Cliché stories hold value, too

By Elisabeth George | Contributor

The stories we write and pass on tell us much more about ourselves than the characters we bring to life. As Neil Gaiman paraphrased from G.K. Chesterton, “Fairy tales are more than true — not because they tell us dragons exist, but because they tell us dragons can be beaten.”

When I was 8 years old, I wrote a story about a family of Dalmatian puppies and their mother. It wasn’t a particularly great story, but after watching all four of Disney’s “101 Dalmatians” movies, I had been inspired. I would also run around with my friends during recess, and we would create our own “Kim Possible” episodes and act them out. Disney has been a part of my life since I was little, and I know it will be something I pass on to my kids as well.

There’s a rumor that Walt Disney mandated in his will that the Disney classics were to be remade every ten years for the next generation. This rumor began circulating in November 2018 and would explain the number of remakes inundating movie theaters in the past couple years. However, the rumor is false.

According to, that sort of request would have been strange from Disney, “who greatly favored continual innovation over retreading the same entertainment ground.” And furthermore, “Walt did not own Walt Disney Productions at the time of his death (He was a 14% shareholder).”

Although the rumor was false, I believe seeing remakes in this light benefits everyone. There is something to be said for innovation and creativity. They are an important part of expression and the human experience, but classic stories are classics for a reason.

Joseph Campbell’s most recognized work “A Hero with a Thousand Faces” argues for the monomyth. The American author’s theory is that all narratives are simply multiple variations of the same story. If you follow this logic, every story ever written is a remake.

I don’t completely agree with Campbell that every story is derivative, but I do believe that there are stories that resonate with us and that we like to tell and retell. These are the stories that are based in humanity’s deepest desires, fears and inspirations and should not be belittled.

In 2019 “Avengers: Endgame,” “Dumbo,” “Aladdin,” “The Lion King,” “Toy Story 4,” “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker,” “Frozen 2” and so many more movies will be premiering by the end of the year. Each of these is a sequel, part of a series or a remake.

What all these stories have in common is resilient characters who overcome obstacles and are victorious in the face of adversity. I do believe creativity, innovation and new stories are important. However, I also believe we shouldn’t discount the cliché. If we take a minute to set aside our biases and look again at why these stories have been overly told, and what messages we continuously tell ourselves and our children, we can better understand ourselves and what drives us.

We may be able to anticipate plot twists and the story line may be predictable, but stories are not only told for their entertainment value. Stories teach us how to get back up when we’re knocked down. They teach us how to hope. The “monomyth” I see in all stories is that they explore what makes us human and remind us that the dragons can be defeated.

Elisabeth is a junior journalism major from New Braunfels.