The Perfect Antidote to Endless Reboots

Photo of author
Written By Pinang Driod

This is an edition of The Atlantic Daily, a newsletter that guides you through the biggest stories of the day, helps you discover new ideas, and recommends the best in culture. Sign up for it here.

In a world of reheated versions of popular IP, I love turning to new releases of older gems.

First, here are three new stories from The Atlantic:

  • Why Israel is taking the genocide case seriously
  • The Spirit Airlines paradox
  • The unwitting Trump enablers

Resurrected Treasures

To my embarrassment, I did not really know what the deal was with the Talking Heads until a few months ago. I walked into a showing of Stop Making Sense at a local movie theater one Friday night with only the loosest concept of what I was in for. Now I can’t stop discussing the movie (and delighting in this David Byrne chihuahua costume), and I stream the Talking Heads’ music almost daily. The movie, a filmed version of a series of 1983 concerts, was rereleased by A24 last year, introducing a new generation of audiences to a mesmerizing show and album.

Lately, I’ve been filled with appreciation for long-lost, out-of-print, or otherwise near-forgotten cultural gems that have been resurrected in recent years. A favorite book I read last year was Ex-Wife, by Ursula Parrott, reissued by McNally Editions in 2023. This delicious book’s backstory is part of the fun: It was originally published anonymously in 1929 and caused a scandal in Jazz Age New York for its frank (and at times raunchy) descriptions of a divorcée’s adventures and antics. Our heroine, thought to be based on Parrott herself, oscillates between moments of luxuriant fun with friends and gender-related indignities as she navigates Manhattan as a single working woman. I also got various members of my family hooked on the world of The Wall, a 1963 feminist novel about a woman trapped in nature, which New Directions, a champion of reissuing, put back on shelves in 2022. The cover, featuring a cow, is splendid; so are the portrayals of a woman’s bonds with animals.

It’s not just books. Last year was a big one for rereleases in the world of music, as both audience nostalgia and the opportunity to profit anew off old songs led artists to put out remixes and reissues. And one of our most prominent cultural figures is in the business of rereleasing: Taylor Swift has been rerecording her albums, driven by both a desire for personal retribution and, surely, business incentives.

Reissued pieces of art have been bringing me joy in this era of relentless reboots and spin-offs. Audiences love to hate sequels, yet they keep on coming. Some genres, such as the rom-com, don’t really know where to go after the grand happy ending. And Just Like That is a ghostly spin-off of Sex and the City. And, as my colleague Hannah Giorgis writes, although the new Mean Girls reboot “attempts to extract even more profit from the fish-out-of-water story by infusing it with song, dance, and fresh attempts to woo younger viewers,” it “loses the bite of its cinematic predecessor.” (I laughed at Hannah’s opening line: “Raise your hand if you’ve ever been personally victimized by a Hollywood reboot.”) Elizabeth Nelson summed up the vexed fate of such projects in The New York Times Magazine last year: “The reboot that changes nothing will be uncanny and lifeless; the one that thinks itself more clever than its predecessor will turn out cynical and sour.”

Wonderful reimaginings of existing IP, especially books turned into movies, do of course exist. I loved American Fiction, a rich satire of the publishing industry based on Percival Everett’s 2001 novel, Erasure. The project is very funny, but, to my pleasure, it also explored family and social dynamics well beyond the headline caper.

As we face the prospect of a political reboot that makes many people wish to cover their eyes, I’m looking forward to burrowing back into the cultural objects of other times—not to ignore our politics but to be continually reminded of the elegance and complexity of the art of periods past, and the anxieties that persist across time.

Related:

  • A musical reboot that can’t cross the generational gap
  • American Fiction is more than a racial satire.

Today’s News

  1. President Joe Biden spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the first time in nearly a month today after Netanyahu publicly rejected the United States’ calls for a path toward the creation of a Palestinian state.
  2. Senator Tim Scott, who dropped out of the Republican primary race in November, will endorse Donald Trump at a rally in New Hampshire tonight, according to The New York Times.
  3. Japan became the fifth country to ever reach the moon, but its spacecraft, which isn’t carrying astronauts, is facing power-supply issues.

Dispatches

  • The Books Briefing: The Libyan British writer Hisham Matar captures the in-betweenness of exile in his new book, My Friends, Gal Beckerman writes.
  • Up for Debate: Americans are largely divided over the morality of porn, raising questions about the ethics of producing or consuming it, Conor Friedersdorf writes.

Explore all of our newsletters here.


Evening Read

Matteo Giuseppe Pani

Air Jordan Is Finally Deflating

By Ross Andersen

Few people have derived more profit from a colleague’s superstition than Tim Hallam, a former communications director for the Chicago Bulls. In the spring of 1991, the Bulls were preparing for their first NBA Finals, against Magic Johnson’s aging Lakers, when Hallam approached Michael Jordan, the team’s superstar, to ask him for a kindness. If, as expected, the Bulls won, would Jordan give him a shoe from the clinching game?

Read the full article.

More From The Atlantic

  • Erasing Jewish history will not help Palestinians.
  • Military emissions are too big to keep ignoring.
  • The ridiculous allure of Reacher

Culture Break

An image of a Stanley Cup
Kayana Szymczak / The New York Times / Redux

Take a sip. Why are suburbanites duking it out over a Stanley Cup water bottle in their most sacred space (their local Target)? Amanda Mull investigates.

Watch. Pokémon Concierge (out now on Netflix) is an office comedy that’s worth the binge, Emma Stefansky writes.

Play our daily crossword.


P.S.

I started thinking about many of the above books and movies while filling out The Daily’s Culture Survey, which will be in your inboxes on Sunday. Have a good weekend in the meantime, and happy reading and viewing!

— Lora


Stephanie Bai contributed to this newsletter.

When you buy a book using a link in this newsletter, we receive a commission. Thank you for supporting The Atlantic.

Source

Leave a Comment

dus dus dus dus dus dus dus dus dus dus dus dus dus dus dus dus dus dus dus dus dus dus dus dus dus dus dus dus dus dus dus dus dus dus dus dus dus dus dus dus dus dus dus dus dus dus dus dus dus dus dus dus dus dus dus dus dus dus dus dus dus dus dus dus dus dus dus dus dus dus dus dus dus dus dus dus dus dus dus dus