…everything is derivative! I wanna know why?!
Allergy to Originality is a clever and satirical commentary on the concept of originality and criticality in the age of instant knowledge.
The film quickly begins with a movie theater ticket booth attendant rattling off a rapid fire description of the concept of artistic plagiarism as the cultural appropriation of existing elements. Plagiarism ultimately deals with determining ownership and when ownership is shown to be a fuzzy concept, plagiarism gets fuzzy too. In fact, the teenage attendant mentions the lack of precise and rigorous distinction between … acts of artistic plagiarism. The account is hilariously revealed to itself be a plagiarism of the a subsection of the Wikipedia page for … plagiarism.
This device is recycled several times in the video, first to describe plagiarism, then originality, selling out, and editing. Echoing the sense of repetition that is so common in the arts. At one point the moviegoer asks, “What are you, some sort of wikipedia reading robot?”, alluding to a broader question in the age of instantaneous access to information “Are we all becoming Wikipedia reading robots?”. And if we are, “What’s wrong with that?”.
Amongst my peers, there is a tendency to immediately google every unknown; directions to the store, the name of that movie I saw last week, Steve Gutenberg’s filmography, etc . Relying on that instantaneous access to infinite information comes with a risk of not taking the time to effectively assess and process that information, resulting in a diminished ability to think critically. This risk is illustrated in the short when the movie goer responds to MIB3 being sold out by recounting the Wikipedia definition of selling out in the wrong context. This happens again when the teenage attendant lists off the Wiki entry for Edit, followed by the moviegoers reading of Edith, this goes on ad infinitum as the credits roll. Even the music at the end credits alludes to this robotic quality with its sci-fi throwback aesthetic.
While plagiarism may be the MO in arts, content alone does not comprise originality. In fact, on the wikipedia page for plagiarism, under Praisings of Artistic Plagiarism there is a quote that illustrates the difference between simple plagiarism and novel plagiarism (originality):
Sterne’s Writings, in which it is clearly shewn, that he, whose manner and style were so long thought original, was, in fact, the most unhesitating plagiarist who ever cribbed from his predecessors in order to garnish his own pages. It must be owned, at the same time, that Sterne selects the materials of his mosaic work with so much art, places them so well, and polishes them so highly, that in most cases we are disposed to pardon the want of originality, in consideration of the exquisite talent with which the borrowed materials are wrought up into the new form.
The quote demonstrates that intellectual criticality and artistic rigor do not come prepackaged with access to an abundance of information. Composition matters. The brilliance of Drew Christie’s piece lies in the structure and composition of the elements of his story, something that undoubtedly takes rigor. He thoughtfully repurposes a lifetime’s experience of formal and informal learning into a well crafted opinion piece. Originality exists in the individual sense in that each person’s unique experience through life gives them the opportunity to see through a different lens. Additionally, history is just as subjective as memory can be; my repurpose will undoubtedly be different from your repurpose. Originality is not simply about whether you have the content, its about how you use it.