Remakes of classics – salute to original story or lack of creativity?

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail CGTN, March 16, 2018
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The classic Chinese folktale Legend of the White Snake will have another TV remake, drawing much ire from the country's netizens for a lack of original output from the entertainment industry.

The classic Chinese folktale Legend of the White Snake will have another TV remake. [Photo/Mtime]

Recent years have seen literary classics such as Journey to the West being frequently remade. The adaptations, relying on the popularity of the former series, usually churned out good ratings.

The Legend of the White Snake is among one of China's Four Great Folktales, which includes Lady Meng Jiang, Liang Shanbo and Zhu Yingtai, and The Cowherd and the Weaving Maid.

Huang Rong is the leading female character in The Legend of the Condor Heroes. Beautiful and smart, she is a master of Kung Fu and helps her lover Guo Jing overcome many difficulties. The photo shows a comparison of the actresses who have played the role of Huang Rong in different adaptations. [Photo provided to]

According to Chinanews, the upcoming TV series will be produced by an emerging film and television media company.

Reportedly, the adaptation will faithfully follow the original story, but with a few changes. Led by Yu Menglong and Ju Jingyi, the tale tells a story where a snake spirit, White Snake, transforms herself into a human and experiences the world with her friend Green Snake.

She falls in love with a human, Xu Xian, and convinces him to marry her, after which the three friends open a pharmacy where White Snake's healing powers draw the attention of the play's antagonist, Fa Hai.

Chinese audience were pretty ticked off that the new remake seemed unlikely to go beyond the classics.

"Remake is to highlight how classic the original one is," according to a comment on China's Twitter-like social media platform Weibo.

"All you know is remake, remake, and remake. Can't you make a new show?" another user commented.

There has been a trend of pushing out remakes of historical TV dramas in the Chinese market in recent years, with multiple remakes of some classics every few years. Many of them have been failures instead of a successful salute to the source.

Most adaptations have been criticized for not bringing anything new. Nothing seems appealing to Chinese audiences: the cast, lines, or shooting method or even new technologies were applied – they all look similar to the classic adaptations.

So what's the point of having remakes?

Well, the basis of a successful remake is bringing something new. The adaptation should retain the essence of the original story as well as incorporate elements that conform to the spirit of the times. Simply embellishing the remake with history or spirits that know martial arts is not enough.

So the new round of historical drama remakes need to at least stick to one principle – to know what their audience wants.

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