My initial reaction to cloud_loud's post about the upcoming Winnie the Pooh slasher movie was viscerally negative - my gut feeling is that my life would be objectively better without a movie like...
My initial reaction to cloud_loud's post about the upcoming Winnie the Pooh slasher movie was viscerally negative - my gut feeling is that my life would be objectively better without a movie like this in the world tainting a treasured childhood memory for millions of people.
Then I thought back to my reaction to the Wednesday Addams trailer and it became immediately clear to me that it was just a 'me problem' - I had no sentimental ties to the Addams Family as a kid, but Winnie the Pooh was one of my mum's bedtime story staples. I trust Tim Burton based on his track record to bring a high-quality rendition of Wednesday to the screen, but these nameless & faceless filmmakers were suddenly antagonists in my mind for turning an innocent story about a talking teddy bear into a trashy slasher. But apples & oranges comparison aside, just like how there will be people against the idea of Burton's vision of the Addams family or Tom Hanks' portrayal of Mr. Rogers, there most likely will be people who enjoy this movie when it releases - it just won't be my cup of tea.
I then started thinking about the implications of franchises reaching public domain like in this scenario - for better or worse, creators can now build upon, remix or bastardize the world and characters of Winnie the Pooh. I recently had a conversation here on Tildes about the necessity of copyright, patent and intellectual property law where @archevel raised the question of whether a person/entity should be able to 'own' an idea, and on the surface the immediate answer is a resounding "no". But thinking deeper about it (especially in this context) pushed me down a different path, calling someone's creation simply an 'idea' is very reductionist. To me, an idea is 'a honey-obsessed talking teddy bear' - there's no characterisation to that, no soul, no story, no sense of being. An idea is a I-V-VI-IV chord progression (and thus holds no legal protections), but shouldn't the artistic integrity of Journey's Don't Stop Believing be protected even after the creators are gone? Why are we so indifferent towards parodies like this when it could just as easily be something more offensive like this that can harm the legacy of the creator just by association? I've always been a proponent of free speech/freedom of expression but thinking about it from this perspective is fascinating to me.
That's not inherently an issue of something becoming public domain though, it's an issue of preserving the creator's legacy. Copyright doesn't just protect the creator's means to compensation, it protects their right to control their creations - the right to control their artistic integrity and the legacy they leave behind. Knowing that Milne and Shepard created Pooh to entertain children in a wholesome way, I think it's fairly safe to say they would not be happy with a slasher adaptation if they were still alive. If these filmmakers were using Pooh's likeness to parody Xi Jinping and push a communist agenda, would we care more about preserving Milne's legacy then?
All that brought me to the question of decency - whose moral compass should we guide ourselves by? Where is the line between socially-acceptable satire and obscenity? Western culture has been extremely cagey about some of the most natural things like nudity and sexuality, but here in Australia our government has no issue plastering billboards, bus stops and cigarette cartons with images of nicotine-stained teeth, abscessed mouths and diseased organs in an attempt to warn people of the dangers of smoking & excess sugar consumption - all in the name of public health. Everybody has genitals, why is our government happy to tell us that seeing boobs on a billboard could be potentially shocking for children to see when kids are exposed to NSFL images just by walking past the cigarette shelf in a store or a discarded carton in the street? When our cultural morality is so cagey about something as innocuous as a natural human body, why are we so unconcerned when someone perverts the life's work of a creator just because it's turned public domain? Should the creator have the right to protect their work from beyond the grave?
I'm willing to bet when Mickey Mouse turns public domain in 2024 the internet will be flooded with Beeple-style grotesqueries (NSFW) and everyone will get sick of profane parodies very quickly.
Just wanted to post a frame-by-frame analysis of the philosophical rabbit hole I went down today and hopefully stir up a conversation - I know these are fairly deep questions that none of us can really answer definitively but I still love to hear different people's thoughts and perspectives regardless :)