Better by a Different Name
"I liked [Bleach] better when it was called YuYu Hakusho, and I liked that show better when it was called Dragon Ball Z!"It is common that some work is heavily "inspired" by a previous work—they may have different authors and settings, but there are strong similarities of plot, situations and characters. It is also common that the second work is much inferior to the original, because the original is great or the derivative is awful or both. The Better By A Different Name snarkly expresses this idea. The usual phrasing is "[This work] was better when it was called [other, earlier work]." For Better By A Different Name to be effective, the original work needs to be well-known and admired. The trope is also rare when a work is a blatant Follow the Leader of another. For one thing, the joke is kind of ruined if the predecessor is obvious. For another, not all clone-work is execrable. Causality is also a confounding variable for Better By A Different Name. It may be that both the original and the supposedly "derivative" work were actually inspired by some even earlier common source. Often overlaps with If I Wanted X, I Would Y. A Sub-Trope of They Copied It, So It Sucks, in that this trope is a common way to express that belief. Compare Take That, Recycled In SPACE (which often is a cause of this), Serial Numbers Filed Off (another cause of this unless it's by the same creator), Spiritual Licensee.
— Vegeta, Dragon Ball Z Abridged
In-Universe Examples Only (sorted by source of the comment instead of the subject):Comics
- During the period where Incredible Hulk was intelligent, he once refused to wear a cap with a fin on it, since he didn't want people to say "it's just Hulk with a fin on his head" — a criticism previously leveled against Savage Dragon.
- Scott Kurtz once joked that his favorite stories in Atomic Robo were the issues done by Mike Mignola.
- In a 1989 issue of MAD Magazine, during the spoof 21 Junkheap, the cast of The Mod Squad makes a cameo pointing out that about 15 years ago, we did "just like these shmendricks are doing".
- In one Doctor Who Magazine "The Comic Assassins" strip by Steve Noble and Kev F. Sutherland, they watch "The Curse of Fenric" and have the following conversation.
Steve: Hang on. An old war ... a brigadier ... We're not watching "Battlefield" by mistake, are we?Kev: Can't be. In "Battlefield" a stupid blue-faced monster appeared for no apparent reason and...Ancient Haemovore (on screen) Hello, I am a stupid blue-faced monster.Kev: Oh, lordy...
- That Is All has a semi-complimentary variant. John Hodgman writes that he was able to accomplish his goal of getting The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. back on the air (a goal he had stated in his previous book, More Information Than You Require), except he had nothing to do with it and the show is now called Burn Notice.
- This was one of David Spade's trademark bits on Saturday Night Live. In his last season it got turned around on him, when host Teri Hatcher told him she liked his then-current movie Black Sheep (1996) better when it was called Tommy Boy.
- And there's this (slightly Hilarious in Hindsight):
- The proof that The Walking Dead and Toy Story are the same story.
- Lots of people liked Lady Gaga's "Born This Way" when it was Madonna's "Express Yourself." The Material Girl herself called it reductive
- Mitch Benn liked Russia's 2008 entry for the Eurovision Song Contest better when it was by Cat Stevens and called Wild World.
- Voltaire's song "U.S.S. Make Shit Up":
- "He has a woman's name and wears makeup. How original."
- A magazine gave a breakdown of the Summer Blockbusters of 1997. They discuss how Hercules did only moderately well compared to other recent works of the Disney Animated Canon, and they surmised people thought it was done better when it was called Aladdin.
- Roger Ebert: "All bad movies have good twins, and the good version of Goodbye, Lover is The Hot Spot... a thriller that was equally lurid but less hyperkinetic."
- A diversion in an online SFX article, giving the cases for and against Armageddon.
Case for the defence: The science in Armageddon is no more wacky than it is in something like Fantastic Voyage and – let’s face it – considerably more sensible than the science presented in Source Code.
Case for the prosecution: Hey, I liked Source Code!
Case for the defence: I liked it better 20 years ago when it was called Quantum Leap.
Case for the prosecution: Touché.
- Given Aliens draws a lot from Starship Troopers, James Cameron said that once he knew of Paul Verhoeven's plans he thought: "Why are they making a Starship Troopers film? I already did it!".
- Used in this video of Dragon Ball Z Abridged.
Nappa: I'd rather watch Naruto, Vegeta.
Vegeta: Oh, please! If I wanted to watch over a hundred episodes of Filler, I'd watch Inuyasha.
Nappa: What about Bleach, Vegeta? It's like us, with swords!
Vegeta: I liked that show better when it was called YuYu Hakusho, and I liked THAT show better when it was called DRAGON BALL Z!
- In this review, Love Hina is said to have been better when it was called Maison Ikkoku.
- A Zero Punctuation review for Painkiller says that it's often called the Unofficial Doom 3 "since the actual Doom 3 tripped over something in the dark, banged its head, and forgot it wasn't System Shock".
"So all in all you could swap out the disc for God of War 2 while the player pops out for a piss and there's a good chance they won't notice. That is, until they realize that the game has suddenly become good."
- He also noted that BioShock was "not 'like' System Shock 2, it IS System Shock 2", though he didn't make a quality judgement either way.
- He does it again in his review for Dante's Inferno:
- Rotten Tomatoes' consensus on Duplex: "It was funnier when it was called Throw Momma from the Train."
- The Nostalgia Chick does this a lot:
- She notes that Spice World is a movie with at half the ambition of A Hard Days Night, a quarter of the budget and at least two percent of the talent.
- On The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea, which she notes is a total rehash of the first movie: "I'm no fan of the original, but I hate to say it, I liked this better when it was called The Little Mermaid. (Beat) And it was about a mermaid."
- Inverted in her review of The Craft. She called Mean Girls an unofficial remake of that film, only Played for Laughs, without the witchcraft, and a much better film for it.
- "The thing is, they already made this movie successfully. It was called Wall E."
- "I liked this movie a lot more he first time they made it, when it starred Bill Murray. And was called Groundhog Day." She then goes on to describe how both use Magical Realism to create similar plot and character arcs, except that What Women Want is a lot more shallow and forced.
- In Vampire Reviews, Maven says that the Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie is basically Clueless with monsters, but that the latter at least makes most of its characters likable.
- Moviebob, a week after reviewing Jennifer's Body (in the appendix to his review of Surrogates), compared said film to Ginger Snaps, which he called the good version of that movie.
- In Kaiba's Real Father - Conclusion on Yu-Gi-Oh! The Abridged Series
Kaiba: Was that a Dragon Ball Z cameo? Geez, knowing my luck, my father's going to turn out to be Ghost Nappa. That's pretty much how these things usually go.
Mokuba: Aaaahh, but you gotta admit, Seto, Nappa sure is funny!
Kaiba: Yeah, I liked him better when he was called "Tristan".
- A couple times in Cracked:
- The Jabootu review of Sphere draws the broad strokes of the film's Cliché Storm:
I was in fact entertained by the first part of Sphere the first time I saw it (when it was called either The Abyss or Alien), and I was quite highly entertained by the second half the first time I saw that (when it was called Forbidden Planet and starred Walter Pigeon). I have to take it as a given that I would have enjoyed the last five minutes of Sphere along with everyone else who saw it the first time, when it was called Prince Of Tides, but I missed that one.
- The Nostalgia Critic stated in his review of Barb Wire that he liked it better when it was called Casablanca.
- When Sage tells him that there are plans for a life-action adaptation of Star Chaser, the Critic screams they already made it, it was called Star Wars.
- As an intro to his Man of Steel review, Superman (as played by Rob Scallon) sings about the events of that movie, while Batman (Doug himself) keeps pointing out that all of it applies to The Dark Knight Saga too.
- Inverted in his review of Osmosis Jones, which he felt was done much better years later by Pixar as Inside Out.
- Film Brain's assessment of Vampires Suck: " I won't be doing a proper review of Vampires Suck - I did that already when it was called Epic Movie and nothing has changed".
- Midnight Screenings will occasionally do this for some movies, usually playing it straight for bad ones.
- The Platypus Comix article "Braver" makes the Adventures of the Gummi Bears episode "Girl's Knight Out" seem like a proto-Brave, albeit with a more courageous and rational Tomboy Princess in the form of Princess Calla.
- Pantsman of VG Cats does this twice in his rant about InuYasha, first saying he liked it better when it was called Fushigi Yuugi and later calling it "Dragon Ball Z for girls".
- An early episode of The Simpsons features Bart and Homer watching an episode of Disney's Dinosaurs, with Bart commenting: "It's like they took our lives and put them right up there on the screen!"