I understand the urge. We humans see A Good Thing, and our first response is not to gaze at it in awe, or to write odes to it, or to sculpt tiny replicas of it from ivory and carry them with us for luck. No. Our first impulse is to mess with it.
In recent weeks, we have had to contend with numerous public instances of Messing With a Good Thing. First, the University of Maryland uniforms. Then the Star Wars Blu Ray release. Now Lion King 3D.
So here is a guide. If you ever make something that someone likes, here is what you ought to do next:
Leave it be.
This has corollaries: Don’t add an obnoxious voice-over in which you explain your debt to Foucault. Frankly, the world would be better off not knowing about anyone’s debt to Foucault. Don’t add new CGI characters, new sounds (“Noooooo!”), or new footage of pilots moving their heads inside their spaceships.
Do not, at any cost, make it 3D.
In other words: leave it be.
Maybe I’m not enough of a cinephile, but I can think of no more than two occasions when someone has said, “That DVD re-release with the director’s original vision was definitely better,” and both of those were because the director had taken something out.
Look, there are so few good things in this world. There are even fewer things so good that we want to purchase them on DVD and Blu Ray and VHS to watch over and over again.
And then you have to go and mess with them.
Just because something succeeds, through whatever bizarre alchemy it is that causes things to succeed, we think, “Ah. We understand perfectly how to make a beautiful thing. This time, we’ll make the uniforms jazzier. We’ll make the lions leap out of the screen to touch you. We’ll make you actually smell the napalm in the morning. We’ll enhance things.”
No, you won’t. This sort of “enhancement” is the reason the phrase "re-release on DVD with special features," for Star Wars fans, is synonymous with "a boot stamping on the human race, forever."
Now there’s the Lion King: 3D. You must pardon me for failing to understand why this was strictly necessary. Sure, there are a few obvious jokes — “Now we definitely can feel the love tonight. The circle of life is now a sphere of life!”— but come on!
I can’t think of a single case where messing with a thing made it better, except possibly the United States Constitution, which was seriously enhanced by the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments. But the Constitution is the rare instance when we messed with a good thing — and then realized how stupid we were and changed it back. Remember Prohibition, anyone?
But how long will that last? Balanced budget amendments and marriage defense acts keep hovering in the wings.
Constitution Day is this weekend, and I don’t even want to know what they have planned for that. Maybe a restored Founders’ Edition with special liner notes from James Madison. (“This is the part where Edmund Randolph suggested something asinine, but I prevailed, thanks to my debt to Foucault...”)
Please, stop messing with good things. You won’t make them better. You’ll just add more futuristic features. If having more futuristic features were synonymous with being better, Joan Rivers would be better now.
I understand that there are counter-examples. The David was a rock that was perfectly good, and then Michelangelo had to go and mess with it. And think — we could all still be naked in a garden somewhere if our forerunners had followed this advice.
But enough is enough. I don’t want “The Godfather: 8D” or “Citizen Kane in Smellovision” or “Greater Expectations.” It won’t be better. It’ll just be bigger.
Let it be. Please.