04/05/2012 11:01 am ET Updated Jun 05, 2012

From 'Titanic' To Beatles 2: Why It's Really Not OK That Sequel Culture Is Our Only Culture

Nothing is new anymore, and that's sad.

Madonna is at the top of the Billboard charts, "Titanic" may be the highest-grossing movie of the week and "The Mummy," "Twins," "Dumb and Dumber," "Summer School," "Anchorman," "Top Gun," "Grown Ups," "Total Recall", "Avatar" and even "Phantom of the Opera" are either getting sequels, being remade or simply being re-released.

TV isn't safe either: Both "Dallas" and "The Munsters" are coming back to the small screen.

On the radio, even buzzy new acts like Nicki Minaj have fallen prey to sequel culture. While Minaj may overtake Madonna's MDNA on the Billboard charts this week, her album has the same name as her last release (Pink Friday v. Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded).

Best of all, The Beatles' sons want to pick up where their fathers left off. While Zak Starkey (bless him) is apparently not on board, the fact that "Beatles 2" is already a phrase is troubling enough.

The reason these industries have bet so heavily on sequels is simple: money. Perhaps the best semi-recent example is the wildly profitable "Spider-Man" series. The 2002 film brought in $821 million worldwide. "Spider-Man 2" raked in $783 million, and the third Spidey flick brought in $890 million in 2007. (It should be noted that barely half of the people who saw the third movie enjoyed it.)

That means three movies brought Sony and Columbia a total box office gross of nearly 2.5 billion dollars. The problem is, Hollywood never looked back; there's already a reboot of "Spider-Man" hitting theaters in July. The statute of reboot limitations is shrinking.

Sometimes remakes work: "Ocean's 11" was a great reboot of the 1960 original. It received strong reviews and brought in $450 million worldwide. But then we were treated to "Ocean's 12" and "Ocean's 13," both of which brought in over $300 million each, which would be great if they weren't lame movies.

There have, of course, been original ideas that have become bonafide cultural phenomenons in recent years ("The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" immediately comes to mind). And sure, "The Hunger Games" was a new series, but even that had the vague feeling of being a follow up to the "Twilight" series, which was all but a "Harry Potter" sequel in its own right. (Interestingly, "Potter" stars are already resigned to the fact that their films will be remade, and even picked out what roles they'd like to play.)

And, of course, since they're both based on book series, there will be sequels to "Dragon Tattoo" and "Hunger Games." It's as though nothing that doesn't immediately avail itself to being repeated in a year or two is worth considering.

It's hard to say what broader effects all this recycling will have on our culture, but it's worrisome that young creatives -- in music, film and TV -- are being sent a clear message: Do it like someone famous before you, or don't do it at all.

Perhaps the entertainment industry can't be blamed for our cultural insistence on the sequel. After all, when movies cost over $10 and many are apt to download music illegally, it makes sense that consumers would only want to spend money on familiar content. How many of us have admitted going to see a sequel despite horrible reviews from critics and friends? We are creatures of habit, and we're part of the problem.

And that's why it's even more troubling. With nearly every reboot doing well at the box office, pop music charts dominated by singers well past their prime and TV dipping into the archives for wildly anticipated throwbacks, it's hard to see a path to a more creative society. And that's really not OK.

Then again, we'll always have Madonna.

Fans React to News of Potential Second Beatles Band:


CORRECTION: A previous version of this article referred to Ringo Starr's son as Zak Harrison. His name, of course, is Zak Starkey, and he is still, thankfully, uninterested in a Beatles 2 band.