This morning I considered entering a BBC script-writing competition for a 30-minute comedy. After spending a few moments reading the guidelines, I lost interest. Apparently they’re looking for something ‘original’. A particularly ironic request considering the spectacularly unoriginal content of most of their programmes. A quick scan of the sample scripts in the BBC Writers’ Room tells me originality is not one of their priorities. Safe, predictable and unfunny seem to be.
I believe the same can be said of publishers and agents. Everyone is shouting, ‘write something original’, but a fruitless and tiresome search for a ‘good’ book in my local library confirms my thoughts. Where are the original stories? If you want a book about a 20-something shoe-loving PR assistant from Chelsea with a useless boyfriend who cheats on her, you’re spoilt for choice. Or a book about an undomesticated 30-something singleton looking for love from her North London home. Yawn, yawn, yaaaaaawn.
Most of my children’s books are tried and tested, unoriginal drivel. Apparently it’s never been harder to get a book published. Well, clearly not. You just need to toe the line and write what everyone else is writing. Ideally something with fairies, princesses, pirates and cars.
Right now, my daughter is watching another Disney film. And I’m here tutting at the predictable precociousness piping out from the speakers.
But as my seven-year old daughter contentedly sits with saucer-eyes enjoying every moment of the magic, she cares not for the script’s unoriginality nor grows tired of the stereotypical characteristics displayed by the dainty but spirited and beautiful heroines. She laps it up like an orphaned hedgehog with a bowl of warm milk.
So what’s my problem? Well, as a writer who consistently hears the ‘give me something original’ line, I’m confused; I don’t see much around me that is original. Isn’t it just shameless regurgitation?
Much like fashion in the noughties. It’s all just rehashed shite from decades before. Whilst my generation will remember fondly Flintstones jeans and England shell-suits, I doubt my children will be able to pinpoint a definitive piece of clothing that sums up their childhood. Nor TV programme, film or piece of music.
The twenty-somethings of today, with their windscreen-wiper eyelashes and thick eye-liner are simply reworking the looks of the glamourous 50s and 60s. Although, whereas Elizabeth Taylor and Marilyn Monroe knew have to deftly apply kohl, today’s TOWIE-inspired pups look half pantomime ugly sister and half 1980s coal-miner. Same for the boys. Those huge quiffs and rolled-up t-shirt sleeves? That’ll be a 50s throw-back too. And probably a hundred years before then. Where’s their original stamp on the world?
Unoriginality is comforting. New ideas are not. The status-quo is welcomed with open-arms and those with pioneering ideas are ridiculed. Until they die of course. And then their lunacy is tolerated, celebrated and ultimately accepted as commonplace.
However, in spite of this depressing zeitgeist, I remain determined not to sell-out and produce horse manure. So for now, my script about a depressed 50-something bankrupt ex-lawyer working in a Northamptonshire prawn factory, will remain in my drawer.