“So, you know that episode of Thundercats I was finishing?” my husband asked one morning.
“Urnghuh? Um…sure,” I answered, my foggy tones conveying that no, I hadn’t had my morning coffee yet. I wrestled my hair into order with a scrunci and tried to look awake.
“It had the same plot as that Harold Lloyd movie we watched yesterday.”
That got my attention. “What?”
“Grandma’s Boy, the Harold Lloyd movie? It was the same as the Thundercats episode.”
For those of you not familiar with these two entities, Harold Lloyd was a famous comedic actor, known for a shy persona juxtaposed against daredevil stunts.
His career stretched from the silent films in the 19teens all the way into the ‘talkie’ era.
IMDB sums up Grandma’s Boy:
“Always the mama’s boy, or in this case a grandma’s boy, Sonny joins a posse after a tramp accused of robbery and murder. He is unable to conquer his cowardice until Grandma tells him of his grandfather, also a coward, who overcame his fears with the help of a magic amulet. With new courage (and the charm), Sonny captures the fugitive and becomes the hero of the day.”
While I don’t imagine that the 1922 film was the first to use the idea of ‘the lucky charm that gives courage,’ it certainly wasn’t the last.
Enter a 1987 cartoon, in which a cat-lizard creature on Third Earth needs to save his more physically capable friends. He lacks courage until…you guessed it…he gains a ‘magical’ talisman. Which doesn’t end up being magical at all. Just like in Harold Lloyd’s film…
Of course the two stories are different. Different setting, characters, medium of presentation…but the bones of the story are the same.
The question, I think, is whether this is a failing in the stories.
I’d say, no. (Edited to: Not always.)
Is it any surprise that ideas get reused? After all, in the wisdom literature of the Bible’s Old Testament the author acknowledges,
9 What has been will be again,
what has been done will be done again;
there is nothing new under the sun. (Ecclesiastes 1:9)
This was, oh, about 2,500 years ago…
I asked my husband the obvious question. “Which was better?”
He thought for a moment. “Thundercats.” *
Writers, I find this encouraging. If your story idea isn’t exactly original, it doesn’t mean that it is unusable. A new voice might breathe new, exciting life into an old story.
Cat-lizards don’t seem to hurt either.
My conclusion: If you use an old theme, make sure you do it well!
Has anyone else seen this same basic plot used elsewhere?
*My husband just gave me a hard time about ‘lying to my readers,’ so here is a disclaimer. All conversations are approximated. “Baby brain” ensures that I don’t actually remember things like words people say to me anymore. If I actually remember having a conversation pre-coffee, I count that as a win. 🙂