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Debate Time: Choose Your True Grit – Original or Remake?

We’ve seen remakes of The Bad News Bears, Willy Wonka and even, for some reason, Clash of the Titans. Hollywood will never stop rehashing classics, and we’ll never stop talking about which ones are worth seeing. This time the Coen Brothers (Fargo, O Brother, Where Art Thou?) remake a John Wayne classic from 1969 with Jeff Bridges and Matt Damon. Is it worth it?

KENT: This is John Wayne in True Grit.

I am too young (far too young) to have seen his work in a theater, But my Daddy raised me right. I love freedom and I know an icon when I see one. That is a man’s man right there. He’s not interested in negotiating or talking through his feelings. He did not major in conflict resolution. He can take one look at you and know whether you’re a good guy or a bad guy, and if it’s the latter he will shoot you.

This is the Dude. Everyone loves the Dude.

True Grit is about a young girl seeking revenge for her father’s killer. It’s the Old West, so she’s assisted by a drunk, grisled old Marshal and a Texas Ranger to track down the bad guy in Indian territory.

BUD: You forgot about the bowling.

KENT: There’s no bowling. It’s True Grit.

BUD: But, that’s The Dude. Bowling. He bowls.

KENT: Not in this one. You’re thinking of Big Lebowski, which was not a Western.

BUD: Sure it was. Best Western of all time.

KENT: It was about bowling in LA. How is that a Western?

BUD: Ok, maybe you’re right. Hey, which way is LA? Just wondering. I’ve always wanted to go.

KENT: You’re so clever. But Westerns aren’t just about being out West. They’re about gunfights, untamed society, really depressing funerals because people had to be buried under rocks, unrepentant bad guys, damsels in distress who are actually hookers and/or farmers, horrible medical procedures, horses as unreliable transportation and revenge! Not bowling!

BUD: The Big Lebowski has all that:

KENT: You forgot revenge and untamed society.

BUD: Dude, they peed on his rug. The whole movie is about revenge and untamed society.

To take the metaphor even further, one could say that Hollywood’s tendency, or rather the entertainment business’ tendency, to remake proven successes is itself simply one example of all big business’ attitude toward the consumer. If a business acts on a history, real or perceived, of consumers not rewarding new initiatives but rather gravitating to the familiar, could it not be considered vengeful to repackage old commodities and sell them as new? How different is big business from a parent trying to feed their children steak but finally, exasperatingly throwing their hands up in the air and instead heating up another batch of chicken nuggets, this time with BBQ sauce instead of ketchup?

And, of course, our decentralized economic policies of the past twenty years and unchecked consolidation of industry has a lot in common with the dangers of the Wild West as it’s depicted in popular film. Or, as you put it, an “untamed society.”

KENT: Well put. I think.


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