Films, TV recycle thematic elements

Films such as Friends with Benefits and No Strings Attached follow the same plot, and were released less than a year apart; such thematic similarities are common in television and films. / Photo Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

Ever wonder why there are so many recent movies and TV shows about vampires? Or why films with the same plot come out within a remarkably short amount of time of each other? It’s no mystery that this happens, and whether we notice or not, it works for the movie industry, as we viewers eat up every pairing of thriller, drama, and romantic comedy plot that comes our way.

For example, in January of 2011 the film No Strings Attached, featuring Ashton Kutcher and Natalie Portman, was released in theaters. The plot is simple and very predictable; a guy and girl attempt to keep their relationship strictly physical with no emotions, but end up falling in love. Anyone could see that one coming from a mile away. However, later in 2011, the movie Friends with Benefits hit the theaters, starring Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis. As if the title was not obvious enough, this film involves two newly single friends who only are in it for the sex, nothing more. And, as expected and previously depicted earlier in the same year, they fall in love in the end. Both movies are hilarious and very entertaining, but why does this happen?

Why do films with the same plot come out within a remarkably short amount of time of each other?

Many believe that the main reason that such similar movies are released simultaneously is due to a lack of imagination, or the development of herd mentality. This follow-the-leader tactic has usually worked in the movie industry, especially for successful productions. A movie with just a slightly different plot can effectively piggyback off of the ideas of its predecessor and reach the same target audience without being caught or accused of copying others. While some frown upon this decision, it is undeniably good business, which makes money and provides more entertainment—nobody is really complaining too much.

Another theory behind the fact that nearly identical films are released back-to-back revolves around the idea of trends. For example, The Twilight saga, True Blood, and The Vampire Diaries all involve vampires and romance. It is doubtful that these shows and movies are copying one another’s ideas—they’re all going after the angsty teenagers who can’t get enough of vampire-human love. These productions are successful due to society’s current trends and desires of the consumers. It’s simple marketing. But trends go as soon as they come; pretty soon the whole vampire scene will die down, and people will want to watch whatever else becomes the newest pop culture craze.

The exact answer may not be any of these theories, or could be a combination of all of them.

The similarities of productions can also be due to a rivalry between movie companies, as seen with the animated movies Antz and A Bug’s Life. Both films follow the lives of ants, their everyday drama and the journey of one who eventually saves the day. Antz was produced by DreamWorks in 1998, followed by Disney’s A Bug’s Life in the same year. These two companies, engaged in a bitter rivalry, have always tried to outdo each other, and in so doing ended up released identical films within a one-month span.

Finally, the reason for such similar video productions could be dumb luck. While this is doubtful, two companies could have no idea that the other is writing and producing the same idea, and then find out when it’s too late. The exact answer may not be any of these theories, or could be a combination them. As audience members, all we can do is sit back and enjoy the entertainment as it comes.