon Super Friends, a show on which I'm pretty sure villains got sent to bed without dinner as punishment.
I wonder why we keep telling the same origin stories over and over again. A couple of years back, Sony Pictures rebooted the Spider-Man series a scant five years after the previous movie (and yeah, Spider-Man 3 was terrible, but did we really have to watch Uncle Ben meet his big screen demise twice within a decade?). Star Trek got a reset. James Bond got his pre-Double 0 Agent story. Superman got a refresh as Warner Bros. tries to build a cinematic universe akin to Marvel's). Heck, we've even been treated to the origin story of the Wizard of Oz.
We live in a reboot culture. These are characters and properties that stretch back for decades. There are literally hundreds of good stories featuring Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, and others. Yet it seems like people are content to keep circling back to the beginning and tell the same story over and over.
Part of this is financial. As big-budget movies and shows grow more and more out of control, studios aren't willing to risk money on unknown quantities. They're literally banking on familiar properties and franchises in order to turn a profit. New stories aren't being told. It makes for a stifling creative market. And this is coming from someone that loves comic books and their cinematic adaptations. There seems to be this cultural tendency towards origin stories and reboots, nostalgia and comfort. Heck, I write this while wearing a t-shirt featuring the beloved Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles of my childhood.
And it goes beyond pop culture. There are many people that bemoan the perceived sideways nature of our culture and yearn for the supposed good old days. It touches politics. What else is the Tea Party but an attempted reboot of tricornered-hat era politics. It touches church. I know I have said many times that it would be wonderful if we could go back to the days of the early church.
But we can't go back. We can never ever go back.
That is not to say that we cannot learn from the past. Nor is it to say that we should stop telling origin stories. The stories of our origins, whether superheroes or faith traditions, can help us remember our roots: what these things are supposed to stand for. We should tell origins well.
Yet we need to tell new stories. There is such a thing as harping so much on the past that you cannot move forward because we can never fully go back. We need the imagination, memory, and creativity to create a new world not just in our fiction (which can impact our reality) but also in the real world.
That is not where I was expecting a blog concerning thoughts about Gotham to go, but there it is. So yeah, Gotham started pretty strong. I hope the ration of new stories far outweigh the origin re-tellings.
Also, I hope there is an episode with a climactic fight aboard one of those sweet yet wholly impractical police blimps.