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Ain't Nothing Like the Reel Thing Baby: The Millennia! Film Remake, a Postmodem Simulation

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“A in’t Nothing Like the Reel Thing Baby”
The Millennial Film Remake, a Postmodern Simulation
A Thesis by
Alexandra Nakelski
Chapman University
Orange, California
Dodge College o f Film and Media Arts
Submitted in partial fulfillment o f the requirements for the degree o f
Master o f Arts in Film Studies
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Nam Lee, Ph.D., Chair
Jonathan Wysocki, M.F.A.
Andrew Lane, B.A.
May 2010
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“A in’t Nothing Like the Reel Thing Baby”
The Millennial Film Remake, a Postmodern Simulation
Copyright © 2010
By
Alexandra Nakelski
ABSTRACT
Since the m id-1990’s, there has been a cynical trend in remaking films, television
programs and other iconic phenomena from previous decades. Particularly in the 2000’s,
prom inent pop culture and genre favorites from the 1980s have been remade into films
that are the antithesis o f homage. Such recent remakes as Clash o f the Titans, The Dukes
o f Hazzard, Fame, The Karate K id and The A-Team are not calling upon nostalgia as a
tool to capture the spirit o f the original. Rather, the filmmakers choose to distance
themselves as far as possible from the original thus creating a simulation or empty shell.
Simultaneously, the filmmaker or studio’s concern is to transform surface aesthetics for
contemporary viewers while the true meaning or context is completely ignored. This
thesis defines the term describing these particular films as Millennial Remakes. Because
the original films were so relevant to the time era in which they were produced and
experienced, the remakes are anachronistic qualifying them as postmodern pastiche and
simulation. Using M iami Vice as a case study, being the exemplar o f 80s Noir and voice
o f dissent in Reagan’s America, the researcher analyzes the significant bond the show
had to the era in which it was made and how when taken out o f the 1980s, loses value and
meaning. These remakes have different agendas and approaches to the material than
remakes have in the past and this paper delineates these differences. These films
represent cultural changes in audience spectatorship and generational identification. By
altering the memory o f the predecessor, it creates a rift in the original audience’s
relationship to the text and disallows contemporary viewers to create cultural cinematic
connections.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
A bstract............................................................................................................................................. iv
Table o f C ontents...................................................................................
v
Chapter One: Introduction..............................................................................................................1
Focus o f Research..............................................................................................
1
Significance o f Study.........................................................................................................5
M ethodology..........................................................................................
7
Chapter O utline.................................................................................................................11
Chapter Two- Examining Discourse on the R em ak e,.............................................................17
Postmodernism and M iami Vice
Chapter Three- Deja View: Discourse on the R em ak e.......................................................... 28
and Defining the Millennial Remake
Chapter 4- “Talkin’ Bout My Generation” : C ontextual........................................................49
Analysis o f M iami Vice the Television Series
Chapter 5- “D on’t Play It Again Sam”: The Contextual........................................................78
Analysis o f M iami Vice 2006
Conclusion- Where do we go from here?............................................................................... 109
Works Cited..................................................................................................................................119
Bibliography................................................................................................................................ 123
Film ography..................................................................................................................................127
v
Chapter One: Introduction
Focus o f research:
According to Robert A. N ow lan’s Cinema Sequels and Remakes, there have been
approximately 1025 remakes/adaptations between 1903 and 1987. The imdb Pro website
lists 2000-2009 as having 315.1 Remakes have been a phenomenon o f American Cinema
since the advent o f film; however, the remakes from the mid-nineties to present day,
warrant a separate category o f what I call “Millennial Remakes”. There has been a large
concentration o f remade films in the last fifteen years and they differ in content and
context from other remakes o f the 20th century. Recently, many contemporary remakes
are o f iconic pop culture films/TV shows and genre favorites with cult followings o f the
1980s and 1970s {The Karate Kid, Fame, Miami Vice, Charlie's Angels, The Dukes o f
Hazzard, Dirty Dancing, The A-Team, Valley Girl, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Clash o f
the Titans, Weird Science, among others that have been announced to be remade).
Historically, there have been many industrial strategies in remaking films: updating the
special FX (War o f the Worlds), translating a foreign film for domestic audiences (The
Ring), infusing an older film with contemporary ideologies (The Thing), or studios having
remade their own properties in the Golden Era o f Hollywood cinema (The Maltese
Falcon).
Millennial Remakes o f eighties films and other pop culture favorites may fit
1 This n u m b er is as o f th is w riting (June, 2 0 0 9 - April 2 0 1 0 ) and has b e e n d eterm in ed by th e key w ord "remake" in th e search
p a ra m ete rs. By including 'seq u el' a n d /o r "adaptation", this n u m b er rises.
2 As o f April 2 0 1 0 , m any rem ak es h a v e b een a n n o u n c ed th a t n ever w e n t in to prod u ction and o th e r s th a t will be g o in g into
p ro d u ctio n , h o w ev er, it is th e a n n o u n c e m e n t itself; th e idea of th e rem ak e o f p ast pop culture p h e n o m en o n and can on ical cin em a
th a t is u n d er ex a m in a tio n in this th e sis.
1
into one o f the above categories,3 but it is more appropriate to group them under a new
classification of remakes: postmodern pastiche and simulation. This thesis explores this
phenomenon using theoretical terms outlined by Fredric Jam eson and Jean Baudrillard in
their respective works, Postmodernism or, the Cultural Logic o f Late Capitalism and
Simulacra and Simulation, and the ironic nature o f retro vs. nostalgia defined by
Elizabeth Guffey in Retro, the Culture o f Revival that separate these films from remakes
that are tributes or homage. As a case study, a full analysis o f the 1980’s series Miami
Vice contrasted with its 2006 film counterpart is included to illuminate the importance of
the 1980's text to its era and how when taken o f the 1980s into 2006, it loses its meaning
and essence, becoming an anachronistic simulation. Miami Vice is representative o f other
socio-historic and iconic films o f particular decades being remade years out o f their
thematic/ ideological context. My analysis o f Miami Vice is therefore applicable to other
Millennial Remakes in analyzing their texts (or lack thereof) in relation to their original
texts. When an object, or work so intrinsically identified with a certain period in time that
its very meaning, and ideology are synonymous to the original point in history o f its
creation and consumption, a "contemporary" revision is in and o f itself ironic and
obsolete.
In order to discuss the 2006 film, Miami Vice as a Millennial Remake, it is necessary
to establish it as a remake, not an adaptation even though the original is a television
series, which is a different medium. It is a remake in that there is really nothing “adapted”
from the original in terms o f its ideas, themes and concepts. In his book, Film Remakes
■’ As in th e ca se o f Clash o f the Titans, it m ay be con sid ered th a t th e sto p m otion e ffe c ts w ere d ecid ed to b e digitally "updated" but
w h a t is relevan t to th is th e sis is h ow a d ear icon from th e original (Bubo th e m ech an ical ow l) is tak en by t h e p ro ta g o n ist o u t o f a
d u sty old trunk b efo re his journey; and in stead o f taking him alon g like th e y did in th e original film , his c o m p a n io n says "You can
lea v e that behind, w e d on 't n eed it anym ore." Then h e th row s it back in to th e old trunk to b e fo r g o tte n . T h ese M illennial R em ak es
do not h o m a g e th e original but d e e m th e m o b so le te .
2
Constantine Verevis and in his essay “Planet o f the Remakes”, Sven Lutticken consider
television shows turned big screen as “remakes” . The two argue that adaptations’ main
focus is to be faithful to the original text and to translate it from one medium (usually
literature or plays) to film. In fact most scholars treat television shows turned to film as
“rem akes” . As will be discussed in chapter two, an adaptation is also a form o f remake in
that they borrow from an original text. It is the text and not the form o f media that is
under scrutiny here. There has also been strong reasons from the business side o f film
production that insinuate that these remakes are financially “low-risk ventures promising
profitable windfall on a “pre-sold” recognizable name; however, the main focus o f this
thesis is on the cultural implications such as the simulation altering (or eliminating) the
meaning o f the original and o f audiences’ identification with and memories o f these
films.
These Millennial Remakes are significant because they are not simply a “cycle” o f
remakes but signify a larger problem in our postmodern social culture: we “are
condemned to seek History by way o f our own pop images and simulacra o f that history,
which itself remains forever out o f reach.” (Jameson, 25.) By trying to alter or erase the
past to live in a perpetual present (with history now being “non-linear” as Jameson and
other postmodern theorists would contend), we have created an identity vacuum and
embrace the simulation that does not represent reality but replaces it. What needs to be
studied is the concentration o f these remakes being made currently, the dissimilarities
between the original and the revision, the ironic attitude o f their execution and
3
consumption and the consequences on spectatorship.4 In her book, Retro: The Culture o f
Revival, Elizabeth Guffey distinctly outlines the differences between nostalgia and
"retro": "Where nostalgia is linked to romantic sensibility that resonates with ideas o f
exile or longing, retro tempers these associations with a heavy dose o f cynicism or
detachment...its enduring quality is its ironic stance." (Guffey, 20.) The Millennial
Remake does not nostalgically long for the feelings the original generated, but rather
creates a sense o f detachment (as in the case o f Miami Vice) or cynicism in that the
original was campy or kitsch {Dukes o f Hazzard, Charlie s Angels, etc.) Many
enthusiasts o f the Millennial Remake’s original films have formed web pages and
alliances voicing dissatisfaction in the current remake phenomenon5. These remakes have
also been colloquially and critically panned as inferior; so why then has this trend
continued? Compared to remakes/adaptations o f the 20th Century, the Millennial
Remakes are highly concentrated in irony and show the general consensus and collective
memory o f today as having a sense o f animosity for 1980s American culture defining it
as overly- sentimental, overly optimistic and over the top. These remakes are both direct
and indirect in their connotation o f stating that what is “quintessentially 80’s” is camp.
Films such as Grease, American Graffiti, and Body Heat have been classified as
postmodern by Jameson, however as I clarify in the literature review, these films differ
from the Millennial Remake in that they contain nostalgia. The Millennial Remakes are
not nostalgic for the 80s (or other past decades) or rejoice or yearn for the 80s; this is a
4 Current sp ecta to rsh ip and th a t of th e id en tity a gen era tio n form ed w ith th e film s th e y grew up w ith and e x p e r ie n c e d w ith p eers
coincidingly creatin g a unifying bond w ith all a u d ien ces w h o have se e n and valu ed th e film .
5 The list o f w e b sites outlining th e n eg a tiv e a sp ec ts o f th e s e rem ak es is vast: h ttp ://w w w .c in e m a -c r a z e d .c o m /r e m a k e _ g a m e htm
Especially for th e film s of th e 1980's: h ttp ://w w w .c ra c k e d .c o m /a rtic le _ 1 6 6 6 5 _ 5 -u p c o m in g -re m a k e s -8 0 s -m o v ie s -th a t-m u s t-b e sto p p ed .h tm l
C elebrities have also ack n ow led ged th is "epidem ic" S tep h en King w rites "W hat's N ext for Pop cu lture? M ovies, TV b o o k s and e v e n
radio are evolvin g fast-b u t th e ch a n g es are not for th e better": h tt p : //w w w .e w .e o m /e w /a r tic le /0 ,,2 0 3 0 4 2 7 0 ,OO.html
4
“symptom o f the waning o f our historicity”. (Jameson, 21). In postmodern society, the
frame o f reference is no longer linear but spatial creating the Lacanically 4schizophrenic”
fragmented audience. Why this focus on remaking a pop culture o f the past? Because “we
seem increasingly incapable o f fashioning representations o f our own current
experience” . (Jameson, 21). It is interesting to wonder if, now in the 2010’s, we are
incapable o f producing original material and content with this fact; or incapable to
produce new material but still desire to do so? The producers and consumers o f the
Millennial Remake do not concern themselves with the historical or the preservation of
which or to fashion representations o f the current experience. The Millennial Remake is
a perfect reflection o f this “schizophrenic fragmented” culture Jameson describes.
Significance o f Study:
W hat had started as a casual 6 observation o f films I fondly treasure as time capsules o f
*
my youth now being significantly altered by both the production end and (most
alarmingly), the consumption end o f spectatorship, turned into a serious study into the
nature o f these remakes. Because it is such a current topic, I knew there would be need
for building on existing scholarship o f postmodernism. Postmodernism theory came to
academic light in the 1980s, yet seems to resonate more now in the digital revolution and
as a result, postmodern theory itself needs to be built on or formed into “stages” o f
postmodernism. The main reason would be the huge change in culture and commerce
after the Internet infiltrated our daily lives. Postmodernism in the 2000’s has
significantly changed since postmodernism “sensibilities” o f the 1980s when computers
6 And eq u ally fru stratin g
5
were more o f a novelty to play games on than an intricate linkage o f a global society. In
the 1980’s, culture was still concerned with being separate and unique when compared to
previous decades; the 80’s did not want to be the 1970s. The decade was in reaction to
the previous decade. The 2000’s are not stemmed from a rebellious reaction to the
1990’s. History has become increasingly non-linear in these Millennial years. As o f date,
there is no current scholarship on this incursion o f remakes, their nature, and the
consequence o f which on spectatorship and audiences’ identification with cinematic pop
culture phenomena. Scholars have written thorough research on other forms o f remakes.
I expand this scholarship by adding 7to the “phases” Verevis created in his text, Film
Remakes and expand the taxonomy o f what qualifies as a remake and how it operates by
including the “Millennial Remake”. It is important to define this type o f film first as this
thesis sets out to do because we can then understand the ramifications it has on audience
spectatorship, generational identity/memory and to the future o f cinematic history.
During the 1980s, mass media had nostalgic tendencies, however since the m id-1990’s,
mass culture has shifted to retro tendencies. When exactly did this start within these
twenty- thirty years, and why? In the 1980’s the media had a love affair with the 1950’s
and “simpler times” in American history as can be seen the numerous films and music
that hearken back to these remembered years. However, today we do not look back thirty
years to the 80s and wish to relive them, they are rather seen as days people wish to
forget or chastise; a possible driving force behind the genesis o f the M illennial Remake.
This thesis would then be equally important in clarifying M iami Vice's place in
popular culture history as more than just a show with fast cars and slick fashion and
7 In chapter three
6
music; but is instead, as Robert Arnett writes, the voice o f dissent in Reagan’s America.
The phenomenon o f Miami Vice is similar to a Polaroid snapshot, a time capsule o f the
tum ultuous epoch the city o f Miami endured in the late 70s and early 80s. When
compared in these terms to the remake, it establishes the latter as a hyper-real simulation
that does not establish a temporal identity or social meaning o f its own. It fails to
represent its current audience because it is only a facsimile. Finally, it is worth examining
the connotation o f contemporary culture by the very existence o f these remakes. The
difference between collective memory nostalgically and collective memory
retrospectively has not been applied in postmodern terms especially in accordance with
M illennial Remakes. If we live in a “world in which stylistic innovation is no longer
possible [and] all that is left is to imitate dead styles” (Jameson, 115.) what does this say
about our current culture and ideologies?
M ethodology
The greater part o f methodological approach for this thesis is o f Jam eson’s and
Baudrillard’s postmodern theory and contextual analysis o f Miami Vice and the 2006
remake. Most o f the studies on remakes have been on the industrial nature o f remakes,
tl_
taxonomies and functions o f early to mid 20 century remakes than recent remakes and
the cultural interpretation and reception o f these new texts. The history of the remake up
until the mid 1990’s is defined in three major categories: the legal ethical way o f making
veritably the same film as your competitors; studios o f Hollywood’s Golden Era
reworking their own properties for financial profit; or the deconstructing o f genres and
homage o f the greats by the “film school generation”. I build on the scholarship and add
7
what construes as a Millennial Remake and approximately when they started m aking
their way into theaters and our culture. The proceeding chapter is a textual analysis o f
the original Miami Vice and its importance to the 1980s. This case study includes the
meaning behind the aesthetic and thematic choices in reflecting and representing the
Zeitgeist. The next chapter proves Miami Vice 2006 to be an exemplary Millennial
Remake in its complete absence o f defining components o f the original. And it is
because o f this absence that it qualifies as pastiche and simulation. This case study
represents the major characteristics o f other Millennial Remakes in that the methodology
used to define it can be applied to other films in contrasting them to their originals. The
difference between nostalgia and retro is defined and applied to the M illennial Remakes
again to differentiate them from period films8 and films ‘‘updated’ for a contemporary
audience9. Again nostalgia is fondly looking back with a yearning for yesteryear while
retro is more of a cynical approach and critical remembrance. Retro reworks the meaning
and aesthetic o f the original for present day purposes and use.
The textual analysis o f Miami Vice clarifies what the“ 1980s” meant and how iconic
and closely related to the decade the show really was; it both helped define and reflect the
decade simultaneously.10 The show was both timeless and timely, another incongruence
between the original series and the 2006 film.
The studios are creating remakes because of financial possibilities behind an already
known name, however, it is beyond the scope o f this thesis to analyze fully the industrial
g
Such as th e film s C hinatow n and A m erican G raffiti are classified to o as p ostm od ern by J a m eso n (19)
9 Body H e a t b ein g an exam p le as a "D ouble Indem nity" for th e 1 9 80's
10 The fo cu s in d efinin g M ia m i Vice as q u in te sse n tia l^ "80s" will be in th e Reagan Era politics and gen era l irony th a t in th e g e t rich
quick d e c a d e it w a s in d eed on ly th e p eo p le op eratin g o u tsid e th e law w h o b en efitted . It is iconicaily 8 0 s by its irony T he co p s w h o
d rove th e flashy cars and w o re th e fancy suits still only m ad e $ 5 0 0 a w e e k and su ffered from isolation and e s tr a n g e m e n t o f "normal'
so ciety . Also, it is 1 9 8 0 's b e c a u se of th e celeb ration o f con tem p orary pop culture (esp ecia lly th e m usic) and n e w s h e a d lin e s in fu sed
into th e th e m e s , co n tex t and storylin es. In th e brave n ew world or m usic v id eo m o n ta g e, M ia m i Vice u tilized th is n e w artistic form at
to its full p o ten tia l, esp . w ith th e p resen ce of c o m p o ser Jan H am m er.
8
factors and how they might influence the content and form o f the Millennial Remakes. It
is in the best interest o f American businesses (all companies including film studios) to
invest in low risk ventures in the economy o f the 2010’s. The significant percentage o f
remakes per original story film produced is a sign o f this financial fear o f losing profit.
The studios indeed have many reasons to green light “pre-sold” names, and this is a clear
sign o f postmodernism in the age o f late capitalism. However, it is in my interest as to
why there is such a high concentration o f film remakes o f 1980s pop culture in this
current decade, how they signify other postmodern sensibilities, and to conclude with
areas o f further research: why audiences continue to patronize them. How will these
remakes affect our cinematic culture and generational identification with films that were
once classified according to decade or artistic movements? What does this reception o f
postmodern pastiche say about our contemporary society and how does it alter the
memory and meaning o f the original?
Fredric Jameson goes into great depth about the spatial relationship11 o f late
capitalism on our society and the effect it has on our historicism, ‘the new spatial logic o f
the simulacrum can now be expected to have a momentous effect on what used to be
historical time. The past is thereby itself modified.” (Jameson, 18). Some o f his most
exemplary points are seen most apparently in contemporary architecture. He uses the
W estin Bonaventure as a prime exam ple12 o f postmodernism: something that is no longer
practical in a M odem sense, and is disorienting purposefully in its nature. Its exterior is
11 H ow buildings are n o w built w ith no clear exit and en tra n ce, h ow th e arch itecture is d esig n ed around id eal con su m p tion ...y o u
m u st p a ss a labyrinth o f sto r e s and p oin ts o f p u rch ase b efo re you reach you r d estin ation . The fu n ction o f th is arch itecture is
d iso rien tin g , it is o fte n hard t o find o n e 's w a y back to th e parking garage, th e n to th e car w ith o u t b ein g b om b ard ed w ith stim uli. The
Kodak T h eater in H ollyw ood and S herm an Oaks Galleria are tw o m ore ex a m p les o f this d isorien tin g p h en o m e n o n .
12 J a m eso n , 4 0
9
of mirrors that reflect neighboring buildings while it is hard to decipher where it exactly
begins and ends. This concept could very well be applied to Millennial Remakes, they do
not recognize linear time, nor acknowledge the current time in reflecting ideologies and
social mentality. They disorient new audiences because if they go into the remake
assuming it is like the original, they may make a false association as a result. Catherine
Grant’s purpose o f a remake or adaptation is: “the most important act that films and their
surrounding discourses need to perform in order to com m unicate.. .is to (make their
audiences) recall the adapted work or the cultural memory o f it.” (qtd in.Verevis, 129).
But like the Westin Hotel, and other examples Jameson defined as postm odern, these
Millennial Remakes are nothing but facades. In fact, the films not only fail to make the
audience recall the original text, but by their very existence, alter the original. In
contemporary conversation, it is now standard when mentioning a film you must include
“the Original” in reference to what you are talking about. You must now say “The
Original Friday the 131h'\ “The Original Fame”, and so on and so forth. And again like
Jam eson’s postmodern architecture, these Millennial Remakes disorient the viewer as to
what the 1980’s really w ere.13
This is tw o-fold ; it is a rep resen tation o f w h at h e 8 0 s should h ave b een to th e yo u n g er g e n era tio n s and a lters th e m e a n in g o f th e
actual 8 0 s for th e g en era tio n s w h o did ex p erien ce th e m . Also Fam e w a s n ot a b ou t th e d a n cin g ...* w a s a b o u t t h e ch a ra cters* M ioini
^ c e w a s not a b ou t bust.ng drug lords but agam a b ou t th e p eo p le. The M illennial R em akes fo c u s on su rfa ce p lot o r ie n ta tio n n o t
character driven narratives th at m ad e th e originals so com p ellin g to au d ien ces
10
Chapter Outline
Chapter Two- Examining Discourse on the Remake, Postmodernism and M iam i
Vice
This chapter is an in-depth look at the scope o f writing relevant to this thesis in three
main areas: the history o f the remake (including evaluative conclusions by scholars),
theories o f postmodernism (Jameson and Baudrillard) and previous studies o f Miami Vice
(the aesthetics, eighties noir genre, link to the 1980s and the facets behind its layered
meaning.) The function o f this chapter is to explore the scholarship written on these three
topics that I synthesize for my arguments and to help shape my definition o f the
Millennial Remake.
Chapter Three- Deja View: Discourse on the remake and defining the Millennial
Remake
This chapter traces the cinematic history o f the remake in the 20th Century. It gives an
account o f the different manifestations o f remade films: remaking o f classics, studio’s o f
the Golden Hollywood Era remaking o f their own films, foreign films, updated special
FX films, and television properties. In contrast to previous functions o f the remake, the
Millennial Remake o f iconic pop culture entities differs in style, content and intent. This
section addresses the industrial objectives in producing remakes in contemporary society
as this has been (in the author’s research), the main impetus given by filmmakers and
colleagues for the large concentration o f these films: economy. Following this
delineation, the theory o f remakes as a genre and their intertextualities is defined by
terms illustrated by Constantine Verevis in Film Remakes. While previous works treat
11
the remake from a solely industrial perspective, Verevis develops his remake theory
through the analysis o f filmic text (including genre, plot and structures) and their critical
and popular reception (issues o f reception by audiences and institutions). Based on this
structure, Millennial Remakes are distinguished from previous remakes o f the 20th
Century and from cultural perspective rather than by industrial parameters.
Chapter Four- “Talkin’ Bout My Generation” : Contextual Analysis of M iam i Vice
the Television Series
The TV series Miami Vice is quintessential^ “80s” and is a cultural text that helps to
define the decade. This chapter establishes what it means to be “quintessentially “80s”.14
Having decades defined by iconography is an attribute o f most decades o f the 20th
Century15. As opposed to the postmodern digital age where most themes and styles are
“imitating dead styles”, and certainly recycling them, the 1980s were iconic because the
music; the fashion; the films; the television; even to the president, (indeed it is now
colloquially and academically referred to as “the Reagan Era”) reflected the collective
ideologies o f American society and either reinforced them or criticized them. This
chapter is an in depth analysis o f how this innovative television show (while having
indeed borrowed conventions from former police procedurals), perfectly represents and
reflects (while at the same time creating) the ideologies and American culture o f the
1980s as a voice of dissent. As mentioned previously, M iami Vice was m ulti-textured
television show that both celebrated the dynamic decade and exuded self-aw areness in
14 S ee fo o tn o te 9
15 Especially a fter p op culture gain ed m o m en tu m in th e 1 9 5 0 's after th e infiltration o f telev isio n in to m a in strea m A m erica and w ith
th e purchasing p o w er of th e you th in a p rosp erou s P ost W ar so c iety
12
its criticisms o f the hypocritical facets o f 1980s America. Two texts are o f importance
here: John Paul Trutnau’s Miami Vice: A One Man Show? The Construction and
Deconstruction o f a Patriarchal Image in the Reagan Era, Reading the Audio Visual
Poetics o f “M iami Vice” and James Lyons’ Miami Vice (Wiley-Blackwell Series in Film
and Television).16 These authors help contextualize the aesthetics as more than empty
superficial surfaces but teeming with commentary. Included in narrative storylines: the
angst suffered by disillusioned Vietnam Vets (as seen frequently in Sonny Crockett’s
character depiction), the repercussions o f a single parent home (again in the storylines
dealing with Crockett and his inability to be a father due to his undercover Vice Cop
lifestyle) to American and world issues (human trafficking, Sandinistas, Iran-Contra
Scandal and o f course the main meat o f the series, drug trafficking i.e. the big “war on
drugs”). The success o f the series is not indebted to the flashy fast cars or sumptuous
Miami locales, but to the almost instantaneous ‘straight from the headlines to TV set”
storylines the smart scripts called attention to. Unfortunately, because o f its amazingly
stylized aesthetic, (and use o f montage to popular music) many critics and scholars often
took this at face value and overlooked the real intentions o f the creators behind the style.
By showing the lavish life styles o f drug cartels and other criminals and constantly
referring to the Vice squad as “500 dollar a week cops”, the show was commenting on
the irony that in the get rich quick mantra o f the 80’s, the only ones benefitting were
crooks. Apart from the storylines, the characterizations and acting performances
solidified this series a place in television history. It can be argued that Don Johnson did
16 E laborated on in th e Literature R eview
13
not “play” Crockett but was (according to Michael Mann) Crockett17. (Janeshutz, 81.)
This further supports that the remake is pastiche. Unlike theater productions in which it
is understood that the role will be interchanged by different actors, this show was not
written to have other players represent the key characters intermittently in the future. A
final element that makes the show quintessentially “Miami Vice” and quintessentially 80s
is the presence o f Jan Hammer composing the soundtrack for every episode (Season 1-4).
Many fans contested his obvious absence from Season 5 arguing that he was the “soul” of
the show. His absence from the 2006 film is equally conspicuous. Jan Ham mer
constructed a soundscape that merged Miami with the 80s while redefining 80s montage
as more than mere “music video”
Chapter Five - “Don’t Play It Again Sam”: The Contextual Analysis o f M iam i Vice
2006
This chapter compares the ideologies and aesthetics o f the film M iami Vice 2006 to the
original series. Although Michael Mann was the executive producer o f the series, many
o f the aspects that defined the show, were not carried over in his direction o f the film.
The issue here is not primarily o f adaptation o f television to film, but the adaptation (or
lack of) icons, themes, characterization and other defining elements o f the show that were
not present in the revision. A “contemporary” Miami Vice cannot and does not make
sense. What made Miami Vice “Miami Vice” is missing in M ann’s 2006 film .18 By
17 Don Johnson is th e p erfect ex a m p le o f th e 1 9 8 0 s actor. He fa ce d on n ed m any ce le b and te e n m a g a zin es and his co o l c o lle c te d
sty le in flu en ced a w h o le fash ion craze o f laid back, so p h istica ted and co n fid e n t style. His private life e m u la te d C rock ett in m any
w ays: n o t b ein g able to h ave a lasting relationship b eca u se of his job, and o ften having p erson al internal b a ttles. For m o re on Don
Joh n son and w hy and h ow h e crea ted Crockett s e e th e C hapter "Don Jonson: S on n y Crockett" in Trish J a n esh u tz's The M a k in a o f
M ia m i Vice
18 A co n sc io u s d ecision m ad e by M ann h im self to d istan ce th e film from th e original.
14
applying Fredric Jam eson’s postmodern parameters, it is clear that the film is not an
updated revision m aking commentary on contemporary issues, but tries to “cash” in on
the “collective m em ory” (fast cars, fast life style, “surface aesthetics) o f what the TV
series was; and even then, the aesthetics are far from faithful. In its attempt for more
postmodern “realism ” it loses the lush metaphor o f the 1980s series and ends up as what
Baudrillard would describe as “hyper-real”, neither a representation o f the real, or real
itself.
W hat do these remakes and consumptions of which say about us? N ow that we are in
a postmodern era with the “death o f the subject itself’ (Jameson, 15), “the end of, for
example, o f style, in the sense o f the unique and o f the personal, the end o f the distinctive
individual brush,” (Jameson, 15) where do we go from here? How do Giddens and
Erickson’s work on identity and the crisis o f which apply here? I theorize that in a non­
linear culture, generations will no longer be identified (or identify with) decades or
periods o f tim e.19 To some postmodern theorists, this is liberating, to others it is a
deviance from the humanistic necessity o f cultural ritual. Several texts are worth
m entioning for further consideration that are not included in the literature review: Erik
Erikson’s Identity, Youth and Crisis, and The Future o f Identity, John Lukacs’s Historical
Consciousness, Stephen Bertm an’s Cultural Amnesia, Anthony Gidden’s Modernity and
Self-Identity, and Howard Z inn’s The Future o f History. Now that according to Jameson,
all o f our frames o f references are non-linear, will there be no such thing as cinematic
history or nostalgia? Will “originality” be based on nothing more than permutations of
19 Such a s th e "Baby B oom ers" Gen-X, a child o f th e "Reagan Era" and so on and so forth
15
already established commodities in this period o f late capitalism? The experience o f
cinema can therefore no longer “evolve” because the term implies a linear movement. It
is interesting to consider a cinematic future o f ultimate bricolage.
16
Chapter 2- Exam ining Discourse on the Remake, Postmodernism and M iam i Vice
M ost scholarship concerning the remake addresses remade films from the advent of
cinema through the 1980s. The retro nature o f remade films from the mid 1990-s through
present times has not been examined. In defining the parameters of my own definition o f
the “Millennial Remake,” the postmodern theories o f Fredric Jameson and Jean
Baudrillard provided an insightful framework. The scholarship on Miami Vice is rare as
well, however a few texts and articles have been written that have proven valuable in my
research and textual analysis o f the original Miami Vice and its remake. The bulk o f
literature I refer to lies in three main fields: the remake, postmodernism pastiche and the
simulacra, and o f cultural/aesthetic studies pertaining to Miami Vice.
The Remake
The idiomatic connotation in the word “remake” is a film that is inferior simply
because it is not the original. Scholars such as Harvey Greenburg explicitly say, “remakes
are invariably inferior to their originals” (Horton and McDougal, 329.) as well. I do not
claim that the Millennial Remakes are inferior simply because they are not original, but
because they operate on a different level than remakes have in the past, they deserve to be
categorized separately from what has been qualified as a “remake” in past scholarship.
Constantine Verevis has written on length about the scope o f defining the remake
20 M uch research h as b e e n d e v o te d to th e n o tio n o f id en tity in p ostm od ern and m odern eras. To ex a m in e th e n atu re o f p o stm o d e rn
film a u d ie n c e s and p o ssib le p a tron age and p oten tial d ecim ation to cultural m em o ry /n o sta lg ia th e s e rem ak es h old . The w ork o f
G id d en s and Erikson illu m in ate th e id ea s su rroun d in g th e crisis o f id en tity and on tological insecurity in a rapidly grow in g global
culture. H o w ev er their find in gs are included in m y con clu sion for p ossib le further ex ten sio n o f research. Their w orks are helpful in
ex a m in in g w hy this tren d o f M illennial R em akes is h ap p en in g and m y th e sis (in light o f length restrictions) fo c u s e s on h o w it is
h a p p en in g and d efin in g th e M illennial R em ake as a p h e n o m e n o n .
17
alluding to other scholars on the subject namely Thomas Leitch21. Play It Again Sam:
Retakes on Remakes edited by Andrew Horton and Stuart Y. M cDougal is probably the
most thorough collection of critical and scholarly essays on the topic o f remakes.
However, published in 1998, right about the time o f the genesis o f the Millennial
Remake, it does not discuss postmodern pastiche or Baudrillard’s simulacrum in
analyzing the remake. This book offers many insights into investigating the nature o f the
remake. Building on Gerard Genette’s work Palimpsestes, the editors use the terms
“intertextuality, paratextuality, metatextuality, architextuality and hypertextuality” in
relation to remakes. Metatextuality refers to “a critical relationship par excellence
between texts in which one text speaks o f another without necessarily quoting it directly.”
(Horton and McDougal, 3.) This coincides with what Michael Druxman coins the
“disguised remake” in which “a literary property is either updated with minimal change
or re-titled then disguised by new settings and original characters, but in either case the
new film does not seek to draw attention to its earlier version.” (qtd. in Verevis, 7.)
Horton and McDougal finally assert that it is the hypertext that is crucial in naming the
remake in which the new film transforms the original: “the relationship between a given
text (the ‘hypertext’) and an anterior text (the hypotext) that it transform s” (Horton and
McDougal, 3.) These new texts “both pays tribute to a pre-existing text and, on another
level, calls it into question.” (4.) I would include that the Millennial Remake is not
concerned with paying tribute or quoting the predecessor no call into question rather than
-
V e re v iss book Film Remakes and Leitch’s “ Twice Told Tales: The Rhetoric o f the Rem ake” are explored more in depth in the
proceeding chapter on remakes. This chapter is to discuss articles and works not elaborated on chapter three and to piece together the
m ethodology and course o f my research.
18
denying the existence o f the original altogether. The rest o f Play It Again Sam is
comprised o f many valid areas o f exploration into the many variations o f remakes:
Hitchcock “rem aking” his own films again and again; cross cultural remakes, Studios
remaking their own properties (musicals etc.); and transformation o f media, (adaptation
from screen to radio, comic books to screen). The most invaluable part o f this text for
this thesis was Robert Eberwein’s “Kinds o f Remakes: A Preliminary Taxonomy”. (28.)
Here he describes variations o f remakes from a silent film remade to a sound film to
remakes that changes the race o f the characters to films made in the US remade in foreign
markets and vice versa. This helped distinguish the many forms o f remakes and that the
taxonomy list is perpetually growing.
Alluding back to “hypertextuality” and the transformation o f meaning, Shannon
Donaldson-M cHugh and Don Moore build on Derrida’s idea o f “hauntology” in their
essay22 on Gus Van Sant’s remake o f Hitchcock’s Psycho. This article was o f interest to
me because it describes that the very existence o f the remake “haunts” or as they quote
Judith Butler, “results in an imperfect, ‘queer’ copy o f the ideal”. (Donaldson-McHugh,
M oore, 228.) I had hypothesized that the remakes I defined were somehow altering the
nature and memory o f the original. They write that these “co-authorships” and
adaptations are examples o f “consignation what Derrida calls ‘a gathering together of
seemingly disparate signs’ aimed at coordinating a vision in which ‘all the elements
articulate the unity o f an ideal configuration’ even if the point is to show how such an
ideal configuration is never possible.” (qtd. in Donaldson-McHugh, Moore, 232.) The
authors conclude that it is this aim that is problematic and the resulting only in an
22 W ritten in 2 0 0 6 a b o u t th e rem ak e th a t w a s relea sed in 1 9 9 8 . 2 0 0 6 w a s w h en rem ak es really sta rted b eco m in g a n o tic ea b le
p h e n o m e n o n and w h e n th e rem ak e o f M ia m i Vice w a s relea sed .
19
“impression, a specter that can never fully m anifest but that which inevitably haunts the
activity.” (232.) These ideas are useful in examining Millennial Remakes because I argue
that they “haunt” the original and change the memory o f its meaning; then by default,
forfeits any meaning in its own content. Sven Lutticken also agrees “there is a
widespread critical and popular aversion to remakes o f classic-and even not so classicfilms. They will almost certainly be inferior pieces o f work, and if the original is a
canonical masterpiece, the remake might even taint its aura.” (Lutticken, 103.) He does
admit that repetition is natural in our culture before cinema was even invented and writes
about sequels and series cashing in on the original’s box office successes.
23
This essay
was useful in how we as audiences reuse myths, view “time” and to solidify that the
remakes are not intended for the primal audiences who “revere the original” (Lutticken,
106.) regardless o f the studios insisting on the selling o f a “pre-know n” name because
even though they “minimize financial risks” they “deaden rather than recharge time-even
if the consumers feel momentarily rejuvenated.” (Lutticken, 107.) He also quotes
Deleuze by saying the process is generating “false pretenders’ deviant signs, bad
simulacra” (116.) and that certain practices o f remaking films “question and pervert”
(116.) the original. In so many words, this describes the postmodernism aspect o f certain
forms o f the remake that led to applying Baudrillard’s theories o f the sim ulation to the
Millennial Remake.
- He also n o te s th e n o tic ea b le trend o f th e - in te r-m e d ia rem ake", film v ersio n s o f te le v isio n sh o w s. He cla ssifie s th e m a s rem ak es
n o t as a d a p ta tio n s. I n o te this so th e p rob lem atic n otion o f th e s e film s b ein g a d a p ta tio n s is clarified, as it is fu rth er in m y ch a p ter
tw o and five.
1
M
20
Postmodernism
After having reviewed the literature on remakes, it was apparent that there was a sort
o f “emptiness” to the remakes the scholars described and that I wanted to apply to the
Millennial Remake. This is clear in Jam eson’s definition o f pastiche as “empty parody”
but other scholars have used this term liberally so really what does it mean? Postmodern
theory like postmodernism itself can be a slippery slope often times seemingly
contradicting itself. For the sake o f this thesis I streamlined postmodernism into a
contemporary application o f Baudrillard’s writings on the simulacra and Jam eson’s
Postmodernism or The Cultural Logic o f Late Capitalism for the digital age.
Interestingly both written in the 80s and intended by the authors to be applicable to the
current day they were writing in, they seem to ring truer or have advanced in importance
as technology has become infiltrated into our everyday lives. “The disappearance of the
individual subject, along with its formal consequence, the increasingly unavailability of
the personal style, engender the well nigh universal practice today o f what may be called
pastiche” (Jameson, 16) and the “linguistic fragmentation o f social life” (17.) are what
concerns me in regards to the Millennial Remake. In this section o f his book labeled
“Culture” Jameson observes that the producers o f culture have nowhere to turn but the
past. While I would argue that his analysis on nostalgia needs to be updated for more
“contemporary” postmodern times, his contention that the past is now being modified
still holds validity. W hen talking o f films such as Lawrence Kasdan’s Body Heat that are
indeed nostalgic and that “the word remake is, however, anachronistic to the degree to
which our awareness o f the pre-existence o f other versions .. .is now a constitutive and
21
essential part o f the film ’s structure, (Jameson, 20.) it needs to be made clear that this no
longer applies to the remakes o f today. This cycle o f neo-noir did call for an audience s
familiarity to the original text and were made in the spirit o f nostalgia,24 but the remake
o f today calls for new scholarship in identifying it within postm odern parameters. O f
Jameson’s argument that does apply to the Millennial Remake is the idea o f “the past as
referent find(ing) itself gradually bracketed, and then effaced altogether,” (18.) the
“random cannibalization o f all the styles o f the past” (18.) and “the new spatial logic o f
the sim ulacrum .. .now expected to have a momentous effect on what used to be historical
time. The past is thereby itself modified.” (18.) The empty pastiche o f these films I call
attention to like Derrida’s “hauntology” like Genette’s “hypertextuality” m odifies the
past, alter the original’s meaning by existing and thus change the cultural m emory o f its
predecessor. This deserves to be studied because o f the cultural significance within the
audience’s relationship to cinema and the experience o f identifying with a film and the
audience at large now becoming metamorphosed. In Simulacra and Simulation,
Baudrillard gives several examples o f what exactly a simulation is: a hologram, The
Beaubourg Center, clones, Disneyland, etc. I would add that the Millennial Remake is a
form o f simulation as well. He stresses that the simulation in postmodern times creates a
“hyper-real” that displaces and replaces the “real” and that “the era o f sim ulation is
inaugurated by a liquidation o f all referentials.” (Baudrillard, 2.) This coincides with
Jam eson’s thought on the liquidation o f all referentials and illuminates why empty
pastiche has become in fashion especially when the digital age has made it so easy to do
so. Digital technology can easily modify (or erase) the past since it is not tangible
24
Or so m e would say " d eco n stru ctio n "as in the case o f Polanski’s Chinatown.
22
information. As information floating around in cyberspace, it does not really have a
place o f origin a user can refer to and really has no end. These Millennial Remakes deny
the past and make no reference (other than superficially as in title etc.) to the original or
original enthusiasts. Even the word parasitical would be irrelevant in the case o f the
simulation because the host itself is obliterated. The simulation does not and cannot
capture the essence o f the original. In the perpetual “present” the postmodern era lives
in, society strives at a more rapid rate to “look(s) for in continuing to produce, (and to)
overproduce, restoring the real that escapes it.” (Baudrillard, 23.) By attempting to
capture reality aesthetically
or to update “overly dramatic” or “campy” films to make
them more “real”, what is actually “real” escapes and eludes both the films and the
audiences that consume them. An example o f this in M iami Vice is that at first glance
one might view the remake as more “real” because o f the dark lighting, hand held-cam
and “serious acting” and view the original as “camp” because o f the pastel color schemes,
montage sequences and slow motion shots; however, it is actually the original that is
more realistic. The police procedurals (mostly described in the “Rescue Trudy” sequence
in chapter five) are more genuine in the 1980s version. The authenticity o f the guns and
how a police officer would use them were monitored by ex-officers who were considered
experts in their field for maximum authenticity; (Janeshutz, 70-72.) and the pastel colors
were used because that is what you see in the southern Florida sun reflecting off o f art
deco buildings and the beach. (Janeshutz, 90.) By attempting to make Miami Vice more
“real”, the remake has become a hyper-real simulation that is as far from reality as a
representation can be.
25 Hand-Held cams, documentary style fo otage.. .more “real” acting
23
Miami Vice
The main focus I wanted to declare in the comparison o f the Millennial Remake to the
original is that it is anachronistic. The literature used in analyzing M iami Vice was
crucial in establishing a temporal significance. The simulation is mainly bereft o f
meaning because the original was so infused to the year and cultural era in which it was
produced. When trying to “update” or “relive” it, the remake fails to capture all o f the
other factors surrounding the original’s release26. The remake assumes the original was a
singular occurrence quarantined from other elements that contribute to the created
meaning o f the film. What really made Miami Vice meaningful was that it directly
commented on the 1980s and reflected the mentality o f America. Everything surrounding
the show, from headlines to politics, to popular music and fashion contributed to the text.
This cannot possibly translate to a 2000’s version and results in an out o f place remake
that is confused in what it is. Ironically, it cannot represent a quintessentially “2000’s
film” any better than it can represent the 1980s, because in non-linear postmodernism,
there is no longer delineation o f decades as “iconic”. The 2006 film is both trying to live
off the pre-sold name o f “Miami Vice” yet distance it from the actual “aura” o f the
original and in doing so “haunts’ the original and fails to allow itself a unique existence
with its own temporal significance.
Robert Arnett’s “Eighties Noir: The Dissenting Voice in Reagan’s Am erica” builds
on the scholarship o f Jeremy Butler’s “Miami Vice: The Legacy o f Film N oir.” Arnett
distinguishes the difference between “eighties noir” and “neo-noir” ; neo noir “concerns
26 N ew s headlines, ideologies, sensibilities o f the majority at the time, cultural tendencies, fashion, pop culture.
24
Etc.
themselves more with recreation, nostalgia, and homage than noir intent.27 (Arnett, 124.)
His definition o f eighties noir into which Miami Vice would fit respond “to a ‘certain
m ood’ and reacting to a moment in history.. .that explore the dark side o f Reagan’s
America when other genres in the words o f Reagan’s 1985 inaugural speech, ‘passed that
dream on to a waiting and hopeful world.’” (124.) Through distinct character types,
theme and setting, this genre established itself to be a voice o f dissent, thus infusing it
directly to the decade o f its conception. Taken out o f the 1980’s and its “genre” would
make the remake temporally outmoded even if it is chronologically more recent. It is also
worth mentioning Billy Corben’s 2006 documentary, Cocaine Cowboys that integrates
the importance o f the decade to Miami Vice. It is in the late 70s and early 80s that the
drug trade had run rampant in this once idyllic American vacation spot. While it seems
unfeasible that people opened fire in public places such as the streets, malls and
nightclubs, as seen in the show, all o f these occurrences actually held the city under a
siege o f fear during this time in American history. Anthony Yerkovich’s idea o f forming
an “Am erican Casablanca” was not too far from the truth. Miami Vice reflected
everything from corrupt cops that took bribes from cartels to city authorities looking the
other way while “drug money” help rebuild the city’s skyline...all juxtaposed against the
natural beauty o f southern Florida’s sunsets. Miami Vice was like an epic poem
chronicling the dynamism o f the city’s tumultuous period including its simultaneous
renaissance partly due to the popularity o f Miami Vice.
W hile rudimentary, James Lyon’s 2010 text Miami Vice helped solidify the show as a
product o f late modernity rather than postmodernism most exemplified in Lyon’s analysis
27 Here would fit Jam eson’s example o f B ody H eat
25
o f Giddens; the one “fundamental characteristic o f ‘late m odernity’” is “the notion o f
living with risV \ (Lyons, 92-93.) from mergers/deregulation, Wall Street investing,
relationships under the specter o f AIDS to extreme sports, “risk taking was intrinsic to
self-development pervad(ing) 1980s pop culture.” (Lyons, 93.) This is dramatically and
directly juxtaposed to Hollywood’s mentality o f seeking low risk financial ventures in the
remakes they choose to produce. His entire chapter, “Risky Business” outlines the risk
the Vice cops inherently take and that they are in fact (as Crockett’s ex-wife comments in
the pilot episode, about the Vice cops and the criminals they pursue) “two sides o f the
same coin”. These risks enhance Arnett’s argument o f the masks the characters in
eighties noir films must wear further voicing the dissent in the impossibility for tranquil
domesticity the mainstream media reinforced as the attainable “Am erican Dream”.
Because o f these risks, they cannot maintain normal relationships, family life, stable
finance and personal security that were promises made by society that ever individual
could accomplish if they just worked hard enough. Society forced m any to wear a mask
o f normalcy to preserve the illusion o f the status quo in the eighties. The risks they took
while wearing these masks creates a depth to the many layers o f meaning in this late
modernity representation because they “emphasize the key continuities between the
organization o f contemporary social life and previous decades” (Lyons, 93) that has
changed drastically in the postmodern that “invites us to indulge a somber mockery o f
history in general.” (Jameson, 64.)
Finally the most authoritative approach to Miami Vice would be in John-Paul
Trutnau’s Miami Vice: A One Man Show? The Construction and Deconstruction o f a
Patriarchal Image in the Reagan Era: Reading the Audio-Visual Poetics o/M iam i Vice.
26
He politically positions the show in relation to neo-conservatism and what the
mainstream viewed as the ideal patriarch; but most relevant to this thesis is his in depth
investigation to the aesthetics reflecting ideologies that service the narrative instead o f
deflecting from it, as critics o f the show would assert. His sections on Jan Hammer and
pop music prove that these choices reinforce the visuals and together, create a textured
window into the male protagonist’s psychology. These layers allude again to Arnett’s
masks the cops must wear in their undercover world through “the combination of
Johnson’s serious acting with Hammer’s powerful sound, successfully renders the male
protagonist’s shifted and conflicted feelings.” (Trutnau, 179.) His entire compendium o f
work outlines what makes Miami Vice quintessentially “Miami Vice”. His work was
necessary in identifying facets missing from the remake and further emphasized the
importance o f M iami Vice to the 1980s. By comparing his survey o f distinguishing
factors missing from the remake, it is logical to then classify it as a simulation that is “in
the service o f reanimating what itself has contributed to liquidating.” (Baudrillard, 48.)
The Millennial Remake tries to “reinvent” the original and simultaneously liquidate it by
not including any o f the themes, ideologies or original’s “spirit” nor does it attempt in
being a tribute o f any kind; yet it tries to (at the same time) breathe new life into the “pre­
sold” name. This is the problematic paradox with the Millennial Remake.
27
Chapter Three- Deja View: Discourse on the remake and defining the M illennial
Remake
Scholars differ theoretically on whether or not remakes serve cinema history or
are just commercial commodities. Constantine Verevis is on the side o f remakes
intertextual and metatextual readings enhancing the original and that in a way all films
are some sort o f remake because they rely on a source text (a script, literature, archetype,
myth etc.)28, these films are “drawing attention to the very nature o f cinema, to the nature
o f cinematic quotation and artistic production, and to the fact that every film- every film
viewing - can be understood as a type o f remaking.” (Verevis, 76.) W hereas Leo Braudy
quotes Harvey Greenberg saying “explicitly that remakes are invariably inferior to their
originals.” (qtd. in Horton and McDougal, 329.) Many directors insist that their films,
although sharing the same name as a previous film, are in fact not remakes but “reenvisionings ” and therefore tributes. Eric Newman producer o f Dawn o f the D ead (2004)
claims, “Growing up, I had always loved those movies, but Dawn o f the D ead was my
favorite.. ..This is a re-envisioning o f a classic. There was not, is not a valid reason to
“remake” Dawn o f the Dead. (Verevis, 134.) And director Zack Synder slightly echoes
that sentiment:
I had no desire to remake the picture. A remake to me is you take the script and
you shoot it again. And that can be cool, but you don’t mess with it. A re-filming
o f the original version was so not needed. Reinterpretation is what we wanted to
do. Re-envision it. We put some steroids into it. I don’t want to have this film
28 W h erea s T h om as Leitch b eliev es in a m ore strin gen t definition o f a film rem ak e as d escrib ed in th e "Types o f rem ak es" p ortion o f
this chapter.
28
compared to any other- our Dawn is its own thing with its own personality, voice
and experience, (qtd. inVerevis, 134.)29
The two above statements slightly contradict each other. Newman claims he was a fan
while Snyder implies the original needed “steroids” and his film gave the original the fix
it was missing. If their film is its own entity, then it is curious as to why it shares the
same name as the cult classic. The title might promise fans o f the genre to expect
Romero-type zombies and instead would disappoint with “souped” up steroid- zombies.
The remake is not only aesthetically deceiving, the original “earned itself a substantial
reputation not only for the visceral jolts o f its raw and excessive gore, but for what is seen
as its commentary on consumer culture.” (Verevis, 135.) As with many other films30 that
take a “B ” picture and pour a digitally boosted big Hollywood budget into it, the aura and
context is conspicuously missing (that which made it resonate within fans in the first
place) and thereby fails in becoming a tribute or homage o f any sort. Romero’s Dawn is
not remembered for the zombies and FX, but because o f its commentary on the human
condition and o f capitalistic society. It is argued that in the same year o f Snyder’s Dawn,
an homage to Romero was released in Edgar W right’s Shaun o f the Dead. By comparing
the two it is obvious that Shaun fondly tributes Romero in its tone, style and spirit of
production, where Snyder’s Dawn denotes that the original would not hold up in today’s
digital high speed world, thus his defensive response o f his film not being a remake. He is
also mistaken in that it would not be compared to the original because according to
29 M ore and m o re o fte n d irectors w h o are rem aking film s are adding as d isclaim ers th at th e y are d istan cin g th e m s e lv e s from th e
original m aterial. That th is is their n e w "re-envisioning" rather than a rem ake. Director o f T h e A -T e a m rem ake in th e April 2 3 -3 0 ,h
2 0 1 0 issu e o f E n te rta in m e n t W eekly sta ted th a t he plans on limiting th e n ostalgia and th a t o n e can only pay so m uch h o m a g e in a
sin g le $ 1 0 0 m illion m ovie. (p66). This sa m e issu e co v ers p e o p le co m m e n tin g on th e rem ake o f The K arate Kid and m inor feed b a ck
on th e " retrosp ective" th e m agazin e had on Clash o f th e Titans in w hich th e y n eg lected t o include th e lead, A n d rom ed a (Judi
Bow ker) in th e "W here Are They Now" se ctio n . (10)
30 Tim B urton's P lan et o f th e Apes 2 0 0 1 .
29
Gerard Genette’s definitions o f paratextuality and metatextuality, (Horton and
McDougal, 3.) it must be. The text proper shares the same name as the original film and
constantly refers to the original with the presence o f cameos from original cast members
and the presence o f an anachronistic shopping mall that serves no narrative purpose,
whereas in the original, the mall served a huge thematic and subtextual role. So why are
directors differentiating their films as “re-envisionings”, or “reinterpretations” and not
remakes?
Leo Braudy cites Robert Kolker in the ebb and flow o f valid remakes: “the central role
o f remakes in an ongoing personal or general history o f aesthetic self consciousness that
experiences periods of both expression and repression.” (Braudy, 333.) Presently, in the
late 2000’s, the word remake infers a negative connotation, as “there is widespread
critical and popular aversion to remakes o f classic- and even not-so-classic-film s.”
(Lutticken, 130.) Colloquial word of mouth amongst cinephiles has been in response to
the huge concentration o f remakes especially o f cult classics that hold and endearing
place in the fans’ hearts and o f pop culture classics from the 70s and 80s that hold an
equally endearing place in the hearts and minds o f the generation that grew up with them.
Many web sites are dedicated as forums to blog about the “atrocities” being committed.
“1 can’t believe they are rem aking
!” “Why are they rem aking
?! The original is
perfect!”31 John Fitzgerald columnist for AMOG website states: “For the last couple of
years Hollywood has been in a bit of a slump. The movies aren’t ju st doing what they
used to do. I don t know .. .it s really about the endless mirage o f pointless remakes. Are
11 http://w w w .film .com /features/story/five-reasons-karate-kid-rem ake/25662753, h ttp ://am og.com /en tertain m en t/com in g-w orstm o v ie -r e m a k e s /c o m m e n t-p a g e -l/# c o m m e n t-6 5 6 8
30
studio w nters just sitting around their office throwing darts at movies that have come and
gone?”
32
One site is even devoted to questioning remakes o f 80s films, “5 Upcoming
Remakes o f 80s movies (that must be stopped).33 While many o f these cinephiles are
known fans o f homage remakes such as John Carpenter’s The Thing and Martin
Scorsese’s Cape Fear, there is a recognizable difference between an homage film and a
remake that has been made with no interest in pleasing the original fans at all. In fact,
these M illennial Remakes deride the fans in their cynical retro-oriented treatment o f the
original subject matter by either making light or fun o f the fashions, music, ideologies
etc.34 or by ignoring the original’s existence all together by lack or style and aesthetics
iconic to the original.35 These films have created a sense o f generational diaspora because
the originals created such a sense o f iconic identity and community unique to that decade.
The Millennial Remakes almost “erase from existence” what these Zeitgeist films from
the 80s meant to the generation that experienced these films with friends and family in
the era the films were produced for36 and are therefore postmodern anachronisms in their
“bad sense o f omnipresent and indiscriminate appetite for dead styles and fashions.”
(Jameson, 286.) The paradox between industrial intent o f pitching these remakes to the
“target audience, the eighteen to twenty four year old group” (Vervis, 48.) with the “pre­
sold title and basic premise” (Verevis, 48) lies in that they are “less interested in
recreating the detail o f their originals than in adapting the (previously market tested)
source material to the conventions and expectations o f the contemporary genre movie
32 John Fitzgerald: "The W orst 8 0 s film Rem akes" h ttp ://a m o g .c o m /e n te r ta in m e n t/c o m in g -w o r s t-m o v ie -r e m a k e s /c o m m e n t-p a g e l /# c o m m e n t - 6 5 6 8
33 h ttp ://w w w .c r a c k e d .c o m /a r tic le _ 1 6 6 6 5 _ 5 -u p c o m in g -r e m a k e s-8 0 s-m o v ie s-th a t-m u st-b e -sto p p e d .h tm l
34 Charlie's A ngels 2 0 0 0 , 2 0 0 3 , Starsky an d Hutch 2 0 0 4 , Dukes o f H azzard 2 0 0 5 .
35 M ia m i Vice 2 0 0 6 , Fa m e 2 0 0 9 .
36 This "exp erien ce" will b e ad d ressed in th e con clu d in g ch ap ter
31
and/or blockbuster.” (Verevis, 49.) Rick Altman and Constantine Verevis differ in their
interpretation o f the function o f the remake. Altman assumes that film rem aking depends
“on the existence o f audience activity, not only prior knowledge o f previous texts and
intertextual relationships, but an understanding o f broader generic structures and
categories” (Altman, 83-84, Verevis, 2.); While Verevis states that “by definition,
remakes rework an earlier film (or films) {and} viewers are not necessarily assumed to
have, nor do they require, any familiarity with these prototexts. (Verevis, 145.) It is clear
that the definition o f a remake and the taxonomies remakes contain are debatable issues
amongst scholars. But it can hardly be an argument from an industrial stance that these
films are pre-sold to the original audiences because these Millennial Remakes are “less
interested in recreating the detail o f their originals” (Verevis, 49.) A ltm an’s argument
presumes the audiences are either scholars or film cinephiles with a vast range o f media
literacy, while Verevis and the remaining sentiment from the Hollywood industry is that
audiences are not savvy to the existence or significance o f the original films.
The purpose o f this chapter is to serve as discourse with a selected group o f
scholars who have addressed the issues o f remaking in terms other than industrial37 and to
add to the scholarship by including the Millennial Remakes defined by their hypertexts
and hauntology o f the original text source and their lack o f context in postmodern
parameters. Acting palimpsestically, the Millennials “in the strictest use o f the term
remake [are] a new text (the hypertext) [that] transform a hypotext.” (Horton and
’7 T h ese d isco u rses include textu al, critical and cultural (au d ien ce sp ectatorsh ip ).
32
McDougal, 3). That is that just by their very existence; alter the memory and meaning o f
the “original” .
To clarify the actual concept o f a remake, I include a history o f the cinematic
remake in the 20th Century and categorize remakes according to the general consensus o f
authors who have written on the subject. I extend these taxonomies by including my
definition o f a Millennial Remake. The chapter concludes with various discourses on the
subject o f the remake incorporating scholars, and critics/reviewers.
History of the Remake
It is first necessary to look into the history o f the remake and o f the functions o f
those remakes up to present time in order to historically situate Millennial Remakes as a
new phase in Hollywood film remakes. Constantine Verevis accounts for three distinct
stages in the development o f the remake:
1. The early cinema before the establishment o f the Hollywood mode o f
production (pre-1917);
2. The ‘classical’ Hollywood o f the studio era (1917-60);
3. Contemporary Hollywood cinema (post 1960). (Verevis, 96.)
In my definition o f the Millennial Remake I add a postmodern phase 4; these films (mid
90s-present) vary in industrial commerce, concept, intention and reception/consumption
than the previous movements.
In the nascent years o f cinema “ the struggle for industrial control.. .was not
conducted so much through the manufacture o f competitive products as through
structural and legal practices... It is within this context of litigation, and specifically in
33
relation to the establishment o f proper procedures o f film protection and copyright, that
one can understand two early types o f ‘film piracy’- duping and rem aking.” (Verevis,
97.) Many American film companies “duped” (duplicated) foreign products that had not
filed copyright for their film by making prints from a duplicate negative. Even though
some o f these prints were o f inferior quality, the companies enjoyed the profits o f
exhibiting them without paying royalties or high cost prints for the original negative .
Many o f M elies’s work were duped by the Edison Manufacturing Company without
Melies ever collecting any proceeds. (Verevis, 98.) As copyright laws toughened,
companies found a profitable option in imitating or remaking their com petitor’s
ambitious projects. The Lubin company, Edison’s competitor, “simply waited until the
Edison picture was released and made its own ‘meticulous im itation’ o f its narrative
unfolding- a direct remake.” (Verevis, 98.) Edison in turn remade many Biograph films
as the “ethical equivalent to duping.” (Verevis, 98.) The less the companies were able to
dupe due to litigation, the more the remake rose to an accepted industrial practice.
The Motion Pictures Patents Company established in 1908 and not quite lasting a
decade, set up the paradigm for the industry by cutting down on costly duplication,
outlining distribution routes, implementing self regulating policies o f com panies’
censorship o f their own films and standardizing the technology used to produce films.
These parameters set up by the MPPC “encouraged a dynamic o f standardization that
would characterize the emerging Hollywood Studio system.” (Verevis, 99.) The rise of
the studio system called for “principles o f innovation and novelty” (Verevis, 99) as well
as “competition and repeated consumption.” (Verevis, 99.) It is here that the studios’
mantra o f low risk maximum profit established cinema as show business. The
34
establishm ent o f cycles and recycling was prominent in Hollywood’s Golden Era because
m ost studios owned the rights to the scripts they produced and therefore had license to
reshoot a film for a newer generation and audience that did not have the opportunity to
see the original in theaters. It was not until films became televised that audiences were
able to see films from previous decades and that the subject o f remaking films became
widespread to audiences. W arner Brothers remade The Maltese Falcon in 1941 because
in 1936 they attempted to re-release their 1931 film o f the same name but could not
because o f strict new rules set by the Production Code. Ironically, when released to
television and often referred to now, the original was renamed Dangerous Female so as
to not be confused with the remake. It is also interesting to point out the sources behind
remade films, in this case it is common knowledge that the 1941 film is based on the
novel The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett and not the script o f the 1931 film. It is
here that the definition o f the remake may become murky. Is a film a remake only if its
source is an original film or if its source is a novel? This question is addressed further in
the next section, however, according to Thomas Leitch’s definition o f a remake.
T5?
The
common practice amongst studios to remake their own films was stemmed purely from
the ideals of low risk ventures and the content o f these films were not considered
nostalgic or retro by any means. They were simply Hollywood’s way to economize a
good story and maximize profits. These films rarely made references to earlier films or
give a “nod o f a head’ to earlier directors
in an homage or tributary fashion or rarely
were they technological showboats to show audiences the story in a new way. They were
38 He fe e ls o n ly cin em a can p rod u ce a rem ak e. P oetry, painting, sculpture etc, m ay b e inspired by p reviou s w orks of art, but do not
re m a k e th e m . Only cin em a can rem ake itself.
39 Such a s John C arpenter's A ssault on Precinct 13 to Howard Hawks' Rio Bravo
35
more similar in the old fashioned oral tradition’s qualities o f retelling a story being
passed down from generation to generation.
It is with the coming o f the New Hollywood cinema, the dissolution o f the studio
system, and the availability o f older films on television and VHS that the remake evolved
into a new form. It is also during this third phase o f V erevis’s scale that the auteur
became recognized and when cinephiles came into existence. During this time we see the
“film school brats” such as George Lucas, Stephen Spielberg, Francis Ford Coppola and
John Carpenter going to film school to not only learn the technology behind film making,
but to actually study the films o f the “greats”. In the instance o f John Carpenter, he
tributes Howard Hawks’ Rio Bravo with the underlying theme o f the “last stand” in his
own film, Assault on Precinct 13. Carpenter also recognizes H aw ks’ 1951 The Thing
fro m Another World and is said to be a true filmic version o f John W. Cam pbell’s novella
“Who Goes There?” (Carpenter Interview) In both cases the legacy is continued rather
than being an attempt at outshining the predecessor. Homage films/remakes are unlike
the postmodern Millennial Remakes that in a retro fashion “demythologizes its subject.”
(Guffey, 28.) During this period as a stark contrast to the studio’s previous monopoly on
style, new filmmakers filtered “the original property through individual styles to
emphasize difference by focusing on particular sections or introducing new m aterial.”
(Verevis, 97.) Cinema in general during the New Hollywood era was redefined as an art
form reflecting both personal and individual aesthetics and ideologies o f the filmmaker
rather than focusing on the industrial profit oriented agendas o f earlier years.40 These
films may be classified as nostalgic “often representing the past with a sadness that is
40 W hile it is a rgu ed th at th e underlying m otive for all film s d istributed is profit during an y era in A m erica.
36
blended with a small measure o f pleasure.” (Guffey, 19.) Much commentary, critique
and/or parody is affluent in this stage o f remakes yet they are not trying to rewrite or reenvision the historicity o f past films, there are mainly concerned with imagining stories in
a more contemporary manner while still recognizing the lineage from which they came.
It is within these parameters that I wish to build on Verevis’ evolution o f the
remake in cinematic history. Since “such transformations are ‘always conducted within
the limitations o f a particular historical situation’”, (Jameson, 25) it is necessary to
address the Millennial Remakes as harbingers o f the digital age. Harkening back to the
ideologies o f the studio era in low risk maximum profit ventures, the Millennial Remakes
differ in that their source texts are not typically scripts owned by the studios remaking
their own product, but actually remake the entire concept the original stems from in an
ironic manner. In the postmodern digital age remakes are similar to Baudrillard’s idea of
history in that they too have “retreated, leaving behind an indifferent nebula, traversed by
currents, but emptied o f references.” (Guffey, 28.) These films have no nostalgic concern
for the past because according to them, there is no past. Only the now exists and for that
to be so, the past must be rewritten, re-envisioned and remade so that the only frame of
reference is fragments o f the past combining into a mosaic o f the present. As Jameson
describes, “the newer artists no longer ‘quote’ the materials,...and motifs o f a mass or
popular culture..they somehow incorporate them to the point where many o f our older
critical and evaluative categories (founded precisely on the radical differentiation of
modernist and mass culture) no longer seem functional.” (Jameson, 64.) Past evaluation
and theory is outdated for this new form o f the remake. These films are similar to the
digital format they are shot on in that they too do not really have a materiality and do not
37
exist in a historical linear perspective. They are fragments o f information suited for
isolated interpretation and consumption differing from the unifying and comm unity
oriented functions o f 20th Century pop culture.
Types of Remakes
In his essay “Twice Told Tales: The Rhetoric o f the Remake”, Thomas Leitch
differentiates film remakes from other forms o f adaptations. “The uniqueness o f the film
remake {is} a movie based on another m ovie.” (Leitch, 138.) Film s based on literature
do not qualify as remakes, only the medium o f cinema can remake itself because other
forms “would risk the charges o f plagiarism. How could a lyric poem be remade by
another poet?” (Leitch, 138.) Verevis writes that a film may qualify as a remake just by
only alluding to certain elements o f a previous film. “ An inspection o f elements from
the second half o f James Cameron’s Titanic (1997) - the band’s decision to play on as the
ship sinks; Benjamin Guggenheim’s preference for his dinner jacket over a lifejacket;
designer Thomas Andrews’s address to a young couple at the fireplace o f the first class
lounge- suggest it is a ‘direct’ remake o f the British-made account o f the sinking- A Night
to Remember (Roy Ward Baker, 1958).” (Verevis, 7.) The first half according to an
analysis o f the thematic/narrative elements suggest a “disguised rem ake” o f both It
Happened One Night (Frank Capra, 1934) and An Affair to Remember (Leo McCarey,
1957). Even though Cameron’s film is based on an historic event, because o f its
references and its conspicuous staging o f key scenes, it may be classified as a rem ake.41
Originally as discussed by Leitch, remakes were triangular in nature differing from other
forms o f adaptations because they establish a relationship both with the original film “and
41 O ther variou s film s th a t portray th e Titanic d isaster but are n ot co n sid ered rem ak es rather th an "re-w orkings" include: Saved
From the Titanic, Raise th e Titanic, In N a c h t und Eis, Titanic (1940), and Titanic (1 9 5 3 ).
38
the property on which both films are based.” (Leitch, 139.) Recently, however,
filmmakers have been distancing their films from the “original” films claiming they are
re-envisionings o f the original source text, while other film s’ sources are blatantly the
original film ’s title and cultural popularity only and bear no fidelity to the original script.
Many times there is no literary source as forms such as television and even board games
are being “remade” into film. So what qualifies as a remake and what doesn’t? The
following section will address a few o f the established taxonomies o f cinematic remakes.
The predominant form o f “accepted” remake in America is that o f a foreign film.
American audiences differ from other global audiences in their preferences for cinema
that has more action, less esoteric or philosophical in its theme, romantic entanglements
and conflicts having happy endings and show conservative tendencies in subject matter
(especially concerning sex). Basically American mass culture is accustomed to the
“Hollywood” way o f telling a story and moviegoers do not normally seek out foreign
distribution o f films. Foreign films that are successful overseas are usually sought out by
studios to be “Americanized” for domestic audiences in the form o f a remake. 42
A readaptation ’s main goal is fidelity to the original source mainly literary
properties and do not acknowledge or allude to previous films that also share the same
source. These are usually renditions o f texts suitable for numerous versions such as
Shakespearean plays: H am let, (Laurence Olivier, 1948, Tony Richardson, 1969, Franco
Zeffirelli, 1990) and Macbeth (Orson Welles, 1948, Roman Polanski, 1971.) These films
are also more accepted types o f remakes amongst viewers as the primary text’s intentions
42 E xam ple o f th is ty p e in clu d es The Ring, ( Ringu ), The Birdcage {La Cage aux Folies), The Grudge, [Ju-On).
39
are to have the roles intermittently revived and re-imagined by different directors and
actors.43
An update may seem more cynical in its treatment o f its predecessor, “unlike the
readaptation which seeks to subordinate itself to the ‘essence’ o f a literary4 classic, the
update ‘competes directly’ with its literary source by adopting an overtly revisionary and
transformational attitude toward it, “ (Verevis, 12.) Snyder’s Dawn o f the D ead may be
classified as an update as well as any other film that was made to modernize an older film
with new technology. The current consensus in Hollywood is that special effects and
most genre motion pictures shot on film are archaic and should be updated with digital
and computer generated imagery. A film that had little no special effects to showcase
could be updated with contemporary themes. An example o f both special effects and
theme being updated45 would be Stephen Soderbergh’s Solaris (2002). The dilapidated
ship o f the original film and the theme o f profound communication with alien intelligence
is altered for Millennial audiences as the main focus o f Soderburgh’s film is the love
story and the corporate motivations to make a profit in exploiting the alien planet.
“ Solaris has largely been stripped o f its alien presence and reduced to a fancy CGI
background.” (Lutticken, 114.)
A n extension o f the update would be the true remake. “While the homage renounces
any claim to be better than the original, the true remake ‘deal[s] with the contradictory
claims o f all remakes- that they are just like the originals only better- [by combining} a
focus on a cinematic original with an accommodating stance which seeks to make the
43 Leo Braudy cited this as a m ain factor in distin guish ing a film rem ake from a th e a te r play. His q u o te is m e n tio n e d in t h e p ro ceed in g
se ctio n .
44 And in m any c a s e s film ic classics co n sid er ed can on ical
45 And a foreign film being "Am ericanized". For ex ten d ed reading on Tarkovsky's film "Solaris " b ein g rem a d e into s o m e th in g th a t
n eith er r esem b les th e film nor Lem's n ovel, s e e Sven Lutticken's article, "Planet o f t h e Rem akes"
40
original relevant by updating it’”. (Verevis, 13.) Bob Rafelson’s The Postman Always
Rings Twice (1981) may seem “better” than the first because it was able to include the
controversial subject matter o f James M. Cain’s novel that the MGM 1946 release
couldn’t because o f studio and Production Code limits. This remake values fidelity to
original sources and falls most prominently under Leitch’s “triangular notion o f
intertextuality, since their rhetorical strategy depends on ascribing value to a classic
earlier text.” (Verevis, 13.) To do so, the remake must invoke the original film only to
betray it by staying “faithful” to the original source assuming the original film did not do
so. This seems paradoxical to Leitch’s first argument that for a film to qualify as a
remake, its source must be the original film and not literary text. A Millennial Remake
does not seek to make the original relevant by updating it rather than making it irrelevant
by updating it and does not invoke the original in any form.
An homage remake is the greatest contender in the pro-remake argument. These
films are nothing short o f Valentines to the original film and filmmaker who inspired the
current “auteur’s” style, tastes, vision and it can be said that the director is a true fan o f
the original. This is the most unifying remake amongst cinephiles because they most
always contain a “wink” in them from the director in certain conspicuous decisions o f
mise en scene, cameos o f actors from the original, certain delivery of lines etc, that only
true fans of the original would recognize and appreciate in a fully nostalgic manner. The
hom age’s agenda is not to supersede the original but rather to pay tribute, continue the
legacy, and call attention to the original to the newer generation of potential fans.
Examples o f the homage are Brian De Palm a’s Obsession (1975) and John Carpenter’s
41
The Thing (1982). The attitude and execution o f material sets the homage apart from
other remakes and is the complete antithesis to the Millennial Remake.
Michael Druxman posits three forms o f remakes including: the disguised remake
in which the original source is modernized with little to no recognizable change or given
a new title and then “disguised by new settings and original characters, but in either case
the new films does not seek to draw attention to its earlier version.”46 (Verevis, 7.) The
direct remake does not mask the fact that it is based on an earlier film and shares the
same title and narrative.47 This would compare to the studio remakes o f the Golden era
o f Hollywood in that they neither condemn nor pay tribute to the original. Perhaps the
most similar in definitions to the Millennial Remake would be the non-remake in which
“a new film goes under the same title as a familiar property but there is an entirely new
p lo t.. .and bear[s] little relation” (Verevis, 7.) to the original film. Harvey Roy
Greenberg takes these taxonomies a step further and elaborates on Druxm an’s definitions.
The acknowledged close remake is where an original film is “replicated with little or no
change to the narrative, for example Ben-Hur (William Wyler, 1959; Fed Niblo, 1925;
Sidney Olcott, 1907).” (Verevis, 9.) Expanding on Druxm an’s “disguised rem ake”
Greenberg includes the sub categories o f acknowledged transformed remake where new
films are “substantially transformed in character time and setting” (Verevis, 9) but there
is a screen credit recognizing the original film as a text source or advertised as an
extension o f the original. The unacknowledged disguised remake is G reenberg’s
designation o f the Studio era’s films when “minor or m ajor alterations (in character, time
46 Exam ple h ere w ou ld include Colorado Territo ry (1 9 4 9 ) as a d isgu ised w ester n rem ak e o f H igh S ierra (1 9 4 1 )
47 Charles V idor's 195 7 rem ak e o f A F a re w ell to A rm s (Frank Borzage, 1932)
42
and setting) are undertaken but the audience is not informed o f the original film
version.”48 (Verevis, 9.)
It should also be clarified that sequels, series/franchises and reunion shows/films
are to not be considered remakes because:
Sequels- the characters are typically casted with the same actors from the original
and the original’s story is referred to or continued in these films. Also usually the sequel
is made closer chronologically to the original to cash in on the recent box office success,
whereas remakes are produced years later than the release of the film it is based on.49
Series/franchise- Differ from sequels in that they may have the same characters
(as in James Bond films) but “with many variations on a basic narrative scheme, without
the succession o f continuity or historical succession between the parts.” (Lutticken, 105.)
Reunion pieces- May take place years later like a remake but the entire focus is to
have original actors cast to specifically “address the historical lapse o f time” (Verevis,
42.) and serves complete nostalgic purpose for the fans to get a sense o f reuniting with
old faces (“friends”) and see what they are all up to in present time.
An excellent
example o f a successful reunion film adapted from television is Star Trek: The Motion
Picture (1979). Ten years had lapsed since the television series last aired and Robert
W ise’s production treats the first quarter o f the film as a long awaited reunion both with
the crew o f the Enterprise filmically and with the actual fans and the characters they
cherished.51
48 W arner Bro's The W agons Roll a t N ig h t (1 9 4 1 ) rem ak e o f Kid G alahad (1937)
49 A m ajor fa cto r o f th e M illennial R em ake h o w ev er, is th a t this tim e span b e tw e e n th e original and th e rem ake is g ettin g sh o rter
and sh o rter ad d ing to th e con fu sion o f w h y a film still b asically fresh in a cultural m em ory is b ein g rem ad e so so o n
50 R eturn o f the Beverly Hillbillies , Rescue From Gilligan's Is l a n d to n am e a few
51 It is n o te d by th e au th or h ere th a t th e 2 0 0 9 S tar Trek film is co n sid ered a M illennial R em ake in th a t it w a s p rod u ced for m ass
a u d ie n c e s n o t sp ecifically for "Trekkies" as th e first m otion picture w a s and actually co n ta in ed a story line th a t exp lain ed th a t th e
43
W hat has been labeled as “adaptation” is also categorized as a remake; included
here is the “phenomenon o f the inter-media remake: film versions o f TV series... and TV
cartoons” (Lutticken, 103.)52 Adaptations are considered synonymous with film remakes
because “these television features are heavily im bricated... with patterns o f repetition.”
(Verevis, 38.) These Millennial Remakes o f prominent pop culture television shows
“whether because o f ‘creative atrophy, conglomerate domination, commercial timidity, or
all three at once” have been under increasing scrutiny; cinephiles, scholars and “critics
despair at the ‘pillaging o f television vaults for movie ideas’ a tendency they characterize
as ‘a kind o f latter-day tomb raiding’.” (Verevis, 38.) Millennial television remakes and
film remakes are not true remakes and have no consideration o f fidelity to the original
textual source or o f nostalgic homage.
The Millennial Remake
It is my contention that the Millennial Remake originated in the m id 90s with such
films as The Brady Bunch Movie and has come into a huge concentration in the 2000’s.
These remakes have a tendency to usurp their namesake in an “uncanny” Freudian
fashion. These retro films “ repeat the repressed matter as an experience in the present,
instead o f remembering it as something belonging to the past.” (Lutticken, 109.) 53 I
would perhaps modify Lutticken’s verbiage of “repeat” to “simulate” because repetition
denotes some sort o f fidelity. One o f the main differences between nostalgia and retro is
ch aracters w e r e on an a ltern a te tim e d im en sion so th a t th e "other" Star Trek film s didn't "exist" or are from a " d ifferen t tim e" . This
is m o st sym b olic in th e argu m en t th a t th e M illennial R em akes alter th e original and th e m em o r y o f such.
52 M ia m i Vice as will b e analyzed in th e follow in g ch ap ter, The Flintstones, The Brady Bunch , Charlie's A ngels , S tarsky a n d H utch ,
Scooby-Doo. A lso it m ust be n o te d th a t t h e s e ad a p ta tio n s are n ot sim ilar to film a d a p ta tio n s o f n o v els or o th e r literary so u rces' th ey
are "inter-m edia" rem akes.
53 A fa scin atin g a cco u n t using p sych oan alytic term s o f th e "eternal return" cin em a a u d ie n c e s crave is articu lated by S ven Lutticken in
"Planet o f th e Rem akes". He u se s Lang's a tte m p t to k eep th e Dr. M ab u se fran ch ise in h istoricity w ith a logical lin ear p e r sp e c tiv e
After th e rights to th e ch aracter w e r e h an d ed over to a n o th er director, Dr. M ab u se w a s tra n sfo rm e d in to a c o m ic -b o o k villain
" en d o w ed w ith etern al life."
44
that nostalgia recognizes that the material longed for is unattainable because it has a
specific place in the past, which makes it special and yearned for. Retro tries to take away
the chronological importance ironically and to reinvent it either critically or in pastiche
for postmodern consumption. By reworking the chronologically iconic music, fashion,
sentiment and “spirit” o f the original, the Millennial Remakes cannot even be considered
a form o f mimesis rather than specters. They underline the impossibility o f “having any
transhistorical, onto- material “presence” outside o f [their] own infrastructural logic.
Thus the concept o f hauntology contrasts the “spirit” of a thing, which is its impossible
“origin” or a historical “essence” . . .that nonetheless allow for the impossibility o f such a
spirit’s living on as a memory, or quasi-messianic promise.” (Donaldson-McHugh,
Moore, 226.) These postmodern films “taint” the aura o f the original and simultaneously
deem themselves as disposable culture because o f their inability to “live on as a
m em ory.” Just by these Millennial Remakes existing, alter the original; “such
performative resurrections.. .always result in an imperfect, “queer” copy of that ‘ideal’”
(228.) The purposes they serve are low risk business ventures and to change the
historicity of the original.
Leo Braudy is one o f the few scholars who question the facets o f remakes as a
celebration o f intertextuality as Verevis and Horton and McDougal may. In his afterword
to Play it Again Sam, Retakes on Remakes, Braudy discusses the differences between a
revival o f a play and a cinematic remake. In theater, “different productions o f a play,
even across centuries, rarely question the formal processes o f theater history.. .the
purpose is to revive. While the play thus remains defined almost by its original text, the
remade film is less frequently an homage or revival than an effort to supplant its
45
predecessor entirely,” (Braudy, 327.) He contends that the remake is “concerned with
what its makers and (they hope) its audiences consider unfinished cultural business,”
(Braudy 331.) I would extend this argument to the Millennial Remakes in their tone o f
execution. To a cinephile and aficionado o f the original pop culture classic, the new film
bears no semblance in style, text, tone, theme or spirit that merited the original its
iconography and fandom in the first place and would be a form o f “cultural poaching or
cannibalism”. As in the case o f Miami Vice 2006, the Millennial Remake “transposes (the
original) to a new setting, inverting its system o f values, or adopt[s] standards o f realism
that implicitly criticize[s] the original as dated, outmoded, or irrelevant.” (Leitch, 143.)
This is a contrast to the elements o f nostalgic films and homage remakes that allow the
fans o f the original to be “in the know” o f special mise en scene alluding to the original
and thematic elements coming into play in the new narrative. On speaking o f the re­
using o f “You Are My Lucky Star” in 1971’s The Boyfriend, Rick Altman claims this
quoting allows the spectator to hear “his/ or her own past, reliving personal memories
come[ing] to join and compliment the present. Visions o f our common past, recollections
o f childhood and youth, tunes o f yesteryear all invite the spectator to enter into contact
with the past, to dissolve the temporal barriers which govern our lives, and to invest the
all-too-real present with a fondly remembered past.” (Altman, 76.) This remembered
past o f postmodern remakes looks at the 80s as outdated both aesthetically and
thematically and does not infuse nostalgia into their treatments o f past pop culture. The
visions of our common past that Altman describes are decimated in the postm odern quest
for hyper-realism due to the new technologies o f the new millennium. W ith the agenda of
the digital revolution to infuse “realism” into films, this new technology may warrant
46
many reasons for these “unreal” 80s films to be remade. In the 2000’s, “spectators
demand o f reality what they have just seen on the screen just as they demand for the
screen what they have experienced in the real world- to the point where the screen world
and reality no longer can be defined separately or even delimited successfully.” (Altman,
251.) This argument holds for the implementation o f large budget high tech blockbusters
that require more eye candy FX 54, but why then would films that have no special FX be
subject to re-envisioning? Is the very concept o f what is “real” on celluloid to the 1980s
generation the complete antithesis to what is real for the Millennial generation and vice
versa? Or perhaps the 80s generation was more concerned with the ideal rather than the
real.55
The sheer quantity o f the infiltration o f these Millennial Remake films in our current
culture deserves to be under scrutiny. Any title, genre, medium, or fad is warranted to be
remade. The percentage o f titles remade from known 80s phenomena is outstanding:
Clash o f the Titans, The A-Team, Fright Night, Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th,
The Karate Kid, Miami Vice, Fame, G I Joe, R ed Dawn, Footloose, Flight o f the
Navigator, Bright Lights Big City, Robocop, Short Circuit, Girls Just Wanna Have Fun,
Valley Girl, (most o f Carpenter’s work: Assault on Precinct 13, Escape from New York,
The Thing, They Live ) P orky’s ... the list goes on and on, indeed it is as if Hollywood is
remaking an entire decade. There are Facebook pages addressing this in groups such as
“Preserve our Past” and “Remakes Are W rong”, because they feel these Millennial
Remake films “tarnish our childhood”. (Fitzgerald) The Millennial Remakes are direct
54 P la n e t o f th e Apes, Charlie's Angels, M ia m i Vice, Clash o f the Titans.
551 can say from m any p ersonal e x p e r ie n c e s t h a t ! h ave se e n yo u n g er v iew ers laugh at th e se n tim e n t of a film I find sin cere and th a t
th e y are eq u a lly ab h orred (for in sta n ce at th e p rem iere o f 2 0 1 2 ) w h en I laugh at w h at th ey con sid er "sincere acting". This c o n c e p t o f
sin cere, g e n u in e spirit a n d /o r "aura" and w h a t each individual g en eration finds to b e "real" should b e n o te d .
47
products o f the digital revolution and o f cultural postm odernism when “discourses o f
‘origins’ are at their weakest. (Verevis, 97.) This topic should be currently studied due to
the fact that these films have received so much negative criticism s from reviewers, critics
and audiences, yet continue to be produced and patronized. Films from decades previous
to the 1980s have been remade but none on the same scale o f volume as those currently
targeting the 80s. The paradox in the Millennial case is clear, industrial strategies for low
risk maximum profits o f a presold name cannot appeal to the audiences/cinephiles o f the
original due to their ironic treatment so it warrants to be considered that the m ajority o f
the audiences o f these digital/ high budget remakes must be a postm odern audience who
have never heard o f or vaguely remember the original.
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Chapter 4- “Talkin’ Bout My Generation” : Contextual Analysis of M iam i Vice the
Television Series
In his introduction to American Culture in the 1980’s, Graham Thompson finds it
problematic to identify American culture by decade; however, under certain scrutiny,
“some decades do seem to possess a unity o f tenor and tone, a common ethos, (4.) While
certainly not all Americans identified or agreed with the politics o f Reagan’s
administration, or rejoiced in the music, film and art o f the times, the 1980s have (at least
on the surface) earned distinction as to having been a generally unified epoch in
comparison to the Vietnam years when the nation was fragmented. And indeed while
there are also significant disparities between the early 80s and the late 80s, prevalent
tendencies in culture and mores ascertain the entire decade to be inimitable and
colloquially labeled as “The Reagan Era” or “The Reagan Years” as the president’s
ideologies were reflected both positively and negatively in our culture, Reagan “does not
argue for American values, he embodies them.” (Thompson, 3.) Thompson describes six
factors that defined 1980’s mainstream American ideologies, consumerism and culture o f
the 1980s: Reaganomics, Wall Street, the new AIDS epidemic, Techno-culture, Neo
Conservatism, and the Culture Wars between the Right and Left including such issues as
what Susan Faludi wrote as the backlash o f feminism and rights for abortion. What
liberals and conservatives argued as “values” clashed significantly under the guise o f a
unified country cured from what Reagan called the “Vietnam Syndrome”.
This chapter establishes the television series, Miami Vice as exemplifying the Zeitgeist
o f the era through vital thematic and aesthetic characteristics and proves that the show is
synonymous with the decade. Therefore when turned into a Millennial Remake and
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CHAPMAN UNIVERSITY LIBRARY ORANGE, CA
thematically taken out o f the 1980s, it is my contention that the entity o f “M iami Vice”
loses meaning and relevance. The preliminary focus is in discourse with what Robert
Arnett defined as “Eighties Noir” in comparison to the neo noir cycle happening
simultaneously in the decade. His main delineation is that Eighties noir is the “dissenting
voice in Reagan’s America” with its own legacy o f new aesthetics and them es unique to
the genre as opposed to homage or re-envisonings o f post war film noir.56 His argument
extends the scholarship o f Jeremy Butler’s article “Miami Vice: The Legacy o f Film
Noir” . These articles establish the crucial importance o f M iami Vice and all o f its
comprising elements to the decade in which it was produced thus establishing temporal
significance. A textual analysis o f the second season’s two hour prem ier “The Prodigal
Son” illuminates the Eighties noir essentials and the predominant 1980’s them es and
ideologies through narrative structure and visual/aural style.
A brief explanation o f what construes as “ 1980’s” phenomena is required to
comprehend cultural ideologies iconic and unique to the decade including M iami Vice.
Colloquially, when the 80s are mentioned, immediately thoughts o f “big” fill the mind:
big hair, big music, big personalities, big style, and big money. These are in hindsight
enforced by Reagan’s optimistic/pro unified A m erica.. .a time o f prosperity and o f unity.
Pop culture and subculture either reinforced or critiqued this predominant ideology. But
what actually shaped these ideologies that are unique to the decade? Several movements
in the wake o f the 1970s and those originating in the 1980s shaped our culture (positively
and negatively) and “the proliferation o f visual imagery and iconography during the
1980s, all help cement Reagan’s presidency as the natural political counterpart to an
56 S o m e ex a m p les o f n eo-n oir including: Body H e a t (1981), The Postm an A lw ays Rings Tw ice (1 9 8 1 ), and D ressed to Kill (1 9 8 0 ).
50
eighties culture driven, and dominated by the production and circulation o f the image.”
(Thompson, 5). MTV then added the fusion o f sound to image style synonymous with
the decade, as the actual music video in its nascent form no longer predominantly exists;
MTV and VH1 are now just a moniker for “Reality TV”. The six intellectual contexts
Graham Thompson describes “are the contexts in which culture is both produced and
consum ed,” (Thompson, 6.)
The question as to why “Miami Vice” is synonymous with the decade is then
answered through several strategies.
First, the delineation o f the nature o f 80s film noir as opposed to “neo noir” as
described by Robert Arnett in “Eighties Noir: The Dissenting Voice in Reagan’s
America” and Jeremy G. Butler in “Miami Vice; The Legacy if Film Noir” is examined.
These journal articles outline the crucial factor o f describing the genre residing in its
relevance to the actual year(s) and temporal culture in which it was conceived, produced
and experienced. 80s N oir’s importance is in its critique o f the dominant ideologies o f the
conservative mainstream prevalent in “Reagan’s America” The visual and aural
aesthetics o f this subgenre are integral to the meaning o f its text and both comment
directly on the m edia’s obsession with technological innovation in moving images
coinciding with the MTV synchronistic pairing o f sound, but also evolved and defined a
distinct style compared to its noir predecessors o f the post war era. “Miami Vice became
an important point in an evolution o f ‘80s noir visual style, one with its own codes and
one that questions the complacency o f the image.” (Arnett, 127.)
Most critics and reviewers both in the 1980s and today commonly misinterpret the
style o f the show as purely surface devoid o f any meaningful content, indeed having
51
being dismissed as “MTV Cops”. However, the show’s style synonymous with the
popular culture and trends o f the 1980s simultaneously celebrated and critiqued them
which accounts for the wide appeal and popularity o f the show. Viewers who watched
the show for pure entertainment enjoyed the music, fast paced drama, and the general
“eye-candy” the city o f Miami had to offer emulating the fast life style desired by many
Americans in what was at the time, the most “economically prosperous” decade o f the
century. Typically these viewers remember the show’s pastel colors, fashions etc. over
the actual content and storylines o f the show. Meanwhile, the viewers who read deeper
into the subtext, nuances and irony o f the actual plots and angst the characters suffered in
the midst o f “the good life” criminals and shady citizens enjoyed realize that the 80s
mainstream capitalistic culture and government promises o f prosperity for every citizen
was nothing but a prepackaged myth. In fact, those who actually did enjoy the “good
life” were either drug dealers profiting off o f a defunct system o f law enforcem ent in the
US, or were yuppies on Wall Street, many o f whom profited off o f illegal insider trading.
Both o f these occurrences, by the end o f the decade, had been exposed as failures o f the
media and president’s promises that 1980s America would emulate 1950’s Aanerica
where the middle class would benefit from the fruits o f a sound and prosperous economy.
Most people who flourished worked above and around the law. Sophisticated viewers
remember the multiple storylines o f Crockett and Tubbs’ general anguish as criminals
they risked their lives in bringing to justice were either released by unscrupulous judges,
represented by just as shady lawyers who got them off with basically a slap on the hand,
or slipped through the cracks o f a law enforcement system riddled with “leaks” and
corrupt cops. The danger was not “from out there” as the cold war would have liked
52
Americans to think, but rather, an internal force was corroding the public from the inside
out. The analysis o f the second season’s first episode, “Prodigal Son” will illuminate this
theme.
Secondly, while the bulk o f scholarship and writing on Miami Vice concerns industrial
decisions by NBC CEO Brandon Tartikoff and Executive Producer Michael Mann as
being the business forces behind the show’s success, this section accredits the creative
forces behind the show (contributions o f creator/writer Anthony Yerkovich, soundscape
designer Jan Hammer, and the cast, the actual vision Mann brought over from Thief and
extended into Manhunter) as constructing a quintessentially 1980s phenomenon.57 When
juxtaposed to the 2006 remake film in the proceeding chapter, the contrast is stark.
Finally, the main factor differentiating the original from its Millennial counterpart is
what James Lyons characterizes as the quintessentially 1980s underlying theme o f risk.
“W hat remained remarkably consistent across the duration o f the show was the dramatic
animation o f risk as a governing logic uniting cops, criminals and victims.” (Lyons, 94.)
This will be perhaps one o f the strongest arguments in contrasting the original to its
M illennial Remake. The predominant industrial defense in the actual production o f these
rem akes is low risk venture in an “unstable economy”; an ironic twist in the reality o f
film remaking and o f the actual product not bearing any semblance to the original text it
shares title with.
57 A fter m uch research it s e e m s rare th a t w riters on th e top ic o f M ia m i Vice have se e n b eyon d o n e e p iso d e or h ave actually w a tch ed
a sin g le e p iso d e th orou gh ly. Indeed th e m o st current "scholarly" book relea sed by W iley-Blackwell Publishers 2 /2 0 1 0 , M ia m i Vice by
J a m es Lyons h as th e prim ary fe m a le ca st m em b er o f th e sh ow ; Saundra S an tiago w h o played "Gina Calabrese" listed as a hybrid o f
h er real n a m e and ch aracter n am e: "Gina Santiago."
53
The Milieu of 1980s Culture
This section examines the culture o f the 80’s and its relationship to M iami Vice by
borrowing Thompson’s six factors that shaped the culture o f the time.
Reaganomics/ Wall Street M ania: Under the guise o f the “get rich quick” m entality o f
Wall Street, suddenly yuppies were the new heroes o f American culture. De-regulation
supposedly fueled the competitive nature o f capitalism the government felt by lowering
marginal rates o f personal and corporate taxation to create incentives for wealth
creation.” (Thompson, 6.) The 80s was the age o f corporate mergers and hostile
takeovers while investors made millions on the market, many without scruples, using
insider trading. The idea was to stabilize the economy to benefit the middle class and
experience prosperity much like the suburban idealistic 1950s.58 The actual result was
the “rich got richer while the poor got poorer”. This led to m uch dissent by the working
class as seen in the music o f Bruce Springsteen and John Cougar M ellancamp and
critiques o f the “greed is good” philosophy depicted by Oliver Stone’s Wall Street.59
Contrary to popular belief and the opinions o f many the show ’s critics, M iam i Vice did
not rejoice in the representations o f criminals leading lavish lifestyles, rather, made a
statement that the actual people who profited off o f the 1980s economy were criminals,
drug dealers, and corrupt law enforcement agents and businessmen. The “good guys”, the
middle class represented by Crockett and Tubbs, were constantly referred to as “500
dollar a week cops” and constantly had to be subjected to the irony that the ones who
could actually afford the fast cars and expensive clothes were the criminals they must
58 W hile in reality, th is 1 9 5 0 's "Utopia" w a s very m uch not ev ery b o d y 's actual e x p e r ie n c e as m uch as m a in str ea m m ed ia w o u ld like
us to b eliev e.
59 W hich is ironically b ein g "rem ade" as o f April 2 0 1 0 . S u p p osed ly it is a " sequel", h o w e v e r , th e title is th e sa m e a s Oliver S to n e's
original W all S treet. The 1 9 8 7 film w a s m ore chronologically relevan t in lieu o f th e W all S treet-M an ia th a t d e fin e d t h e 8 0 s and in its
near sim u lta n eo u s r e lea se coin cid in g w ith Black M onday.
54
bring to justice, not them. Critics constantly neglected the fact that the cars and clothes
the Vice squad had, were state property and not rightfully theirs. This also commented
on the 1980s debt the middle class accrued then by living beyond their means. Buy now,
pay later. To keep up with the Wall Street Yuppies and other images o f success
Americans saw through the media, they used credit to emulate what they thought was the
road to happiness. To truly belong, one must open up their pocketbook.
M iami Vice depicted greed corrupting even the best cops. In the pilot episode,
Crockett’s former partner becomes an informant for the drug dealers accepting a bribe
that will pay for his son’s gargantuan medical bills. The easy fast currency blinded the
officer and thus put Crockett’s and others’ lives in jeopardy. He sold out for money and
betrayed his community. This theme o f corporate greed and exploitation is furthered in
the analysis o f “The Prodigal Son”,
Neo-Conservatism : The Right blamed most o f the sorrow and country’s failures o f the
70s on the liberal movement starting on the 60’s. Civil Rights, Feminism, Gay Culture all
were seen as the cause for the decimation o f the American unit... the family. Under
Reagan’s leadership, America planned to get back on track and again lead a life similar to
the 1950s’ before all the counter-movements fragmented the country. Family values
were revered and entities that jeopardized them were targets for censorship and
banning.60 Perhaps the most well known developments of neo-conservatism were the rise
o f televangelism and the religious Right. These groups were eager to “utilize mass media
in the service o f spreading the word. (Thompson, 16.) Religion and television were well
60 An e x a m p le b ein g g o v e r n m e n t's lead ers con cern o ver H eavy M etal m usic corrupting th e you th and fragm en tin g th e fam ily. The
w iv e s o f sev era l co n g r e ssm e n form ed th e P arents M usic R esource C enter and esta b lish ed th e "Filthy Fifteen", so n g s th at
re p r e se n te d th e m o st aw ful, o b sc e n e ex a m p les o f pop culture. By tod ay's standards, th e y se e m laughably h arm less, as d o e s fo o ta g e
o f D ee Snider at th e S e n a te h earin gs d efen d in g T w isted Sister to Marilyn G ore and a sso cia tes. Attacking silly fun s e e m e d to b e th e
R epublican so lu tio n to elim in atin g "filth" from you th culture o f th e 1980s.
55
suited in the 1980’s because television could package and commodify religion for an
increasingly image oriented audience.” (Thompson, 17.) As with others tem pted by the
greed o f easy money, religious leaders profited greatly through donations by viewers that
led to living the “good life” including not practicing what they preached. The scandals of
Jim Bakker and Jimmy Swaggart exemplify the hypocrisy many neo-conservatives
represented. In speaking forthright against un-American acts such as drinking,
embezzlement and prostitution and then participating in such acts, made believers
question their faith and gave cynics good cause for censure. Season 4 (1987-88) Episode
2 o f Miami Vice, “Amen, Send Money” is the series’ commentary on televangelism as the
headlines were hitting the news. These ultra current headline- to- TV episodes are
another factor that made Miami Vice tantamount to the 1980s.
AID S: The AIDS epidemic single handedly brought the sexual free love revolution of
the 60s and 70s to an abrupt halt. Wrongfully blamed as a punishment for alternative
lifestyles by the extreme right, AIDS became the poster child for everything that went
wrong in the previous decade and represented an urgent need to eliminate what “caused”
it in their eyes. “AIDS operated in the broader cultural and social domain less as a
biological fact than as an opportunity to pass moral judgm ent.” (Thompson, 21.) Until
Rock Hudson died o f the syndrome in 1985, AIDS had been treated as something that
only “other” people got. With Hudson’s death, the celebrity o f AIDS came to the
forefront in the semblance o f fundraisers for public awareness, but also now fueled the
underlying terror that anyone could get AIDS...not just people leading alternative
lifestyles. “AIDS became an important dimension o f life during the 1980s because it
tested the capacity o f American society to cope with the unknown.” (Thompson, 25.)
56
This leads back to James Lyons’ quantifying the decade as one o f risk. People risked their
finances in the stock market and now risked their lives with sexual relations. The female
members o f the Vice squad dealt with this issue the most in their storylines, as their
undercover jobs were mostly those o f prostitutes or call girls. They risked catching the
disease via rape every time they played “girlfriend” to one o f the criminals under
surveillance. Sometimes the lines blurred and how close to get exactly to get the
information they needed was not clear. Gina Calabrese experiences this horror in Season
One Episode 10’s “Give a Little, Take a Little”.
Technoculture: The ramifications o f all o f these categories have directly influenced the
evolution o f culture we experience today in the Digital era, but none more so than the
techno-culture revolution. “The 1980s was a decade that saw crucial developments in the
field o f biotechnology that would raise important moral and philosophical issues for later
generations to deal with”. (Thompson, 25.) I would extend this raising o f moral issues to
“gadget fetishes”. In the 1980’s most computers and electronic equipment were novelties
used for gaming and minimal communications. The people who really knew computer
systems were spawned from Silicone Valley as opposed to today where our culture is
inundated with monitors, screens and hyper-stimuli. This race to the digital future has
escalated to such a level, that high tech innovations of the 1980s, such as the VCR, are
now laughably obsolete. The VCR, however, created a “whole new form o f cultural
consumption.” (Thompson, 29.) Because consumers could now rent films or record
programs, networks were racing around trying to find ways to maintain viewership.
M iami Vice filled the niche with its cinematic production. Michael Mann interviewed by
The New York Times in 1985 revealed the competitive edge his series had and why even
57
today the show is treated as cinema and not standard television: “We make a m ovie for a
little over SI million but we do it once a week, so we try to do the same cinematics in
terms o f art direction, editing and use o f music that I would put into a feature film .”
(Lyons, 36.) Each episode was shot on film stock and “one wonders if an episode o f
M ann’s series, were it screened in a movie theater, would not have just as much impact
on the audience as a regular feature film.” (Trutnau, 110.) It was as if each week a film
made especially for TV aired on NBC. Additional elucidation o f cinematic aesthetics of
this groundbreaking series is discussed in the proceeding section o f this chapter.
The final topic that helped shape American Culture (according to Graham Thompson)
in the 1980s was The Culture W ars. One o f the main reasons the Right felt as to why the
country declined in values is feminism. “The end result o f feminism was pain: ‘Women
are unhappy precisely because they are free. W omen are enslaved by their own
liberation.” (Thompson, 32.) Conservative men and women felt the w om an’s place for
true happiness is raising a family. Career women were nothing but imposters in a m an’s
world and were portrayed in a negative light according to Susan Faludi in films such as
Fatal Attraction (1987). This according to the Right was the main reason middle class
homes were broken. Miami Vice held a different view: neither men nor wom en o f the
working class could maintain a stable “typical” household. Because o f the actual
undercover work involved that jeopardizes loved ones61 and/or the financial strain that a
single income family encounters, no one, according to the show can lead this fictitious
middle class lifestyle the mainstream media would like Americans to think possible.
61 In e p iso d e 14, a hit m an ta rg ets C rockett's ex-w ife and son after th e y a g ree to recon cile and try t o w ork th e m arriage o u t, but
ultim ately d e c id e n ot to d u e to th e v io len t n atu re o f C rockett's work
58
One reading o f Miami Vice that could initially seem conservative is the multiple
storylines o f ethnic minorities infiltrating America with drugs and crime. Because o f the
already delicate interracial situation dealing with immigrants in Miami, the text may
seem to enforce the notion that the drug problem in America is caused by outsiders.
W hites also felt a threat by the growing ethnic population; the majority population had
shrunk from 87.6 percent in 1970 to 83.9 percent in 1990. “ What emerged in the 1980s
was a situation whereby in an increasingly multi-national society, different interest
groups felt it necessary to defend their cultural positions.” (Thompson, 32.) As much as
the ethnic dichotomy between good (us) vs. bad (foreigners) would be ideal for a series
set in Miami; there were approximately 27 Anglo American criminals to a Hispanic 34 in
the entire series with a handful o f Asian, Franco-American, African and Slavik offenders.
fV)
And more often than not, the actual “bad guy” was inside the judicial system, a corrupt
cop, judge, lawyer, DEA agent, etc. Miami Vice encouraged the viewer to look internally
for the villain rather than overseas as the Cold War Era promoted.
Identifying M iam i Vice with the 1980s: 80s Noir and Creative Aesthetic
Contributions
“Few shows have been identified more closely with the spirit o f the decade; Miami
Vice is an iconic product o f the 1980s, as much a part o f the cultural fabric o f the period
as the Rubik’s cube, Pac-Man, E.T., or Michael Jackson’s Thriller.” (Lyons, 2.)
M iami Vice has indeed infiltrated our collective memories as all things stylistically 80s, it
has the big hair, the big music, the big fashion etc; however, the show established itself
62 Trutnau, A ppendix 6
59
among the lexicon o f eighties noir and critiques the very components mass audiences
treasured about the show. Because interpreting art is relative, it is difficult to say that the
texts either only critique or only celebrate the 1980s; I contend that they do both,
simultaneously, thus the large appeal over a vast audience, not ju st the 18-35 male
audience advertisers and networks targeted. Both men and women o f all ages, class
backgrounds and levels o f education found M iami Vice appealing.
Miami Vice is synonymous with the decade because it is both the “dissenting” voice o f
Reagan’s America and contains quintessentially “ 80s” narrative them es and iconic
aesthetics. An outline o f the premise o f the series and o f the Miami leading up to the
show will conceptualize the basic importance o f continuing theme and intimate
relationship Vice had to both the city and the era.
M iami Vice creator, Anthony Yerkovich, established a “sense o f place” “essential
to his original vision” o f what the show would entail. Towards the end o f the 70s and
early 80s, Miami, the once idyllic vacation spot had went from the “Magic City” to
“Paradise Lost”. The Mariel boatlift, a Cuban exodus that brought approximately 125,000
refugees to Florida between April 15th and October 3 1st, 1980, caused controversy when
it was discovered that a large percentage were exiles released from Cuban jails and
mental health facilities. The Time magazine article “Trouble in Paradise” (November
1981) asserted “an epidemic o f violent crime, a plague o f illicit drugs and a tidal wave of
refugees have slammed into South Florida with the destructive power o f a hurricane.”
(Lyons, 12.) The “Liberty City Riots” also know as “The Arthur M cDuffie Riots o f
1980” contributed to M iam i’s reputation as Florida’s H ell’s Kitchen. On Decem ber 17th,
1979, four Dade County police officers pursued McDuffie in an eight- minute high-speed
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chase that led to foot pursuit and the beating o f McDuffie. He died as a result o f the
beatings from the officers. The case was heard by an all white all male jury, and while
four officers were indicted for manslaughter, the remaining officers were acquitted. The
deliberation sent 5,000 people in the street to protest that eventually turned into a riot
resulting in looting, destruction of property 15 deaths and over 165 injured. The federal
government declared Miami a disaster area qualifying the city to receive funding to
rebuild. Ironically enough, millions o f dollars in the illegal drug trade o f South Florida
supported the economic boom and restoration of Miami in the early 80s: “ illegal
narcotics and (that) laundered bills had found their way into the $3 billion construction
boom that transformed downtown Miami in the early 1980s” (Lyons, 13.)
This was also the precursor to the failure o f the 1980’s “War on Drugs” because “not
only are millions o f Americans addicted to drugs, many banks are addicted to drug
m oney.” (Lyons, 12.) Mainstream media launched a full-blown attack on
drugs63including “Just Say N o” and D.A.R.E. programs. However, the reality o f the
situation is that banks and rich financiers profited greatly off o f illegal drugs. The most
chilling expose o f this capitalistic ideology is exemplified in bank CEO, “Mr. Johnston’s”
monologue in “The Prodigal Son”.64
Creator/W riter, Yerkovich took all o f these events into account and desired to turn
M iami Vice into a modern Casablanca by portraying both the cynical ugliness o f the city
and the natural beauty o f an art deco vacation wonderland o f yesteryear. In the 1980s,
this symbiotic relationship between the beauty and ugliness o f the city was the apotheosis
o f the new development in film noir: eighties noir.
63 M ost fa m o u sly N ancy R eagan's "Just Say No" Program and a p p earan ce on th e popular TV sh ow , D if f re n t Strokes.
64 This m o n o lo g u e is tran scrib ed in th e textu al analysis se ctio n o f "The Prodigal Son"
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Throughout the seventies and eighties there had been a resurgence o f noir style
films, some revisions o f the genre (Chinatown, 1974), some “updates”, (Postman Always
Rings Twice, 1981), and some homage/tribute remakes, {Body Heat, 1981.) “concem(ing)
themselves more with recreation, nostalgia, and homage than noir intent.” (Arnett, 124.)
Robert Arnett saw a pattern o f films emerging separate from rem akes and nostalgia that
were “best labeled ‘80s noir’.. .with distinct narrative, visual motifs, and an ideology that
counters other mainstream genres o f the time-one critical o f Am erica during the years of
Ronald Reagan’s presidency.” (Arnett, 123.) According to Arnett, M ichael M ann’s
ground- breaking police drama is ranked amongst films and “exemplifies ‘80s noir”.
(Arnett, 124.) Through unique narrative form, stylized aesthetics, and special attributes
o f hero and nemesis, M iami Vice as ‘80s noir establishes a symbiotic relationship to the
decade o f its genesis and challenges the audience through its plots and them es to question
the status quo.
The series aired on September 16, 1984 in the apex o f Regan’s presidency as
according to Arnett when the 80s noir genre thrived. The pilot originated the main
characters’ relationships and main premise o f the entire show. Ricardo Tubbs was an
NYPD beat cop who witnessed an infamous king pin drug lord, Calderone, shoot his
brother (also a cop) in cold blood. He vows vengeance and follows the crim e lord to
Miami under the guise o f his dead brother’s name as an alias. He is there without
clearance from the NYPD. Meanwhile, the cynical Vice cop Crockett also falls victim to
Calderone’s schemings as he too witnesses someone important to him, his partner, die at
the hands o f Calderone. Tubbs and Crockett (after much banter and obstinate refusal to
team up) join forces to bring the Colombian to justice. After risking their lives many
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times and Tubb s struggle to not become a vigilante and to play “by the book”, they bring
him in. The twist in the conclusion is that the actual reason their lives were in danger was
because a cop (who happens to be a dear friend o f Sonny Crockett) sold everyone out for
a bribe from the drug lord so he could pay his son’s medical bills. And to make matters
worse, Calderone got out by a legal loophole, slipping through Crockett and Tubb’s
fingers in the final shot o f the two- hour film. Here, the danger is more from within the
Am erican system rather than the xenophobic mainstream 80s narrative. Also, the
protagonists must face again and again the hypocrisy o f the justice system and the
knowledge that money is the only thing that has any weight in America. Time and time
again when they try to do the right thing, the carpet is pulled from under them not by the
usual “bad guys” but by the legal system, politicians, and corporate greed minded CEO’s
and government agencies (DEA, FBI etc.) Miami Vice has become “the vehicle for the
film m akers’ critique o f ‘80s society”. (Arnett, 125.)
These films “prefer exposing the dream with narratives producing damaged
heroes, who become like their classic noir counterparts, icons o f an ideology o f bitter
reality.” (Arnett, 125.) Characters like Sonny Crockett exemplify this angst between
doing what they believe is the right thing and what American mainstream culture deems
what is “right”. These characters become cynical, jaded and contemplative, as they
understand the masks they m ust wear and that other people must wear while playing the
“game” o f life. “Law enforcement became metaphors for other Reagan era institutions
failing to deliver the promised dream.” (Arnett, 126.) Mainstream genres reinforced the
American dream, successful job, happy family; a capitalistic system that w orks...Miami
Vice shattered these ideals. Sonny Crockett only makes $500 a week and must watch
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criminal informants who made deals with the D A ’s live the “good life” off o f drug and
other illegal monies. He must continually watch as people he has brought to justice get
o ff with a slap on the wrist, he must witness those close to him or who have helped him
die due to another friend’s betrayal. He m ust live with the ghosts o f his Vietnam service
that kept him from his actual dream o f playing professional football. But m ost o f all,
Crockett cannot have a home. He lives undercover on a yacht (that belongs to the state,
not him) and continually lives under an alias. His ex-wife and son still care for him but
must live apart because Calderone has already put their lives in danger by organizing a
hit on Crockett’s family. Crockett cannot live the American dream and becomes an
allegory for what the 1980s may actually have been: the ideal and the reality are not
compatible and impossible to attain.
The nemesis in 80s noir again, is from within not from without. In the Cold War
o f the 80s where mainstream films/pop culture pits us against the “Russkies”, this genre
engages us in looking closer for the actual enemy. In the analysis o f “The Prodigal Son”
the quintessential 1980s nemesis, Mr. Johnston, proves that we have more to fear by the
man on the top floor o f the building down the street rather than from the Kremlin.
Perhaps the most memorable aspect o f this phenomenon is its visual and aural
style. Unfortunately many critics o f Miami Vice continually label it as “style over
substance” without considering that the style is the substance. “Just as film noir is
strongly associated with the image o f squalid city streets, glistening from a recent rain,
Miami Vice depends on the imagery o f M iami.” (Butler, 133.) Yerkovich created his
“Casablanca” through his writing while Michael Mann gave a “sense o f place” through
his authorial visual design and Jan Hammer contributed with the personifying soundscape
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for the city. The opening credits “serve as a catalogue o f Miami iconography,
constructing the city itself as a major figure in the narrative.” (Butler, 133.) The show
was shot as a film would be shot oftentimes cast and crew waiting for the exact time o f
day exploiting M iam i’s natural light, during the “magic hour, the hour surrounding
sunrise or sunset, when the sun is low to the horizon, casting long shadows, lighting the
cloudscape, and in the city, filtering through pollution to create a gold or reddish glow.”
(Arnett, 127.) The city is both beautiful and menacing at the same time adding to the
dual nature o f Crockett’s job and consciousness. Consultant and colleague o f Bernardo
Bertolucci, production designer, Ferdinando Scarfotti utilized extreme whites, pastel
color palettes, art deco furniture and architecture up against this magic hour with designs
that evoked “Crockett’s broken-down life, the futile war against Miami crime, and the
surreal space-the dream-in which warriors do battle.” (Arnett, 127.) The “look is so
specific, so unique” (Arnett, 127.), that it is impossible to duplicate outside o f the 80s
without being a farce because “the narratives and characters o f ‘80s noir lent themselves
to seductive visuals, which, examined carefully, reveal another layer of neo-noir reacting
to a m oment in history” (Arnett, 127.) and that moment in history was Reagan’s America.
Miami Vice brilliantly used both pop music and Jan Hammer’s scoring to
“enhance the effect o f the on screen action, providing evocative clues, or characterizing,
even describing a person or act in the film through the use o f systemized and specifically
assigned musical themes, ...called leitmotifs.” (Strand, 19.) What has been previously
dismissed as “MTV style” montage has not been considered to be a new form o f fusing
the image and aural into a new meaning. As far back as 1928
65
Pudovkin, Eisenstein and his assistant had issued manifesto on sound, advocating
sound not provide realistic acoustic narrative, but to use music, words and sounds
to counterpoint the images, thus complementing the visual montage w ith a sound
montage. They contended that the montage o f sound should run parallel to a
montage o f images, making sound essentially a synchronous in a work o f vertical
montage (sound on top o f image or vice-versa.) (Beumers, 79.)
True original MTV videos65 from the 80s were this vision o f Eisenstein’s vertical
montage, the sound and image separately had significant meaning, but when synthesized
together, created a whole new unit o f communication. “Sound and image interact with
one another to create an elusive signification. Consequently, M iami Vice places demands
on the viewer that were normally reserved for cinema. We are invited to gaze, not
glance-at the images and listen intently to the sounds.” (Butler, 137.) The “music video”
montages in the show were not frivolous and disrupting to the narrative...but were
narrative. In what I would like to call the “Crockett Contemplating” sequences, the
music video portions o f M iami Vice are times for both the protagonist and viewer to
pause and reflect on the actual psychology o f the situation at hand. Either through Jan
Hammer’s leitm otif o f “Crockett’s Theme”, or through many Phil C ollin’s and other
65 The v id e o s o f th e G olden Years o f MTV to d a y no lon ger exist. T h ese are high c o n c e p t fairy ta le s, c o m p le te s to r ie s in 3 -5 m in u tes.
The n ew rom antic group Duran Duran exem p lified th is era o f vid eo s, o fte n taking th eir m u sic to e x o tic locals like Sri Lanka to sh o o t
film to b e ed ited later to th e b ea ts o f their m usic. T h ese v id eo s told a sto ry /n a rra tiv e th a t s o m e t im e s had n o th in g to d o w ith th e
actual lyrics, h o w ev er, co m b in ed w ith th e im agery, th e so n g to o k on a w h o le n e w m ea n in g t o a g e n e r a tio n o f MTV v ie w e r s. This
c o n c e p t v id eo is n o n -ex iste n t in th e 2 0 0 0 s, as MTV and VH1 h ave o p te d for “reality TV" s h o w s in stea d o f a ctu a l m u sic v id e o s on
their n etw ork s.
66
popular 80s artists songs66 “the inner turmoil o f the protagonist’s consciousness is
brought to surface and finds vivid expression.” (Trutnau, 170.) “The viewer gets a clearcut presentation o f the unrest and struggle that frequently wrack Crockett’s mind.”
(Trutnau, 171.) The footage would be shot in Miami, shipped to LA for post production,
then shipped to composer Jan Hammer in New York so he could score the show while
watching the footage on screen, this is why the characters (and even the cars!) have their
own “them es”. The popular music used was not extraneous either, each song was
“specially commissioned, or had been purchased from an established rock star, because
its lyrics dovetail with the conceptional rhythm o f the episode.” (Trutnau, 163.) This is
elaborated in “The Prodigal Son” analysis with Crockett’s montage to Glen Frey’s “You
Belong to the City”.
The use o f flashbacks and slow motion are incorporated throughout the narrative
to further give light to the mentality o f the protagonists. Because the main Vice unit cops
«
f\H
•
(Crockett, Tubbs and Lieutenant Castillo) are haunted from the events o f their past ,
M iami Vice intermittently uses flashback montage to reiterate what is on the minds o f the
protagonists and what is fuelling their mission to do what is right. Slow motion framing
adds emphasis to the event at hand and “will frequently begin well before the violence
does, creating a spooky foreshadowing o f things to come.” (Butler, 136.) This style o f
cam era work may seem unconventional and melodramatic by today’s standards, but
(paired with an occasional freeze frame) “allow the viewer the time to look, to grasp the
66 In pilot e p iso d e , "In th e Air Tonight", in "Prodigal Son", "Take M e Hom e", and as will b e d escrib ed in th e analysis, Glen Frey's "You
B elo n g to th e City"
67 C rockett and V ietn am , his d ream o f b ein g a star footb all player sh a ttered , his broken fam ily, a son h e can rarely see; Tubbs with
th e brutal m urder o f his b rother by C ald eron e, his e s tra n g em en t from th e NYPD and o f his girlfriend in NY losin g her id en tity to
b ein g u n d erco v er and o th e r lovers b ein g m urdered; Castillo with his service in th e "Golden Triangle", and o f his w ife h e had to lea v e
b ehind
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image as image, rather than merely a sigmfier used to obtain a signified.’ (Butler, 135.)
This is hard to grasp in today’s world o f ultra-fast editing where images rush by so
quickly, it is hard to comprehend any o f the visual or aural m eaning o f the text.
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These
functions also add to the gaze and viewing pleasure o f the audience allowing them to
absorb each layer o f aesthetics and to guide them into the interpretations o f their
symbolism and metaphors. W hether or not these elements were taken at face value or
considered as venues for dissent is debatable, however, the end result regardless was
construed as filmic entertainment justifiably unique to the decade. M iami Vice as 480s
noir elevates this pop culture phenomenon to a temporal text highly significant because
o f its historical emphasis on themes and style critiquing the ideologies o f Am erica in the
1980s.
Finally, with respect to delineating Miami Vice as a product o f late modernism
and its 2006 counterpart to postmodern pastiche, is the “notion that risk-taking was
intrinsic to self-development (that) pervaded 1980’s popular culture; the well known
m antra...from the period was “Feel the Fear and do it anyway.’’(Lyons. 93.) Having
interviewed many filmmakers within the film industry, the consensus has been that the
reason why there are so many remakes in the 2000’s is because the fear o f taking a risk
on a new project or unknown “name”. This juxtaposes literally and figuratively the
ideology o f the decade they are “remaking”. The risk people took on Wall Street, the risk
people took with their lives with AIDS now prominent, the rise o f extreme sports, use of
social drug use, gambling are “prevalent instances o f ‘sensation seeking’ in the ‘protected
cultures o f late modernity. Not coincidentally, these activities were all prom inent and
Indeed, p e o p le still u se th e p h rase MTV style ed itin g and say M ia m i Vies had rapid ed itin g , h o w e v e r , w h en c o m p a red to
M illennial film s, th e pacing o f th e actual cu ts is so m uch slo w er than w h a t w e ex p e r ie n c e in H ollyw ood to d a y .
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frequent features o f Miami Vice’s storyworld.” (Lyons, 94.) In the pilot episode,
Crockett s ex wife Caroline tells him he is no different than the criminals he pursues, they
are two sides o f the same coin who all get high off the action. Vice cops are constantly
referred to as players, to catch the players, they must be the players: “ to make the deals,
one has to operate successfully as a player, in the sense o f being a person who can
profitably compete in a market as a financial transactor and deal maker. Implicit in much
o f this is the notion that the vice cops are playing a (dangerous) game, gambling with
other people’s money, and their own lives.” (Lyons, 95.) This is all an allegory for the
risky business ventures o f the 1980s when everyone was addicted to something whether it
be: drugs, making money in the stock market, body image, or the actual act o f taking a
risk. The creators and network took a major risk in airing the expensive to produce Miami
Vice, and as many risks taken in the 80s, it did pay off. What is different in filmmaking
in Hollywood today is that the fear o f risk trumps the possible beneficial outcome o f
taking that risk. W hat is interesting for further study is, did that fear stem from the
failures o f risk from the 1980s that may still haunt us today?
Analysis of “The Prodigal Son”
This section demonstrates the three elements outlined in the preceding sections;
80s film noir/importance o f 80s themes, style and risk and the premise o f the story.
Synopsis
“The Prodigal Son” was the second season’s premier movie aired September 27th,
1985. The “teaser” takes place in Bogota where Crockett and Tubbs assisted by a DEA
agent are on the hunt for information to where prominent drug lords, the Revilla
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Brothers’ next drop in Florida will be. They witness the poverty in which the people
harvesting the coca plant live and the irony that the fruits o f their labors contribute to
major profits that they will never see. In a dilapidated hut, the Vice cops see a m an being
tortured by electric shock and dripping chicken’s blood. Crockett and Tubbs w ant to save
him but the DEA agent warns them “it’s not their world”. After leaving the hut, the jaded
DEA agent reminds them again “Welcome to the Third W orld” . . .a gunshot is heard (the
tortured man is executed) with a slow motion o f Crockett turning in horror. The Vice
unit successfully find the drop point and ambushes the dealers, a bloody shootout ensues
at which in the end Crockett ruefully comments, “what a mess.” His words can be seen
as a larger metaphor for the entire international drug commerce. One o f the Revilla
brothers escapes and because o f a leak in the DEA, many agents are killed at a bust
victory party the Vice unit is invited to. Gina, on the Vice unit and Crockett’s dear friend
is critically injured; at the hospital it is determined that the DEA security is compromised
and that the Vice police must be the ones to volunteer to track down the R evilla’s.
Crockett and Tubbs volunteer again out o f seeking vengeance, (this time for their friend,
Gina) and agree to head to New York where the last was heard that this was where the
R evilla’s were doing business. This also means that Tubbs is jeopardizing his career by
going back to the city he abandoned for his vigilante mission to Miami for Calderone and
he must face the ghosts o f his past that he left in New York.
The city is introduced in a typical “Miami Vice” fashion with a montage to
“synth” music featuring N Y ’s iconic buildings and lifestyles drive by- shots implying
action and motion and pedestrian view shots looking up and then rotating 360 degrees to
grasp the full meaning o f “concrete jungle”. The NY police department is hesitant to
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offer support to two cowboys” from Miami, and feel they can handle their own
problems. From the start it is clear Crockett and Tubbs will pretty be much on their own,
again, which is why they had to earn the reputation a cowboys, they always stood alone, a
very noir-ish element.
The Vice cops pose as dealers who shanghaied the drugs from the Revilla bust in
Florida and looking for new customers in New York, their idea is to flush out the
Revilla’s by becoming competitor “bait”. Lead after lead turns cold out from all the
small time distributors because the threat o f death by “the Indians”; in the meanwhile
Crockett falls for a mysterious woman whom he knows nothing about and vice versa as
they engage in a steamy affair. The quest has led them to a main distributor who refuses
to not work without the Revillas out o f fear. In a strange twist o f fate, Tubb’s former
girlfriend, Valerie, (whom he still cares for deeply) is working undercover as the
distributor’s “main squeeze”. After Crockett, Tubbs and Valerie are alone, Tubbs invites
the three o f them to do the city up for old tim e’s sake; Crockett declines and wants to sit
this one alone. The narrative is then cut to a “Crockett Contemplating” montage.
“You Belong to the City” Sequence
The first shot is o f the city at night, then to Crockett standing by the water
thinking to him self while the first jazzy bars o f saxophone music are heard. The lights
from the bridge reflect the water representing Crockett’s reflective mood. These
constituents set up the ‘80s noir psychology and atmosphere. The next cut is to a lonely
steamboat making its way down the river, Crockett, too is like that boat, and foreshadows
Mr. Johnston’s monologue about “going along for the ride”. The camera slowly and
deliberately pans up towards the city lights as a spectator would taking in the skyline for
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the first time. This fades into Sonny crossing the street avoiding a taxi as the music
speeds up to a drum beat matching his footsteps as he is propositioned by ladies o f the
night. The lyrics start in and describe that need for action or being a player for risk
described in the earlier section:
The sun goes down, the night rolls in
You can feel it starting all over again
The moon comes up and the music calls
You're gettin' tired o f starin' at the same four walls
Crockett tries to hail a cab and is denied as three drive by him. He pulls his arm down in
defeat.
You're out o f your room and down on the street
Movin' through the crowd and the midnight heat
The traffic crawls, the sirens scream
There is now a still shot o f Crockett with his head down against a light post illuminated
by the neon blue from above. His pastel blue suit reflects the light.
You look at the faces, it's just like a dream
Nobody knows where you're goin'
Nobody cares where you've been
As soon as the lyrics say “faces” there are quick cuts to high fashion m annequins from
different department stores creating the “surreal space- the dream- in which the warriors
do battle” (Arnett, 127.) It then pauses on a high fashion model poster ad at a bus stop
(emphasizing our consumer culture again foreshadowing Mr. Johnston). Crockett’s hand
comes into frame lighting a silver lighter; he slowly lights his cigarette and looks to the
left.
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'Cause you belong to the city
You belong to the night
Livin' in a river o f darkness
Beneath the neon lights
He walks by the silhouettes o f the mannequins; he too, is a silhouette. He walks through
the crowd o f people; no one knows him or cares about his purpose.
You were bom in the city
Concrete under your feet
There is now a wide overhead shot o f Sonny walking in a brownstone plaza with his long
shadow preceding him. A nameless roller blader circles him in and out o f frame
emphasizing the lonely figure o f Crockett as the camera slowly zooms out to an even
wider shot.
It's in your moves, it's in your blood
You're a man o f the streets
This montage is not a trivial break in the narrative to showcase Glen Frey’s pop song, but
rather “highlight(s) the consciousness o f ’ Crockett and creates a “mental landscape”
indicative o f the paradoxical angst his character endures. This sequence also serves as a
foreshadowing o f the capital driven CEO, Mr. Johnston.
The Dissent o f American Capitalism
After a confrontation with superiors about their methods, Crockett and Tubbs are
flabbergasted when all support is retracted from up above. After all, it was the DEA’s
plan for them to come down there. Even after telling the agents that they managed to
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score a meeting with the Revillas (the m oment they had all been waiting for) they still tell
the Vice cops that the mission is “officially” over. It turns out that everyone is against
Crockett and Tubbs, from the “good” side and the bad side. There have been multiple
attacks on their lives, and some that are questionable. Even amongst thieves there are
codes, and after setting up the meeting with the drug lords, a hit is still put out on them. A
suspicious Crockett and Tubbs dig deeper and the trail leads to the mysterious woman
Crockett was seeing. She reveals that she never meant to put anyone’s lives in danger but
merely was a cog in the wheel and sells information. She agrees out o f guilt to name the
person who has been after them from the start.. .a road that leads them downtown, to
Wall Street. As the two enter the building the camera pans up slowly, all the way to the
top floor o f the towering building, that represents power and money in America.
Crockett and Tubbs storm through the protesting receptionist and into “Mr. Johnston’s”
office who in a sinister manner addresses the two Vice cops. It is chilling, as he already
knows them by the amount o f money they have in their checking accounts, to him, they
are only numbers. He doesn’t even turn around to look at them while he discloses
financial information about them while gazing out o f the window, he seems to take
pleasure in telling Crockett that he knows that American Express turned him down last
month. The Jan Hammer soundtrack sounds escalate to sinister chords as the emaciated,
spectral Mr. Johnston sits down and pours him self a glass o f water, regards it, then
proceeds with a slow and deliberate monologue that not only critiques R eagan’s America,
but the entire system o f Western capitalism:
Money is a commodity, like oil or water (pauses to take a sip), and that American
dollar
is the best BRAND there is in the world. Now those o f us that have it, can make
more of
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it by loaning it to those who don’t. Not so long ago our bank loaned A LOT of
money to our friends in Latin America-we are talking about hundreds o f millions
o f dollars. Now they aren’t going to repay that by selling straw bags and clay
pots. If these Latin borrowers default, we would be decimated, and w e ... A R E ...
America. We are the entire free world, when we sneeze ...(he snaps) everybody
catches cold. That’s why it’s very VERY important that we nurture and protect
our Latin brothers’ major cash crops. (Prodigal Son)
Crockett then wants to know why two Vice cops are sitting ducks in a shooting
gallery and why “murder and mayhem are suddenly footnotes on a balance sheet?” Mr.
Johnston then voices the opinion o f CEO’s o f Corporate America: “All you need to know
is that you are just along for the ride. It’s a big boat, why rock it?” In the typical 80s noir
hero’s fashion Crockett leaves the conversation letting Johnston know that he WILL rock
it if necessary: “ I can’t touch you. I know that...too many roadblocks, politics
favors
but you’re dirty, Ace, and I’m patient.”
Crockett will NOT go along for the ride, he will stand up for what he believes is
right even if the wheels o f American society would screech to a halt if someone like
Johnston was brought to justice. The irony here is that in a decade famous for its “War on
Drugs”, the country actually prospers from the money involved as Lyons has noted: ’’not
only are millions o f Americans addicted to drugs, many banks are addicted to drug
m oney.” (Lyons, 12.) At what point do the interests of corporations supersede the
interests of the government and society at large? And is that cash flow of drug money
necessary for us to maintain the luxury o f a First World capitalistic culture? Miami Vice
invites us as viewers to ponder the possible hypocrisy in the get rich quick decade. You
may p ro fit.. .but at whose expense?
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Resolution
Despite Johnston’s warnings, the two decide to still take down the R evilla’s even
though they have no back up or clearance from superiors. W ith last minute help from
Valerie, they overcome the odds and destroy the drug ring (after an impressive
showdown between Crockett and Revilla’s helicopter that he manages to make crash by
shooting his pistol.) The final montage sequence illuminates the camaraderie and
friendship between Crockett and Tubbs. During the first few bars o f Phil Collins’ “Take
Me Home” we see Tubbs and Valerie reconciling and that hints that he may opt to stay in
N ew York. This means the breakup o f the two partners whose chemistry audiences have
grown fond of. Crockett is packing to go home (and indeed like him we are happy to be
going back to Miami) and looks into Tubbs’s room that is abandoned. He makes his way
to the airport alone. Crockett steps through airport security and makes his way to the
gate. During the climax o f the song; “So take, take me home”, we then see Tubbs running
through the airport, flashing his badge so to skip security. The audience is thrilled he
decided to go back “home” after all and hopes he is not too late. He rushes to the gate
past Crockett who is still wearing his ray -bans, he slowly smiles and goes up to stand by
Tubbs at the gate. The two regard each other for a pause as Crockett says, “fancy meeting
you here”. Their friendship is considered a solid foundation o f Miami Vice's narrative
and overall contributes to the spectator’s pleasure. Back at the precinct, it is business as
usual while the departmental chaos ensues. Switek and Zito (the comic relief o f Miami
Vice) are bickering; Crockett gives a one liner back to Tubbs that Tubbs said to him at the
beginning o f the film. And most joyous o f all, Gina is out o f the hospital with her arm in
a sling. Crockett’s homecoming is interrupted by an annoying phone call as he frantically
76
rustles through papers for a pencil, Gina hands him one with a wide smile on her face.
Jan Ham m er’s pan like flute score emphasizes the warm emotion felt by everyone being
back where they belong. The film ends stressing the pseudo family the unit is to each
other since they cannot have “typical” families with their hazardous jobs. The cast’s
camaraderie is stressed as a major quality to the overall narrative and theme in Miami
Vice.
This chapter demonstrated Miami Vice as an exemplar of the Zeitgeist o f the era. It’s
m eaning is infused with the style, thematics and critique o f ideology unique to the ‘80s
noir genre. Most o f all, it should be emphasized that the human element to the show is
prevalent throughout the images fused with sound. Emotion, psychology and humanity
are integral to the significance o f what makes Miami Vice “Miami Vice”. The next
chapter will identify the Millennial 2006 remake as a postmodern simulation; on its quest
to be more “real” it becomes less relatable and fails to evoke the emotion, sympathy and
pathos for the characters that the original does. In fact, there are truly no characters at all
in the remake but postmodern representations with superficial motivations. It will
identify the main components that comprise the film and counter point them to the
original to prove the remake is a superficial farce that is no way an homage for the fans
regardless o f Michael M ann’s involvement with the film. His style that earned him an
auteur title in the 1980s with his work on Miami Vice, Thief, and Manhunter are
completely and conspicuously absent from his 2006 remake.
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Chapter 5* “D on’t Play It Again Sam” : The Contextual Analysis o f M iam i Vice 2006
This chapter serves as a textual analysis o f the 2006 M iami Vice remake and
compares it to its 1980s’ counterpart in aesthetics, theme and structure. It qualifies the
2006 film as a Millennial Remake according to the definitions set out in chapter two and
as exemplifying both Baudrillard’s notion o f postmodern “simulation” and Jam eson’s
notion o f pastiche.69 Although Miami Vice in the 1980s has been referred to as
postmodern by some critics, I argue that it adheres to factors o f m odernity and it is in
fact, the 2006 remake that is postmodern. The term postm odern has been used rather
liberally amongst scholars in the past few decades with the consensus not being able to
pin down an exact definition (especially that o f the term ‘pastiche’). If the 80s have been,
(or are) considered “postmodern”, then certainly the sensibilities and ideologies o f today
differ enough for us to either be in a new stage o f “post-postm odem ism ” or
“postmodernism in the digital era.” This is clarified further this chapter.
M iam i Vice 2006 as a remake and not an adaptation- It is first and foremost
important to reiterate that the 2006 film should be considered a remake and not an
adaptation o f the 1980’s television series for several reasons; the first being the genuine
nature o f an adaptation. It is generally assumed that the adaptation will contain elements
and qualities o f the original it is based on, yet apart from the title, M iami Vice 2006 bears
no semblance to the 1980’s Miami Vice. The introduction credits to the 2006 film say
“based on the television series created by Anthony Yerkovich”, yet according to an
69
From Jean Baudrillard s Sim ulacra a n d S im ulation and Fredric J a m eson 's e s sa y " P ostm od ern ism and C o n su m er S ociety".
78
article by Roger Friedman, “Mann didn’t want any association with the TV series.” (1).
This included M ann’s refusal to use the memorable “Miami Vice” theme recorded by Jan
Hammer that was the only TV instrumental to hit number in history one on the Billboard
charts in 1985 and then continued on to win two Grammy awards. “Everything about the
movie is different, including the music. And that’s what’s causing the latest problems.”
(Friedman, 1) Thousands o f fans emailed Universal Studios “begging” them to include
the theme in the film, as many remakes o f popular shows had in the past (such as Mission
Impossible, Bewitched, The Brady Bunch). Yet Mann was firm in his refusal to use the
music and insisted on distancing the film as far as possible from the show.70 Phil Collins’
“In the Air Tonight”, a song synonymous with the pilot movie from 1984, was re­
recorded into an unrecognizable cover by an unknown band, “Nonpoint”.71 Supposedly
the film is “based on” the episode “Smuggler’s Blues” yet the only vaguely similar plot
point the two share is the kidnapping o f fellow Vice cop, Trudy. Even this similarity is
indistinguishable as the circumstances surrounding the kidnappings are completely
remade. In the 1980’s version, suspense is heightened by Jan Hammer’s score while
close up shots o f the tremor bomb activator alert audiences to the paradox o f the
situation. If Trudy shakes out o f fear due to her captivity, the bomb will go off, if
Crockett tries to cut her ropes to release her, the bomb will go off in this “catch-22
condition.” Crockett gently talks to Trudy bringing up anecdotes and memories,
alleviating her mind from the danger while a bomb squad specialist carefully dismantles
the bomb. The suspense is continually heightened as the film intermittently cuts between
70 Jan H am m er g iv e s a sta te m e n t in th e sa m e article as to w hy M ann and prod u cers have th is a ttitu d e tow ard s th e original th a t I will
in clu d e later in t h e se ctio n . A lthough M ann g ave H am m er th e snub, Ham mer w a s asked t o score C orben's d o cu m en ta ry Cocaine
Cowboys th a t w a s relea sed t h e y ear b efo re th e rem ake.
71 T he n a m e o f t h e band is a lm o st fittin g in a p ostm od ern world o f no referen ces, "Nonpoint" is eq u ivalen t to "No Point"
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Crockett talking to Trudy and close ups o f the bom b’s hairpin trigger. However, in the
film, the Vice squad raids the trailer in which Trudy is held captive, and after m ultiple
shaky hand -held camera shots with ultra fast editing; Tubbs (Jaime Foxx) knifes all o f
the “bad guys” in the trailer. Meanwhile the lead criminal threatens to lift his finger from
the trigger o f the bomb attached to Trudy. Gina holds a gun on the m an and in an
arrogant manner tells him that she is such a fast shot that she could take him out before
his brain even registers that he is dead. W ithout even negotiating, she shoots him in the
head (as the audience sees blood spurt out his forehead) and Trudy is saved. There is no
suspense involved as the camera and editing fails to slow down enough for the spectator
to register emotion. Crockett (as he was in the 80s version) is not even present during the
actual rescue, and emotional humanity is not utilized for this scene by the film m akers’
choice as it was in “Smuggler’s Blues”.
While Miami Vice has been thoroughly studied as a television phenom enon o f the
1980’s, many scholars approach it critically as they would film. M ichael M ann stated to
the New York Times: “we make a movie for a little over $1 m illion but we do it once a
week, so we try to do the same cinematics in terms o f art direction, editing and the use of
music that I would put into a feature film.”72 (Lyons, 36.) John-Paul Trutnau devotes an
entire section o f his book Miami Vice: A One Man Show? The Construction and
Deconstruction o f a Patriarchal Image in the Reagan era: Reading the Audio-Visual
Poetics o f Miami Vice to “Miami Vice and its Similarities to Film ” (Trutnau, 106.) stating
that the show in fact had more in common with film noir and classical Hollywood cinema
than other television shows. It is interesting that “Miami Vice, shot on film stock,
72
Ironically these same concepts he considered “cinem atic” in 1985 are absent from the 2006 film.
80
exploits filmic elements generally attributed to cinema” (Trutnau, 193) while the 2006
film was shot on digital HD Cam without the signature aesthetics previously associated
and recognized as “Miami Vice”. Indeed the argument that the film is quintessentially an
auteur piece can be debated as not only are there no elements from the original Miami
Vice present in the 2006 film, but also missing are the authorial “touches” that deemed
M ann an auteur in the 80s as seen in his films Manhunter (1986), T hief (1981) and The
K e e p ( 1983).
In all three films, including 1980’s Miami Vice, music played a central role in
developing ambience and the character’s psychology: the most significant example being
in the form o f musical them e. “Graham ’s Theme”, from Manhunter, composed by
Michel Rubini, was the musical embodiment o f the character. As the instrumental added
more and more layers o f different instruments, the FBI agent Graham, added more and
more layers to his method o f solving the crime. As he delved further and further into the
mentality o f the serial killer, the music crescendos into a simultaneous epiphany o f both
the song and the character. Similarly, Jan Hammer’s “Crockett’s Theme” is played every
tim e Sonny Crockett faces his “80s Noir” paradox and realizes the masks people must
w ear in contemporary society. During times o f deep contemplating in negotiating his
personal and professional life, this music is heard emphasizing the ironic dichotomy the
character must live with on a daily basis. The aural aesthetic for M ann’s 80s work can be
described as synthesizer based. Echoing Vangelis, Tangerine Dream scored an ominous
soundscape for T hief and The Keep. Both films begin with the ominous music in the
middle o f action already initiated before the audience starts viewing the film. This
method evokes curiosity and emotional investment as clues are slowly given to allow the
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spectator to piece together character relationships and story for themselves. The key
word here is “slowly” as the 2006 remake starts also in the middle o f action; however, in
this case, the aesthetics disorient the viewer rather than engage because it is difficult to
not only hear any dialogue, but to determine who anyone is because all actors are wearing
helmets in the introduction o f the film. Rather than evoking suspense, the rapid editing
evokes anxiety, now a trendy desired effect in contemporary postmodern cinema. Instead
o f being “sucked in” to the world and story o f the film, the spectator is distanced. The
1980s synth music also gives a sense o f the near future in an almost science fiction
manner relating to a quality o f the M odem as the Postmodern has no referent to past,
present or future; all exist simultaneously.
The score for the 2006 film could be qualified as a Jan Hammer imitation in that it
focuses mostly on jarring guitar riffs rather than layered ambient synthesizer melodies.
Mann had been notorious for long panning shots o f a scene exploiting the beauty o f the
environment paired up with this synthesizer music. These shots had been crafted in their
symmetry, mise-en-scene and color motifs and are conspicuously missing from the 2006
film. The Viper and HD Cam used in 2006 were not quite perfected yet and difficult to
work with in daylight with the majority o f the scenes for the film as a result was shot at
night. The method also “tend(s) to capture sodium vapor lights as very red because o f the
broken spectrum lighting sources. The result o f the reduction in red leaves the actor’s
faces looking cyan or greenish- a look Mann actually liked.” (Visual Effects Community,
1) This look gives everything a dark hue and could be defined as “noir”, yet the noir
essence o f “dissent” as the previous chapter outlined, is not a theme in the story or
aesthetics as there is no social commentary or self conscious critique at work in the 2006
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film. Also missing is the focus on the protagonist in the remake. M ann’s previous films
center around the character while the 2006 remake centers more on events. We do not
embark on a personal journey with Sonny Crockett in the film or know o f his past as a
Vietnam Vet or football star, he is more o f an anonymous figure being taken along for the
ride; in fact, it is Jaime Foxx’s Tubbs who seems to take center stage in the film.73
Constantine Verevis categorizes remakes as “the infinite and open-ended possibilities
generated by all the discursive practices o f a [film] culture.” (1.) Usually television shows
remade into films are not adapted. He quotes a scholar regarding the remake of Aaron
Spelling’s Charlie *s Angels as “not a closed, finite work, but rather a footnote, a set o f
citations.” (Verevis, 51.) In Miami Vice, nothing is adapted; the only thing cited is the
title. Robert W ise’s Star Trek The Motion Picture (1979) would be considered an
adaptation because the script is reminiscent o f the story lines and characterizations o f the
television series and captures the essence o f the original. In fact, the original cast plays
their original roles in the film version Verevis phrases as “an extension episode” on film.
(Verevis, 44.) Star Trek (2009) would be considered a remake in that it is “citing” the
original but not capturing it, similarly like Miami Vice 2006 focuses on action sequences
rather than the relationships of the characters and camaraderie. In both films the
“surface” elements (Star Trek: the Enterprise, the names o f characters, Miami Vice: the
fast boats, the fast cars, drug cartels) are featured, but the actual reasons that made the
original iconic and resonant are missing. The friendships and camaraderie the Vice squad
share in the original Miami Vice are not emphasized in the 2006 film, nor has anyone a
sense o f humor, indeed not one smile is even cracked in its entirety. All of the reasons
^
w in n in g th e A cad em y Award for his p erform an ce in Roy, Jaim e Foxx felt ho d6SSTV6d top billing in M io m i Vico 3nd
d e m a n d e d m o re m o n e y e v en th ou gh "Miami Vice" is cen tered around Crockett rather than Tubbs
83
featured in the previous chapter accentuating the original’s relationship to the era in
which it is produced namely the theme o f 80s noir are not a m ain focus o f the 2006
remake. Finally, the m ain stream ’s collective memory o f pastels, Don Johnson’s iconic
Hugo Boss wardrobe and the 80s pop music including Jan H am m er’s synth scores are
absent from the film, so the style is not even emulated either. The remake is a postmodern
simulacrum devoid o f actual meaning by failing to encapsulate either the spirit o f the
original or by making any conscious statement o f the current era in which it was
produced.
Miami Vice 2006 can be categorized as a Millennial Remake mainly because o f its
approach and conception toward the original. As with C harlie’s A ngels, it (M iami Vice)
is viewed more cynically and “the recycling o f the narrative might be o f no consequence,
but a ‘mere peg on which to hang a series o f showy action sequences and a succession o f
stardom-enhancement moments for the leads.” (Verevis, 52.) This translates as these two
Millennial Remakes being a platform for Drew Barrymore and Jaime Foxx to showcase
themselves rather than be concerned for the actual authenticity o f narrative. In most
cases o f the originals, actors were more or less “no-names” until the show made them
famous, in the case o f Millennial Remakes, more often than not, well-known names star
as the leading roles causing the character to be associated with the actor’s “celebrity
persona” and not the actual fundamental nature o f the character.
As a Millennial Remake, Miami Vice is not concerned with being an hom age or tribute
for original fans; because despite the fact o f thousands o f emails from fans requesting the
theme song to be included in the film, Mann refused to acquiesce. M ann wanted to
“distance” the film from the series, like other Millennial Remakes they distance
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themselves from the true aura o f the original because they (filmmakers and postmodern
audiences) consider the original lacking or kitsch. Unlike Thomas Leitch’s definition o f
a true remake in which “they are like the originals only better...which seek to make the
original relevant by updating it” (qtd. in Verevis, 13.) The Millennial Remake actually
invalidates the original by passing judgment on the “dated” aesthetics and ideologies, the
very components that true fans find endearing. They piggy- back on the notoriety o f the
“known name” yet do the legacy no justice in keeping the spirit o f the Zeitgeist alive.
“They re-appropriate the residual past through pop images which simultaneously mock
the past and the present” (Denzin, 46). By announcing that the original is “kitsch” or
inferior, the Millennial Remake in reality, becomes the true definition o f kitsch: it itself is
an imitation o f poor quality. They are postmodern simulations “neutraliz(ed) o f all
content.” (Baudrillard, 82.) This postmodern animosity for history is apparent in the
snubbing o f Jan Hammer in the production of the 2006 remake. He was not even asked
to re-imagine the original theme song or to have any part o f the production. Arguably the
“foundation” o f what makes “Miami Vice” memorable, his past contributions failed to be
acknowledged. This sentiment reflects the filmmakers’ view that the original is “dated”.
Synth music has no place and is deemed archaic in the too serious world o f M ann’s 2006
Miami; Jan Hammer sums it up best in his comment as to why he thought he was given
the cold shoulder: “it was a matter of being Too cool for school’.” (Friedman, 2). The
Millennial Remakes’ collective stance is that they are “cooler” than the original by either
parodying the “dated” elements (in a cynical rather than endearing humor) or by pastiche
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“parody that has lost its sense o f hum or74” (Jameson, 114.) Both “consider the recent past
with an unsentimental nostalgia.” (Guffey, 11) M iami Vice 2006 has no voice o f its own;
it like other Millennial Remakes, are “false realism s... images o f other images” (Jameson,
123.) rejoicing in the pedestrian, having no desire to continue a legacy, or innovate a new
one.
Textual Analysis of M iam i Vice 2006 and its comparison to 1980’s M iam i Vice
The film begins with a boat race and cuts back and forth between the drivers in helmets.
It is difficult to discern who is who and what exactly the purpose o f the boat race is.
There are quick cuts to the action on the water, yet no long establishing shots to
determine that this is Miami.75 The format (HD Cam) adds a blue hue to the shots and
although the scene takes place in daytime, there is an odd animated look to the stock. As
mentioned before, it is typical o f Mann to start a film in the middle o f action, yet
previously the pacing and score add suspense, whereas in M iami Vice 2006 the
introduction scene is disorienting. After the race on shore, there is more dialogue in need
o f deciphering accompanied by the favored style o f the 2000’s, the hand held camera.
Instead o f adding a realistic “documentary” feel, it is difficult to watch without the
spectator experiencing feelings o f motion sickness.76 It is not realistic for a person in a
conversation to constantly sense movement (unless the person is intoxicated and/or their
74 A lthough I w ou ld argu e w ith Jam eson a b o u t his e x a m p les o f p astich e film s. M illennial R em ak es w o u ld qualify a s blank parody
b e c a u se th e y are tran sp aren t in their id e o lo g ie s, w h e r e a s his tw o ex a m p les d efin itely h ave an id eo lo g ica l a g e n d a . {A m erican G ra ffiti
and C hin ato w n) are m ore n ostalgia and revisionary resp ectiv e ly rather th an "blank"
75 This is in stark con trast to th e iconic in trodu ction cred its to th e telev isio n sh o w th a t e m p h a siz e icon ic locals and m o tifs a sso c ia te d
w ith th e city o f Miami: th e in fam ou s w h ite sand Miam i Beach, jai-alai, g reyh ou n d races, pink fla m in g o es, a rt-d ec o bu ildin gs e tc . The
film 's intro b oat se q u e n c e is rem in iscen t o f J a m eso n 's n otion o f p o stm o d e rn a rch itectu re's "disorienting" q u ality. T he original
clearly tells th e sp e c ta to r th a t "this is M ia m i" w h e r e a s th e 2 0 0 6 film w ith h o ld s esta b lish in g in form ation .
76 D isclaim ers for film s th a t rely h eavily on hand held cam era (such a s C loverfield, and B lair W itch Project) h a v e b e e n m a d e o n sig n s
o u tsid e th e th e a te r s w arning th a t w a tch in g th e film could p ossib ly resu lt in exp erien cin g m o tio n sick n ess. This is c a u se d w h en th e
m o tio n is s e e n and n ot felt. The e y e s e e s m o tio n th a t th e inner ear d o e s n ot register. B eca u se o f th is d iscrep a n cy , th e brain b e lie v e s
th e bod y has b een p o iso n ed , cau sin g h allucination and in d u ces th e b od y t o n a u sea and v o m itin g to e x p e l th e p o iso n . An e x te n siv e
article on m otion sick n ess can b e fou n d in th e "Journal o f th e Royal S o ciety o f M ed icin e V o lu m e 7 1 1 1 /1 9 7 8 .
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equilibrium is off). This point o f view shot is a consistent method used throughout the
film to mimic movement when none is present. “The handheld point o f view aims to
involve the audience more immediately and concretely with the action.” (Corrigan, 92.) I
would argue that when used excessively, the hand held camera distances the spectator
from emotional investment o f the characters by distracting rather than compel and does
(as Corrigan states) focus on the action. This “pseudo-action” the hand held camera
creates when there is no actual physical movement during dialogue between characters,
does not allow the audience to truly focus on the characters’ speech, mannerisms,
nuances, and relations/reactions to each other. This is the main factor contributing to
Jaime Foxx and Collin Farrell being what Robert McKee coins “characterizations” rather
than characters. (McKee, 100.)
It is clear after the first two scenes that there is no color palette other than the blue hue
the HD camera creates. The characters o f Crockett and Tubbs are not introduced as to
who they really are (personal background, Vice cops etc.) and their respective
relationship to each other. According to the non -verbal communication in the scene at
the hip/hop club, they really do not like each other, or are too serious to have any kind of
friendly banter. In fact, it is exactly thirty-three minutes into the film before they even
say complete sentences to each other and an hour and forty -seven minutes into the film
before they have any kind of “heart to heart” conversation. This is in contrast to a huge
bulk o f the original M iami Vice focusing on Crockett and Tubbs’ personal relationship
and friendship. In the “teaser” for “Smuggler’s Blues”, Sonny and Rico are on a stakeout
and the majority o f screen time is dedicated to their dialogue discussing their current
circumstance and their feelings towards it. Continuing with the 2006 plot, the two get a
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phone call from their informant, Alonzo saying there was a leak in the FBI security and a
Colombian cartel had found out about his betrayal, kidnapped his wife and would kill her
if Alonzo did not confess. Crockett and Tubbs m eet up w ith him on the freeway (again
up to this point no highlights o f the city o f Miami are featured and it is vague as to their
exact location if indeed the film was not called M iam i Vice). The Vice cops fail to
console a frantic Alonzo77 who decides to commit suicide by jum ping in front o f a truck
after a cell phone call comes in saying his kidnapped wife has been murdered.
The way his death was shot strays from the original formula as the director chooses to
show the actual truck hitting Alonzo. In the original, the shot would consist o f Alonzo en
route to kill him self and then cut at the last second to show Crockett’s reaction (in slow
motion as he yells his friend’s name) to the traum a and not the actual impact o f the truck
and Alonzo. Frequently in the show, part o f what defines Crockett’s cynicism and
despair is the death o f people close to him due to failure o f the system. The focus is on
his reaction, not on the actual event o f the death. The teaser in “The Prodigal Son”
outlined in the previous chapter shows the brutality o f the drug lord torturing their own,
but as Crockett and Tubbs leave the torture hut, we hear a shot indicating the execution of
the man who was being electrocuted while chicken’s blood slowly dripped on his face.
The slow motion reaction o f Crockett looking back to the hut encapsulated his dilemma
o f staying undercover to not jeopardize the mission, and his helplessness in allowing the
man to be executed. This again hearkens to the themes o f 80s noir in his recognition o f
the “masks” people must wear in society and fuels the irony that the people profiting
from theses horrors are the bank CEO’s in leading nations who will never see the terror
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It is u n clear a t this point if A lonzo h as b e e n a friend o f th eirs or m erely an in form an t th e y w ork w ith.
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Crockett must witness. In the film, Alonzo’s death is merely a plot point to initiate the
m ain narrative and not an opportunity for social commentary or character development.
Because the FBI’s security has been breached, someone from the Florida police
department m ust go undercover to find the cartel behind the murders; Crockett and Tubbs
are chosen. They meet with the intelligence and security man behind the cartel, Yero and
after an ambiguous meeting, he agrees to introduce the two “smugglers” to the main
kingpin, Montoya. M ontoya’s financial advisor and lover Isabella is attracted to Crockett
and the two share a lukewarm love affair. The Nazi gang Montoya uses to distribute
drugs kidnaps Trudy, Vice squad intelligence agent and (in the film) Tubbs’ girlfriend in
the meanwhile. The convoluted story continues as Crockett and Tubbs face off with
Yero in an anti-climactic scene preceded by the un-recognizable remade version o f Phil
C ollins’s “In the Air Tonight” by NonPoint. Crockett feels betrayed by Isabella because
her “side” kidnapped Trudy. She feels betrayed by him as she realizes at the final
shootout that he was an undercover cop and did not tell her. Trudy is rescued as described
in the previous section but suffers injuries as the trailer explodes despite the squad’s
success in taking out the head Nazi before his thumb can release the bomb mechanism.
Crockett takes Isabella to a safe house where a boat will proceed to take her to self-exile
in Cuba and registers some sadness as she floats away. Trudy shows signs o f recovery,
and the last shot is Crockett entering the door o f the hospital to visit his injured team
member.
Perhaps the most conspicuous oversight on the filmmaker’s part in this film is a
lack o f montage for psychological information. What was notorious in the original for
both a gateway to Crockett’s contemplating mind juxtaposed to an equally telling score
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(as described with “Graham ’s Theme” in M anhunter) is absent from the rem ake. W hat
needs to be taken into consideration is what M iami Vice is actually about. It is not about
busting drug cartels and upholding the law with flashy action sequences, but about
Crockett. His internal conflict is one o f the most engaging aspects o f the concept o f
“Miami Vice”. As he ponders, the viewer also ponders. In the film, Colin Farrell
(Crockett) becomes involved with a woman under false pretenses and knows the ultimate
outcome could be one o f their deaths. His dilemma is to maintain that false pretense with
someone he supposedly loves while maintaining his loyalty to the squad and his
undercover mission. This would have been the perfect opportunity for a montage
sequence, including flashbacks o f their intimate times together and a chance for both the
viewer and Farrell to “work out” the conflicting emotions inside o f him. Similarly,
Crockett has no musical theme used to “communicate his consciousness as he thinks
about the present or reflects on the past.” (Trutnau, 170.) The characters in M iami Vice
2006 have no past and therefore the audience has no explanation as to what fuels the
decisions of the people on screen. Everything happening is in a perpetual “present” as
Jameson notes: “the past as ‘referent’ finds itself generally bracketed, and then effaced
altogether, leaving us with nothing but texts.” (Jameson, 18.) Baudrillard describes an
attribute o f the postmodern simulacrum as history having retreated “leaving behind an
indifferent nebula.” (Baudrillard, 43.) This captures the essence o f the remake:
indifference; indifference to the original, to social commentary, to the audience and to
itself, and in turn the spectator leaves the film indifferent to the characters o f Crockett
and Tubbs.
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Beyond specific circumstances o f imitation and recreation, there must also be a
basic intuition that the audience will continue to buy the story in its new incarnation
because the underlying fable is still compelling.” (Braudy qtd. in Horton and McDougal,
328.) However, many Millennial Remakes fail to translate and incorporate that
compelling fable to m odem audiences. The Crockett and Tubbs o f the remake are not
haunted by their past as in 1980’s Miami Vice and other films o f 80s Noir. Their pain
from past trauma does not fuel their motivations; they are constantly acting and
responding to the immediate present. In chapter five of Story, Robert McKee enlightens
the differences between “character” and “characterizations” . The lack o f character in the
2006 film is indicative o f it being a postmodern simulation.
“TRUE CHARACTER is revealed in the choices a human being makes under
pressure-the greater the pressure, the deeper the revelation, the tm er the choice to the
character’s essential nature.” (McKee, 101.) Characterization is just a tally o f the surface
qualities that any observer can make note of: style o f speech, gestures, mannerisms, car
and dress, what they eat and how...etc” (Me Kee, 100.) The “Trudy Rescue” sequences
outlined earlier are examples of how the original Miami Vice flesh out true character in
Crockett and Tubbs, and the remake protagonists (as with all Millennial Remakes) are
characterizations. “W hichever way the scene’s written, choice under pressure will strip
away the mask o f characterization, w e’ll peer into their inner natures and with a flash of
insight, grasp their true characters.” (McKee, 102.) As can be seen in “Smugglers
Blues”, Don Johnson’s Crockett under significant pressure keeps calm, shows
compassion to Trudy’s situation and tries to ease her mind not only because they must
deactivate the bomb, but because he truly cares about her. Jaime Foxx’s Tubbs in the
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same situation (as again Crockett is mysteriously missing from the scene in the rem ake)
shows the exact same mannerisms and attitude as he has throughout the film. In fact, this
scene in the remake does not enlighten the audience into his “essential nature”
whatsoever. We do not know who he is beyond a police officer that goes in shooting
without negotiating or arresting the perpetrators, as the law requires. He has the same
“bad ass” face and demeanor that he has had throughout the film and this scene does not
take advantage o f the “pressure” to engage empathy, relatabilty, or any kind o f revelation
as to who this person named Tubbs really is. The camera work and editing are so rapid;
we rarely have a chance to observe his facial expressions, his subtle feelings and
emotions or his humanity.
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While there is rapid editing and camera movement throughout the film, the protagonists
experience minimal character arc. “Shallow non-dimensional; people exist...but they are
boring.” (McKee, 103.) The scene is not written (or the entire script for that matter) for a
character-driven film, it is plot driven. McKee describes the character arc and
development as choices the protagonists make by the climax o f the story having
“profoundly changed the humanity o f the character.” (McKee, 105.) Neither Crockett
nor Tubbs display any humanity or compassion throughout the duration o f the narrative
o f the remake. It is this humanity that is completely lacking in any M illennial Remake.
They are simulations without the substance that defines humanity. For instance, JeanJacques Annaud’s Quest For Fire (1981) about the evolution o f cavemen in prehistoric
78 The only sh o t w h e r e th e cam era is fo c u s on his fa ce for any sign ifican t len gth is an e x tr e m e off c e n te r c lo s e up. His fa c e is in th e
fu rth est left o f th e sc reen and his e y e s s e e m to b e tw itch in g. A fe llo w c o lle a g u e o b ser v ed w h e n I sh o w e d t h e clip s for a
p resen ta tio n th a t h e look ed sin ister, and had h e n ot know n in ad van ce th a t t h e s e w e r e c o p s b u stin g th e Aryan- D istributors, h e
w o u ld h a v e su rm ised th at th is w a s a drug w ar and th e p e o p le bursting in to th e trailer sh o o tin g w e r e n o t p o lice b ut c o m p e tin g drug
fam ilies. The "Vice cops" go in sh o o tin g , fail to allow th e crim inals t o su rren der, and kill e v e r y o n e (after a rrogan t s p e e c h a b o u t th eir
skills at sh o o tin g into a particular part o f t h e brain) in stead o f arrestin g th e m .
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days to becoming self-aware men separated from the animals; the main factor that
defined their humanity was a sense o f humor.79 There was not one smile, not one
wisecrack, not one exchange o f banter between Crockett and Tubbs in Miami Vice 2006.
W hat made the audience cherish these characters in the 80s was their relationship; it
defined a basis for the show. Cynical wisecracking laid back Crockett epitomized
“M iami” while the good-natured, friendly (and equally wise cracking) Tubbs represented
the urban hip know how o f a New Yorker. This dichotomy was the balance between the
partners as they constantly gave each other a hard time for each other’s differences while
appreciating them at the same time. The remake made no attempt at developing
juxtaposition between Crockett and Tubbs or to solidify their friendship through humor.
In the 1980s, these two constantly allowed the other to witness their vulnerability in
stressful times and to support their partner through heart to heart conversations. In an
attempt to be “serious and cool” at all times, the characterizations in the remake display
no vulnerabilities and therefore seem cold and unsympathetic. In the 80s, Tubbs was
often the comic relief and an all around good guy who was most always smiling. Jaime
Foxx’s rendition o f Tubbs was, as Jan Hammer would say, “too cool for school” . His
arrogance was off-putting and inhumane. He and Crockett during the entire duration of
the two and a half hours running time exchanged approximately ten sentences with each
other and the one conversation they did have that could be vaguely resembling a “heart to
heart” came an hour and forty seven minutes into the film. Crockett was a little upset that
he and Isabella had a star crossed love affair and Tubbs vaguely resembled
compassionate as he advised him to do what is right. The nature of the tw o’s relationship
79 A n oth er e le m e n t th a t w ou ld d efin e "hum anity" is co m p a ssio n . The com p assion and em p ath y C rockett and Tubbs o f th e 1 9 8 0 s is
a b se n t from th eir 2 0 0 6 cou n terp arts.
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up to this point in the narrative deems this exchange contrived and forced. Colin Ferrell
him self (who played Crockett) just recently admitted to this flaw in the film: “It was
never going to be Lethal Weapon, but I think we m issed an opportunity to have a
friendship that had some elements o f fun.” (Munzenrieder, 1) There was no
lightheartedness, fun or camaraderie to be had in the remake. As was m entioned in the
analysis o f “Prodigal Son” the end scene is entirely focused on Crockett and Tubbs’
homecoming and the wonderful feeling o f being back at the precinct with their Vice
squad/ surrogate family. Gina Calabrese in the remake seems as a masculinated “bad
ass” exemplified in the Trudy rescue sequence when she boasts to the bad guy that she
can shoot him in the medulla o f his brain without his body even knowing her died. In the
80s, Gina was the most sympathetic member o f the squad whom others often sought out
when they needed a shoulder to cry on. Switek and Zito were also comic relief, they were
the surveillance experts who constantly gave Crockett fodder for snarky quips: (Switek in
the pilot film, “Brother’s Keeper” commenting on Crockett’s tight fitting black tee shirt,
“What, did you roll a fruit for that shirt?” Crockett: “No, it was a gift from your
mother...and it wasn’t even my birthday!”) Switek and Zito in the film were so far
removed from any screen time, unless one did have the subtitles on, would not even
know these characters existed in the remake. And the serene brooding o f Edward James
Olm os’s “Lieutenant Castillo” was completely lost with Barry Shabaka H enley’s
rendition and was contrastingly more baffoon-like than what matched the ultra serious
tone the remake established. The remake had no scenes at the precinct where the whole
crew gathered to talk about a case or to plan tactics, so therefore the audience cannot
emotionally connect to the squad as a whole. The attempt to duplicate the chemistry
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between Don Johnson and Philip Michael Thomas was not even made in all probability
because it can’t be. The essence o f the actor is captured in the role that they help make
iconic, unlike re-adaptations for the screen that Leitch categorizes 80one cannot simply
plop another person in the role and expect the same effect; it was the actor who brought
the character from the script alive resonating within the viewers o f the original
production. In the 80s when Don Johnson and Philip Michael Thomas frequently “get
each others’ backs” in shootouts by warning the other there is danger by shouting their
name, it is highly believable. In the remake, Crockett and Tubbs do not save each other’s
lives once, nor insinuate any kind o f bond between them; they literally interact with their
cell phone more often than with each other. The Millennial Remake attempts to capture
the lightning that struck once in ajar, yet by doing so deems itself anachronistic
W hen speaking o f the art o f Miami Vice, the music and cinematography in the 1980s
were utilized to maximize communication to the viewer into the psychology behind
protagonists’ consciousness. Other creative decisions like mise en scene, production
design, selection o f popular musical artists to feature, lighting all contribute not only to
the style but to the feel of Miami Vice. Every element down to the preference o f Art
Deco buildings emulating that “Casablanca” Miami o f yesteryear Yerkovich was looking
for was specially crafted to portray a certain mood. The word missing from the aesthetics
o f the remake is design. “The source o f all art is the human psyche’s primal, prelinguistic need for the resolution of stress and discord through beauty and harmony, for
the use o f creativity to revive a life deadened by routine, for a link to reality through our
80 S h a k esp ea re and o th e r plays
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distinctive, sensory feel for the truth.” (Me Kee, 111.) The aesthetics o f the 2006 film
antithetically instigate stress, discord and disorientation. Perhaps postm odern audiences
are not concerned with the art o f cinema now rather than a distraction from the stressful
demands o f a digital world in flux. Philosopher Frank E. Manuel in Shapes o f
Philosophical History offers insight to the state o f culture by quoting N icolai Semenov:
Today many people see happiness not in creative activity, but, once their work is
finished, in giving themselves over to the pleasures o f life, tranquil, or at the other
extreme, riotous. For my part, I am firmly convinced that such a conception o f
happiness proceeds from spiritual poverty or an emptiness o f personality
from the absence o f social conditions favoring the expression and development
o f aspirations and creative capacities that exist in potentially all m en.”
(152.)
The “synchresis or audio -visual welding...a link that develops between a sound
phenomenon and a visual phenomenon when they occur at the same time on and through
the screen” (Strand, 20) that Trutnau writes o f describing the relationship between the
score written by Jan Hammer and the pop songs selected fused with the imagery o f
Miami Vice is a significant art form establishing M cKee’s definition o f the protagonist
and spectator’s “sensory feel for the truth.” In the 1980s, this m ethod o f synchresis
created cathartic unity between the audience and the characters and unity amongst
themselves. Every time there was a popular musician featured in a cameo or their music
featured in a integral scene, the spectator could connect that experience with hearing the
song on the radio with friends, or feeling being a “part o f ’ the larger realm o f popular
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culture. The music (both score and pop songs) had both intended meaning created by the
artisans o f the show and a meaning created by the audience at large through their
consumption o f the art. The music also synthesized the noir and aural aesthetics
requiring the meaning o f each to heavily depend on their symbiotic affiliation. In
contrast, the remake makes no attempt at creating meaning through music. The most
significant example is the “remake” o f the iconic Phil Collins song “In the Air Tonight”
which is synonymous with the 1984 pilot film “Brother’s Keeper”. In the pilot, the song
is slow and aurally represents the impending dire circumstance o f meeting with their long
awaited nemesis, Calderone. It is in the foreground o f focus as the images inter-cut with
montage o f artistic shots o f neon lights reflecting in the hood o f Crockett’s black Daytona
Spyder, a “w heel’s eye view” o f the street rolling by with narrative o f they partners
pulling over to a noir-lit phone booth by the water with a neon eatery sign flashing above
it. Crockett calls his ex wife to ask if it was all real when times were good between them.
She answers with “You bet they were” . He just needs to know that all he does is not in
vain. In the 2006 film an unrecognizable cover of the song by an equally unrecognizable
band (Nonpoint) briefly accompanies Jaime Foxx and Colin Ferrell to the location where
they must meet the drug cartel’s second in command. The sequence is poetically bereft.
The final interlude is not even with the main cartel (but a lackey) and the beginning o f the
song shows one brief cut to the two partners slamming knuckles with each other being
the only sign o f any “compassion” between the two in the duration of the film. The song
has fast guitar riffs instead o f ominous suspenseful drums and synthesizer harmonies. We
are not afforded the time or mindset to feel true suspense in regards to the doom the two
could possibly be walking into. Other songs from the soundtrack are equally
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unmemorable. Because o f how we listen to the radio has changed since the 1980s,
musical artists are not marketed as they have been previously and we experience music in
a fragmented manner, relying on iTunes or other internet venues to discover m usic rather
than word o f mouth or MTV. Little pockets o f niche audiences appreciate the new music
o f today, however these names are not universal as they had been in the 1980s. In
“Smuggler’s Blues” viewers o f all ages recognized ex Eagle Glen Frey as the cameo
smuggler and recognized his voice behind the anthem, “Sm uggler’s Blues” . Mogwai,
John Murphy, Nonpoint and Sinnerman are not household names as the artists from the
1980s soundtrack were. This is a huge difference between the original and the remake.
Perhaps the most well known artist on the album is Moby, and ironically his “Anthem ” is
not an anthem at all, it does not “express the mental landscape” o f neither Crockett nor
Tubbs or used again periodically through the film to establish a mental connection to the
situation and character. It is a disposable song during the club scene in which the rave
beat is consistent like a perpetual intense heart rate with no versatile tempos. The titles of
two songs, “W e’re No Here” and “Who Are You” are fitting to parallel the “non”
character characterizations o f Colin Farrell’s “Crockett” and Jaime Foxx’s “Tubbs”. If it
could be interpreted at all as “synchresis” then the soundtrack (especially M oby’s
“Anthem”) would match the anxiety ridden rapid editing and hand held cam era shots
perfectly; however, this film has not established itself as to offer any source o f
commentary or critique o f postmodern times or the digital age.
Miami Vice 2006 does not critique the 2000’s like the original critiqued the 80s. The
series was a voice o f dissent qualifying it as “80s N oir” . It celebrates a “nostalgia for the
present” (Jameson, 279.) rejoicing in the accessibility o f high technology to make their
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police procedurals more convenient whilst segregating the squad.81 The original Miami
Vice took great care to emphasize the lavish glamorous life rich people who made a
living off the exploit o f others enjoyed. This was a critique of the circumstances
surrounding the city in the late 70s into the early 80s. As can be seen in Billy Corben’s
documentary, Cocaine Cowboys, Miami thrived in a time o f economic recession in the
US mainly due to the influx o f drug money stimulating local economy. The thriving
skyline o f downtown is admitted to being financed by drug money. The remake fails to
emphasize any o f the “good life” criminals luxuriate in while in fact; no one in the film
ever seems to be taking pleasure in anything...good guys or bad guys. The average
middle class viewer cannot “envy” the indulgent lives cartels lead as none is presented.
Possible intention o f social commentary in the film is unclear, while one could argue
that by showing the Vice partners continually engaged on their cell phones rather than
with each other it brings attention to the detachment our contemporary society is
experiencing as a result o f the technology. Yet nothing is insinuated via the framing,
innuendo or “art” to assume any critique. Je-gyun Yun’s Korean 2009 disaster
blockbuster, Haeundae is centered around a city coping with an impending tsunami and
the futility o f relying on technology such as cell phones when pitted against Mother
Nature. Frequently, character’s faith in the objects that have been infused into our daily
lives is tested when the laptop, cell phone, etc are meaningless compared to human
perseverance and will for survival. A chilling sequence exemplifies the allusion to our
arrogant attitude in placing too much importance on inanimate objects; an executive
m other who constantly is on her cell phone and neglects her daughter and others close to
81 N ow all th e sq u ad is on their cell p h o n e s sim u lta n eo u sly ...a n d Gina's high tech spy cam instead o f Castillo's binoculars.
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her as a result, ineffectually clings to her phone while she is stuck in an elevator rapidly
flooding as a result o f the tsunami. There is no reception and therefore she cannot call
anyone to rescue her. The film then cuts to the cell phone in slow motion sinking in the
water to the bottom o f the elevator signifying that it is human endurance and spirit that, at
the end o f the day, will emancipate society, not technology. The Miami Vice remake
exonerates digital age habits rather than examine them.
The realism postmodern audiences crave via the “documentary-like” style o f hand held
camera work is negated by the unrealistic portrayal o f humans in the narrative context. In
the “rescue Trudy” sequences respectively, the 1980’s version goes into great detail to
show the bomb disposal technician going to great lengths to lay plastic on the carpet as to
not attract static electricity, align wires correctly so that he may cut them in order as to
not set the bomb off etc. In the remake, the cops go in without announcing them selves or
demanding everyone to freeze, they go in shooting and obey no realistic rules or laws that
cops would normally abide by. One does not have to be an expert in police procedure to
know that cops do not take a life unless self-defense requires it, and that they m ust arrest
perpetrators instead o f murdering them. Realistically, if Gina did in fact shoot the Aryan
drug distributor in the "medulla o f his brain", the bomb would likely go o ff upon his
death. They also took the chance o f him falling into the bomb, setting it off as he fell
from the gunshot wound. In the original, the characters go through the logical steps to
dismantle the bomb, not falsifying facts begetting a Hollywood version as a result. By
attempting this simulation o f reality, the 2006 film “more real than the real” and “ that is
how the real is abolished.” (Baudrillard, 81.) Criticism o f 1980s Miami Vice has
chastised it for being unrealistic with its slow motion camera work, MTV montage and
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cops driving Ferraris" when it is actually the postmodern remake that is unrealistic
disguised by its "realistic" documentary-like aesthetics. The emotions and actions o f Don
Johnson and Philip Michael Thomas measure much higher on the realism scale than those
o f Jaime Foxx and Colin Farrell. The question up for debate would be then; in a
postm odern digital age....has what our society deems as "real" changed? Is what we view
as real literally what Baudrillard would call "hyperreal"? "We are entering an era o f
films that in themselves no longer have meaning strictly speaking, an era o f great
synthesizing machines o f varying geometry." (Baudrillard, 46). Considering in the past
when cinema was considered art and an interpretation o f reality, it has now become an
alternative for reality. "A hyperreal henceforth sheltered from the imaginary, and from
any distinction between the real and the imaginary, leaving room only for the orbital
recurrence o f models and for simulated generation o f differences." (Baudrillard, 2.)
These Millennial Remakes (and arguable most postmodern cinema) simulate meaning
rather than creating it, therefore it is veritably impossible for the Millennial Remakes to
have any current ideology or significance. As Jameson writes o f postmodern society: "we
seem increasingly o f fashioning representations o f our own current experience."
(Jameson, 21.)
Discourse on Modernism and Postmodernism in M iami Vice and its Remake.
This section serves as theoretical dialogue between the original film and the 2006
Millennial Remake. While scholars and critics have categorized 1980's Miami Vice as
postmodern, I classify it as modem. I also contend that while the postmodern era has
somewhat according to the majority o f postmodern scholars infiltrated our lives in the
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past two or three decades, I argue that actual stages o f postm odernism should be
established to clarify sensibilities from one phase to the next. And in conclusion, I
demonstrate that M iami Vice 2006, as a Millennial Remake is an exemplar o f
Baudrillard's postmodern simulacrum and Jameson's pastiche.
"M iami Vice is not simply postmodern depthless surface, but a site o f m ultiple
meanings, values and subject positions." (Trutnau, 192.) The show's m ost fierce critics
comment on the lack o f substance as result o f concentration on the hype o f fans,
"flashiness", sound/image montage and often mistake the commentary on the glamorous
life as being face-value. These “surface” qualities have erroneously placed M iami Vice
into the realm o f the postmodern. The meanings, value and subject positions o f the show
(that o f the voice o f dissent) have in the previous chapter proven to be chronologically
relevant. Postmodernism according to Jameson signifies “the disappearance o f the
historical referent.” (Jameson, 25.) The 1980’s constantly and consistently juxtaposed
itself to the ideologies o f the 1950’s and distanced itself from the debauchery o f the
1970s re-establishing family values, optimism and American patriotism. Anthony
Giddens writes one factor o f late modernity is “ the regularized use o f knowledge about
circumstances o f social life as a constitutive element in its organization and
transform ation.” (Giddens, 20.) If one is familiar with American history o f the city o f
Miami in the early 80s, it is clear that Anthony Yerkovich and other script writers were
fully aware o f the “circumstances o f social life” in the city as news headlines translated to
the artistic narrative o f the 80s Noir show. It seem farfetched that someone would fire
live ammunition in public venues such as the beach and shopping malls, yet these
scenarios were not foreign to the citizens o f Miami o f the time practically under siege o f
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feuding drug lords. “The Cocaine Godmother”, Griselda Blanco, ordered over 200 drug
related and personal assassinations in her tenure as number one drug cartel in Miami.
These hits comprised o f her lackeys spraying machine gun fire in nightclubs, respectable
neighborhoods and other public gathering. Nowhere was safe. Local government
institutions such as the police force were equally corrupt and often accepted generous
bribes to look the other way. Drug money ran the show. Miami Vice captured all o f this
history in the making while bringing it to the public’s attention in a manner more
effective than the desensitizing news. By incorporating sympathetic protagonists
enhanced by artistic motifs (such as theme), the show elicited compassion for a “known
face” contrary to the nightly news where the victims are nameless number and statistics.
M iami Vice as a phenomenon not only reflected the tumultuous times, it single handedly
helped restore the city into the vacation hot spot it hadn’t been for over two decades. “In
this way the series contributed to a sensibility, which in turn can be related to society. It
cannot be held that M ann’s series was a simple superficial postmodern product.”
(Trutnau, 190, 193.)
M iami Vice was also modem in its treatment o f identity. The decade that has
been labeled synonymously as the narcissistic “ME” generation found a mass desire to
search for one’s own individuality and self- promotion as “Christopher Lasch (author of
The Culture o f Narcissism) argues, [the] pathological feature o f contemporary (1980s)
American life, could be purposeful and may indeed be vital to ‘getting the job done’ in an
environment where many o f the old certainties had fallen away. It is no coincidence that
the 1980s saw a surge in the sales of self-help manuals” (qtd. in Lyons, 92.) and books.
That Reagan-esque “Let’s get the job done and get America back on her feet” mantra was
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a predominant ideology in mass culture. Although the effort was collective, the cult o f
the individual and expressing oneself thrived in the 1980s. Don Johnson’s Crockett was
the epitome o f self-confidence (vastly differing from arrogance) prom oting “the self-help
message o f Miami Vice's purposeful narcissism....in order to get others to love you, you
had first to love yourself.” (Lyons, 92.) Collin Farrell’s Crockett was a signature o f a
wallflower never commanding the situation with dynamic charisma; he rather often faded
into the background o f an equally anonymous city. Jaime Foxx’s arrogance in Tubbs
cannot be interpreted as the same as Johnson’s confidence, in that his agenda was never
to have anyone love him as many people yearned for that love in the 80s. “W hat to do?
How to act? Who to be? These are focal questions for everyone living in circumstances
o f late modernity.” (Giddens, 70.) Equally important as money in the eyes o f the literal
and fictitious people “living the life” in Miami o f the 80s, was fame. You w eren’t
anybody unless your reputation preceded you. This contrasts significantly with the
desired anonymity the Internet and global digital age provide.. .you can be an avatar, a
“user name” etc. and have no one truly know the real y o u ... the self. This point coincides
with Jam eson’s comparison; assuming that “personal identity is itself the effect o f a
certain temporal unification o f past and future with one’s present” and in postm odern
times “we are unable to unify the past, the present, and future.. ..then we are similarly
unable to unify the past, present and future o f our own biographical experience or psychic
life.” (Jameson, 26.) Only a few generations ago, people identified with the times in
which they were living.. .now there is no past, present or future.. .just a sim ultaneous
existence devoid o f historicity and a capability to make meaning o f it applicable to
forming our identities. W hen the immediate “now ” is constantly recycling itself and is
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non-linear, the importance o f seeing whence we came is moot. Therefore, the Millennial
Remakes have no desire to encourage nostalgia or hom age.. .how can you yearn for and
love a past that never existed? The 2006 Millennial Remake in its “hyper-similitude” to
reality is “the murder o f the original.” (Baudrillard, 108.) Shannon Donaldson-McHugh
and Don Moore in their essay comparing the Gus Van Sant remake o f Psycho to
Hitchcock’s engage with Derrida’s concept o f “hauntology” discussing the
“schizophrenic mirroring” thus problematizing “notions o f the direct reflection o f an
‘original’ or its ‘spirit’” and how Judith Butler claims that these “performative
resurrections always result in an imperfect, “queer copy o f that ‘ideal’” (qtd. in Shannon
Donaldson-McHugh and Don Moore, 228.) This would almost apply to the Millennial
Remakes, the only difference is that the remake never acknowledges that the original is
the ideal. I would contend that not only as Jameson says, “the past is thereby itself
modified” with the “new spatial logic o f the simulacrum”, (Jameson, 18.) but actually
erased altogether. “The era o f simulation is inaugurated by a liquidation o f all
referentials.” (Baudrillard, 2.) Baudrillard also quotes Ecclesiastes in the first line o f his
book, Simulacra and Simulation'. “The simulacrum is true.” (Baudrillard, 1.) With these
remakes, there is no possible referential to the original and by their denial o f the
original’s true meaning and existence, erase it from the collective cultural m em ory.. ..the
remake, or simulacrum is the truth. Many mainstream critiques o f these 70s and 80s
films being remade is that they are “dated”, without being able to appreciate the
“antiquity” o f the art as one would never attempt to alter the Venus de Milo by deeming
her imperfect then using technology to “add arms”, postmodern audiences cannot come
to terms with the actual history o f the cinema. The digital mindset is to deem the original
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invalid because they were not made with the superior aesthetics that the “advanced”
technology has to offer. But not only are the effects and visuals dated, but the sentiment
and consciousness o f the piece are “outdated” as well. Human compassion and
sentimental scenes are seen now in a derogatory manner classified as “m elodram atic”.
Human expression o f emotion has become obsolete and eradicated from the original
through the remake. What was once seen as a cherished m oment (as seen in The Karate
K id for example) is now made “fun o f ’ and translated into cynicism through the very
casting o f Jackie Chan as the wise Miyagi Pat M orita played.82 “How could we ever
have been so ‘cheesy’ as we were in the 80s?!” W hat once was seen as heartfelt and
sincere through postmodern eyes is now “cheesy”.
This loss o f generational identity and “the disappearance o f the individual subject,
along with its formal consequence, the increasing unavailability o f the personal style,
engender the well-nigh universal practice today o f what one m ight call pastiche.”
(Jameson, 16.) This applies to not only the Millennial Remakes themselves, but to the
actual studio’s decision behind their genesis o f production, “the producers o f culture have
nowhere to turn but to the past, the imitation o f dead styles.. .’’(Jameson, 18.) In the final
comparison to the modernity o f the 1980s to the postmodernism o f the 2000’s, is that o f
which “Giddens asserts, ‘to live in the universe o f late m odernity is to live in an
environment o f chance and risk.” (Lyons, 92.) From the beginnings o f extreme sports, to
playing the game on Wall Street, to taking a chance in sexual relations in a world now
living with the specter o f AIDS, to taking a chance on a little film called Flashdance, risk
82
The w on d erfu l s c e n e in which Pat Morita's Miyagi t e a c h e s Daniel p a tie n c e by catching a fly w ith ch op stick s is d im in ishe d to
re p res en t t h e lazy im patien t Millennial Age: Jackie Chan's Miyagi just s w a t s th e fly with a fly sw a tter. This c o m m e n t s on t h e original
as bein g archaic.
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played a huge role in the lives o f all Americans in the 1980s. “Miami Vice dramatizes
better than any other fictional television show of its era, the notion o f living with risk.”
(Lyons, 92.) The extreme majority o f interviews I conducted with professionals in the
film industry with the main question being, “Why so many remakes?” resulted in the
reply o f studios wanting a “low-risk” sure thing, generating guaranteed profits by
marketing a “pre-sold” name. Pastiche has become profitable in Jameson’s coined
phrase, the era o f “late capitalism.” While the desire for profit emulated the “greed is
good” motto o f the 80s Wall Street, people were willing to take the risks required to gain
substantial wealth, and I would also argue that Jameson’s book, while in response to his
observations o f culture in the 1980s, the relevancy o f his statements shed an even clearer
light in an era o f late capitalism in the digital age. Trutnau quotes Robert Stam in his
reflections on the idea o f postmodernism:
The term ‘postmodernism’ itself, as many analysts have pointed out, has been
‘stretched’ to breaking point, showing a protean capacity to change meaning in
different national and disciplinary contexts, coming to designate a host of
heterogeneous phenomenon, ranging from details of architectural decor to broad
shifts in societal or historical sensibility. (Trutnau, 189.)
While “postmodern” architecture such as the Beaubourg Center in Paris and the
W estin in Los Angeles have certainly been in existence for the past three decades, it is
the historical sensibility o f the 2000’s that is extremely juxtaposed to that o f a world
before the Internet was a household permanent fixture. What really needs to be
distinguished is the consciousness of society in which Baudrillard’s “simulation” and
Jam eson’s “pastiche” are increasingly multiplying at an un-calculatable rate due to
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advancing technology (so much so that consumers can’t even keep up with “postm odern
tim es”) to before the world went digital and as a result...global. The way we think as
humans and as a society has forever been changed because we are exposed to more
information than we can process, “we live in a world where there is more and more
information, and less and less meaning.” (Baudrillard, 79.) I would agree with the basis
o f Baudrillard’s chapter: “The Implosion o f Meaning in the M edia” that the loss o f
meaning directly correlates to “ the dissolving, dissuasive action o f information, the
media and mass media.” (Baudrillard, 79.) Our technology advances more rapidly than
our psyches can and how we think is in direct competition with the over stimulus o f
postmodern society where multiple screens speak to us simultaneously. A life in the
1980s before cell phones and before Microsoft Windows 1995, is trem endously different
to the ultra technology based society we have made for ourselves. So m ust our theories in
postmodernism advance. While scholars have theorized that until the decimation o f a
culture grounded in capitalism (free-enterprise), postmodernism will be in existence, it is
necessary to form veritable phases in the postmodern theory. Postm odernism in the
digital age has metamorphosed the conditions behind the thinking o f the postm odernism
o f the late 20th century and requires new approaches in scholarship.
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Conclusion- W here do we go from here?
The Millennial Remake is a form o f cultural poaching and the creative
cannibalization o f all the styles o f the past.” (Jameson qtd. in Booker, xix.) These films
have no interest in capturing the spirit o f the original or to be an homage of their
predecessors. This thesis has defined the Millennial Remake as a phenomenon
originating in the mid 90’s lasting through present day as low-risk “pre-sold names”
concerned with financial profit and not reflecting culture/societal themes or the art of
cinema. By using Miami Vice as a case study I have proven that these remakes contain
no elements or ideologies that defined the original, in fact when taken out o f era in which
produced, the remake becomes anachronistic. The attitude in which these films are
produced and consumed is ironic treating the original as either “outdated” because o f its
special effects that are not digital, or its tone regarded as campy or negatively kitsch. In
my research I have found a general animosity towards pop culture o f the 1980s in that it
is “over the top” or “overly sentimental/melodramatic.” The producers of these
Millennial Remakes seem to think that they can “update” or make “more real” the
original and in doing so say “the original was not good enough”. They are not nostalgic
in looking back with a yearning or fondness for the very constituents that made the films
representative o f the era (i.e. stop motion animation as in Clash o f the Titans; the theme
o f making the impossible happen against all odds: The Karate Kid; cinematography not
being the popular hand held documentary style thus being “dated” : Suspiria,) the
aesthetics and stories to m odem audiences are “cheesy”. Yet with other works o f art such
as poetry, painting, sculpture etc are not looked upon as needing to be updated (who for
instance would want to “repaint the “Mona Lisa”?); however, music and film especially
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are under attack by postmodern audiences/ artists in their crusade for altering the past in
an attempt to make the simulation more “real” to a point the simulation is now the real.
Several areas o f further research on this topic are necessary to grasp the reasoning and
psychology behind the production and consumption o f these remakes and their relative
consequence on generational culture and identity.
In his book The Death o f Cinema: History, Cultural M emory and the D igital D ark
A ge, Paolo Cherchi Usai writes o f the literal ramifications in losing the tangibility o f our
film/cinema history and legacy that is deteriorating because o f the new digital revolution:
Given the physical and chemical phenomenon at the heart o f the progress o f
decay, a process that can be contained or decelerated but not altogether avoided, the
viewer is unconscious (sometimes resigned, in any case impotent) witness to the
extinction o f moving images that nobody cares to preserve, either because they are
deemed unworthy or unsuitable for the purposes o f further commercial exploitation.
This is considered as normal as the corruption o f oral tradition, or the vanishing o f
other ephemeral forms o f human expression. (Usai, 17)
As a young generation identifies with the music o f the era, so they also identify with the
films and other pop culture o f the era. Remembering yesterday nostalgically is not an
option in a postmodern vacuum o f non -linear non- existent referents. How would a new
generation find their own nostalgia when it is built on the altering o f the m em ories o f the
generation that came before them? What will define their identity and affiliation to their
own icons when all o f their exposure to popular culture is just remade mosaic
permutations o f things from the past? Also, people who once identified with their
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generation are now suffering from what Stephen Bertman calls “Cultural Amnesia”. He
states that rapid change and the rate o f change has the “minds o f so many people
simultaneously immersed in the swirling waters o f transience and impermanence” that we
now live in an age and society in which “the past and the memory o f the past have little
place.” (Bertman, 72.) The acceleration of technology has created a devaluation o f the
past and “elevated the stature o f the present and future in the human mind.” (Bertman,
71.) In the 1980’s it was a cultural custom to “remember the good o f days”, now
however, it seems that it is not only forbidden to remember the good oP days, but we
want to actually erase the good oP days so that they never existed. “Experience teaches
us that loss o f memory is as inevitable as anxiety for the future. In the hopes o f avoiding
both, the maker o f moving images fabricates memories or visions o f what is to come in
the cherished belief that they will exist forever in an eternal present o f the spectator’s
w ill.” (Usai, 35.) But the spectators have lost that will of remembering. Films are
Polaroid’s o f the year they were made and mentality of society at the time; aesthetically
“pleasing” or not to a contemporary eye, they are time capsules deserving to be analyzed
as possibly representing the generation o f audiences who cherished them and the
experiences surrounding viewing the film: seeing it with friends, music from the film,
memorizing and repeating one-liners, fashion etc. The Millennial Remakes discount
these experiences and negate their importance in cinematic history by altering the very
nature o f the original’s being. There is scholarship written on the effect of globalization
on cultural art becoming diluted in a homogenized global market, for example, Ackbar
A bbas’s “The New Hong Kong Cinema and the Deja Disparu”. Because of
commercialism, foreign films are becoming more “Americanized”-action oriented (the
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international language needing no translation) to be more marketable, losing the local
flavor that once made their exports distinguishable. The same can be said for generations
losing their “flavor” with Millennial Remakes re-envisioning their experiences to be sold
second-hand to contemporary global markets. Evolution and progress o f the m edium is
not the actual problem, it is the loss o f the identifiable (whether generational or
international) as a result o f postmodern globalization and/or the digital revolution that is
the problem.
Erik Erikson and Anthony Giddens have written extensively on the topic o f
globalization affecting identity and ontological security. Catarina Kinnvall explores their
ideas and expands them in her essay, “Globalization, Identity, and the Search for Chosen
Traumas.” (Kinnvall, 111) Like Bertman she acknowledges, “The compression o f time
and space has taken on novel dimensions and the number o f economic, political, social
and human linkages between societies is greater than any previous point in history.
Together these changes in speed, scale and cognition affect individuals’ sense o f being.”
(112.) While just a tiny fraction o f the pie, groups that identify with films and other fans
feel displaced and “human linkages” formed through generational commonality are
jeopardized by Millennial Remakes; yet the ramifications o f the effects o f mass and
popular culture should be taken into consideration as well. W hen a group or individual
identifies strongly with a film and the atmosphere surrounding the experience then when
a remake is asserting the original is not good enough, then the individual associating
them'selves with the mentality and ideology o f the film or films is then seen as “not good
112
?
enough .
83
An individual may identify with many aspects from local community, family,
nation, etc...surely, individuals identify strongly with their generation. Two people that
have never met o f the same age have that common ground o f having experienced the
same years: “Where were you when the Challenger blew up?” “Do you remember
anxiously awaiting the premiere o f the video to Thriller! ” And so on. Film as an art is so
intrinsically infused with everything going on in the world and country at the time o f its
release that it takes on a life outside of just the screen it is viewed on. To remake it
properly, one would have to reenact everything that was going on in the news, going on
in the world, with music, fashion etc for it to have any o f the same meaning. Miami Vice
had meaning because it was the 1980s. As Baudrillard states, “We are entering an era of
films that in themselves no longer have meaning strictly speaking, an era of great
synthesizing machines o f varying geometry.” (Baudrillard, 46.) When Michael Mann
refuses to use the iconic Jan Hammer Miami Vice theme in the remake despite the fact
that hundreds o f fans emailed Universal Studios requesting him to do so (Friedman, 1),
what does that say to the people that have loyally loved the original throughout the years?
The meaning o f the original is altered and absent from the simulated remake. The
remake is a misrepresentation to someone, who not familiar with the original, will now
associate or infer that the original is similar to what they have seen because it is a
“remake” when in fact all that Millennial Remakes have in common with their
predecessor is the title and perhaps the names of characters. Miami Vice 2006 may have
just as well been called “Florida Nights” for example. It could have possibly been an
83 Frequently the writer has been told those film s regarded highly and appreciated are “guilty pleasures" when in fact, there is no guilt
associated with identifying and loving the culture and experience o f the 1980s. After many polls and interv iews, many people o f the
same generation feel the same and that their memories are being robbed b\ these remakes.
113
“updated” hom age84 and captured the essence o f “Miami Vice” as remakes such as John
Carpenter’s The Thing and other remakes have in the past, yet it made no attem pt at
honoring the spirit o f the initial Zeitgeist.
It is important to study how audiences identify with their generation via the art o f
cinema and other pop culture experiences. “As in the rest o f art, these meanings are both
affective and cognitive conveyors o f interpersonal communication. They involve
feelings and the concepts by which men and women make their presence known, jointly
struggle with problems in the environment, and share with one another consummatory
experiences...” (Singer, 135.) In postmodern times how do people perceive their own
identities and their identity in relation to each other? Are communal shared experiences
in “reality” replaced by fragmentary private experiences via cyberspace and the digital?
If so, how will the nature o f the cyberworld anonymity (avatars, fabricated identities)
define the self? Can a generation establish its own identity when the basis o f it is
simulacra o f another’s altered memories? What would that generation have to call and
identify as its own? Will it be possible to have nostalgia? Or will all future regard for the
past be retro? These are all questions extending from the existence o f M illennial
Remakes representing postmodern culture in the digital age. M. Keith Booker engages
Jameson in his arguments in Postmodern Hollywood; W hat’s New in Film and Why it
Makes Us Feel So Strange.
84 Especially being directed by the originaEs executive producer, M ichael Mann
114
Individual identity attains its stability through a perception o f continuity of
selfhood over time. But this perception is increasingly difficult to maintain in an
age in which so many things have changed so radically over such short periods of
time. Thus, Jameson, probably the single most influential theorists on
postmodernism, has argued that the ‘psychic fragmentation’ o f the postmodern
subject has become so radical that individuals no longer have a stable enough
psyche to undergo the fundamentally modernist experience o f alienation. (Booker,
xv.)
He then goes on to say a point that I believe clarifies why Millennial Remakes are
problematic, “This schizophrenic sense of a loss of individual temporal continuity also
contributes to a larger loss of any sense o f historical continuity.” (Booker, xv.) Not only
are these remakes eradicating the meaning o f the film, they transfigure the memory o f it
within the individual and with the memory of the shared experience of the individual in
congruence to the audience at large. The historical continuity o f the meaning and shared
meaning o f the film is disrupted by the postmodern simulation o f the protoplast. How we
encounter film today also transforms the identification process. As more and more films
are being viewed in the home, on the computer or now even on the phone, that communal
enjoyment with other people (arguably one o f the best features o f viewing a film in a
theater) is lost. It can be seen as a part of our heritage turning into a singular and
lonesome experience. And because o f Millennial Remakes, when these films are
experienced in the theater, that emotional camaraderie through identification with both
the film and those you have seen it with is significantly transmuted. A fascinating
proposal for future research would be if “movies have seemed to many observers to be
115
excellent metaphors for, or approximations o f human consciousness” (Plantinga, 48.),
then how do these “empty” simulations devoid o f meaning reflect our current hum an
consciousness? Do we no longer want to feel connected to both the character on screen
and with the universal bond that unites all people who have also seen that film ? The
process o f “identification which sometimes implies that the audience has the illusion o f
‘becom ing’ the character with whom it identifies, or that the audience thinks the same
thoughts and feels the same emotion as the character does” (Plantinga, 103.) cannot exist
in a film that is postmodern pastiche. One cannot truly care about a characterization, an
empty simulation o f the real. The Crockett and Tubbs o f M iami Vice 2006 are going
through the motions o f a plot oriented script, but because we never get to know their back
stories; or again how Robert McKee describes who they really are underneath their
* in
• times
•
• and m ontage and
exterior
o f extreme pressure; 85 or their psyche through music
other aesthetics essential to the original; we as an audience cannot possibly feel
compelled or moved to identify with them or the film in general. It would seem esoteric
at this point to bring up that the Millennial Remakes do not have the “heart” that the
originals do. In the academic universe it seems overly philosophical to have to define
what “heart” and “humanity” truly are; regardless, these are two elements conspicuously
missing from Millennial Remakes.
If this trend o f remaking iconic films and pop culture at all reflects what is occurring
in m odem day the nearest analogy would be that o f the alarming scourge o f plastic
surgery common in celebrities and the wealthy. People are now altering their faces to a
85
Nor do they experience any sort o f definable or com pelling character arc.
116
point where they are unrecognizable. Millennial Remakes are unrecognizable from their
predecessors. Millennial Remakes like bad plastic surgery are better off not having been
conceived, the cliche adage o f “If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it” holds true in both situations.
Yet strangely people with bad plastic surgery go in to get more, and strangely these films
claimed by many to be inferior are still being patronized. It would be an interesting field
study in audience reception to screen both the original and remake consecutively and
gauge the reactions. This thesis explains what is happening in the postmodern Millennial
Remake; however, it is necessary to explore why it is happening. Why would people
prefer relationships to inanimate objects (cell phone, computer, Blackberry, etc) than to
human interpersonal connections? We may be “connecting” to people via cyberspace, yet
the local community and things like just getting to know your neighbor are disappearing.
The Millennial Remake is not remaking films from the 80s such as Chariots o f Fire,
Passage to India and the like. And despite arguments from technically minded people
who contend that the films in need of special effects rebooting thanks to new digital
technology are being remade, or films with archaic themes are “updated”, I, in my
experience and research have found that the films that struck a chord in a certain
audience and formed a human connection within that audience, the ones that have “heart”
despite how “campy” or “kitsch” contemporary audiences deem them, still resonate as
strongly in the enthusiasts today as they did when initially seeing them are the ones being
remade. W hether it be a toy (G.I. Joe, Transformers); a cult classic (Fright Night,
Piranha); a teen drama (The Karate Kid, Fame); genre standard (Clash o f the Titans,
Suspiria, A Nightmare on Elm Street); or popular phenomenon (Miami Vice), these things
held dear to a generation are re- manufactured thus negating not only the meaning o f the
117
artifact, but the ritual surrounding experiencing the artifact. Are new audiences trying to
relive those experiences o f the generation before them in those days before the Internet
was in every home? What is this fascination with “redoing” and changing the 1980s?
These are also questions relevant to film studies and pop culture studies as we head into
another phase o f post modernism: the digital era. As many theorists have postulated that
as long as the system o f Capitalism is the foundation o f our society, we cannot escape
postmodernism. While I agree with this premise, I would argue that it is necessary to
delineate phases o f postmodernism. Certainly the sensibilities o f how we viewed the
world in the 1980s are vastly different from the sensibilities o f this decade in which our
culture based on consumption and technology is one o f both complete infiltration and
impermanence.
This thesis has defined the Millennial Remake as a postm odern simulation and
explains Miami Vice 2006 as an example representing other remakes in the same retro
attitude, non- homage execution in contemporary American film. Hopefully, this study
will not only be a platform to identify future Millennial Remakes, but for scholars to
recognize the changes in audience spectatorship (individual connection to the film and
universal bond created within the generation); cultural memory and identification; and
finally the philosophy o f digital postmodernism affecting our historical consciousness
and perception o f historicity.
118
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Interviews
Nakelski, Alexandra. Personal Interview with Director John Carpenter. 13 August, 2008.
Nakelski, Alexandra. Personal Interview with Director Joe Dante. 17 July, 2009.
Nakelski, Alexandra. Personal Interview with Director John Badham. 3 February, 2010.
Nakelski, Alexandra. Personal Interview with Director Tony Bill. 16 January, 2010.
Nakelski, Alexandra. Personal Interview with Director Richard Benjamin. 23 March,
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126
Filmography
Cocaine Cowboys. Dir. Billy Corben. 2005. DVD. Magnolia Home Entertainment,
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Haeundae. Dir. Je-gyun Yun. 2009. DVD. CJ Entertainment, 2009.
Miami Vice. Prod. Michael Mann. Creator Anthony Yerkovich. Perf. Don Johnson, Philip
Michael Thomas, Edward James Olmos, Saundra Santiago, Olivia Brown, John
Diehl, Michael Talbott. NBC. MCA/Universal, 1984-1989.
Season I Episode 1, “Brother’s Keeper” : Pilot Film. 16 September, 1984.
Season I Episode 4, “Hit List’ aka “Calderone’s Return.” 19 October, 1984.
Season 1 Episode 5 “Calderone’s Demise” aka “Calderone’s Return Pt2.” 26
October, 1984.
Season II Episode 1, “Prodigal Son.” 27 September, 1985.
Miami Vice. Dir. Michael Mann. 2006. Universal Pictures. DVD. Universal Studios
Home Entertainment, 2006.
Quest For Fire. Dir. Jean-Jacques Annaud. 1981. DVD. 20th Century Fox, 2003. Perf.
Everett McGill, Ron Perlman, Nicholas Kadi, Rae Dawn Chong, Gary Schwartz.
127
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