Student Scholar Symposium Abstracts and Posters

Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 5-1-2024

Faculty Advisor(s)

Dr. Ian Barnard


A common phrase heard about mainstream modern American films is “Hollywood is running out of original ideas” or “They don’t make films like they used to.” With subscription-based movie streaming services and a bombardment of fast-paced, big-budget, CGI blockbuster remakes and superhero franchise movies, it becomes apparent that mainstream modern films have substituted thoughtful storytelling with eye-popping visual appeal. These films also caused fatigue among audience members who feel overloaded with flashy cinematography that tries too hard to create something “authentic, original, and new” without repurposing and transforming previously used story elements into new perspectives and cross-disciplinary ideas. This paper questions the obsession over “authenticity” and “originality” in 21st-century American films. This obsession is tied to five Western cultural values: individuality, strong work ethic, ownership, reputation, and societal contribution. The problem is not that films “recycle the same ideas” but the inability to combine and transform the same ideas into new perspectives and interpretations. Incorporating evidence of plagiarism/inspiration through analyzing multiple popular mainstream and indie films, their influences, film industry professional interviews, and academic discourse, this study emphasizes the creativity and acclaim of popular films made possible by “plagiarizing” prior works. Some films included are indie films, such as The Plagiarists and Prelude to Axanar, and mainstream films, such as Star Wars Episode IV - A New Hope and Episode VII - The Force Awakens. It argues for a new perspective on originality that liberates the creative process and focuses on familiarity, theme, message, and purpose.


Presented at the Spring 2024 Student Scholar Symposium at Chapman University.