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Half-Remembered Homage

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Beaks: Did you watch any films in preparation for Pacific Rim?
Guillermo del Toro: You know, I didn't on this one. I thought my preparation for this movie was having watched those movies as a kid and a young adult and as an adult. I carried them, and I decided against watching them. I said, "If I start watching them, it's going to block something." So I told everyone on the design team, "Let's not communicate through homages. Let's try to communicate in the language as if we were doing it for the first time." And then I would say, "Let's do a classic kaiju move like lifting the guy in the air," because I knew it was there. We were of course influenced by Patlabor, Tetsujin 28, Voltron, Space Giants, and Ultraman, but we didn't consult them like a Bible.

When making a tribute to a genre or a specific work, most creators consider it very important to do plenty of research about the object of the tribute. But not these creators. Maybe they're afraid that knowing too much about the original will hurt their own creativity, and cause their work to be a soulless copy. Maybe they're conducting a stylistic experiment, and they want their derivative to be wildly different from its inspiration.

Whatever the reason, some creators will deliberately abstain from researching their inspiration, choosing instead to work off Pop-Cultural Osmosis—or their own memories of that time they watched the movie, ten years ago, in a run-down theater with such a bad sound system that half the dialogue was inaudible. Or if they do research the topic, it will be from second-, third-, or fourth-hand sources: why watch the movie if you can just read the movie critics' reviews of it? Or even better, the user reviews on Amazon?

The finished work may only have a Broad Strokes resemblance to its inspiration, but it can still be interesting in its own right. Or at least be a notorious Dancing Bear. If it does succeed as a tribute to its source, it will probably be a pastiche rather than a parody.

Not to be confused with Very Loosely Based on a True Story, where a story that claims to be accurate winds up with fabrications anyway—in a Half-Remembered Homage, the creators will be upfront about deviations from the source. Compare and contrast with Shallow Parody: mocking a specific work without being familiar with it is generally not recommended.


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    Film - Animated 
  • When making The Jungle Book, Walt Disney told his entire staff not to read the original Kipling stories at all. The film was said to be "Inspired by…" rather than "based on" Kipling's works. An earlier script had tried to be a faithful adaptation, and Disney promptly rejected it for being too dark for family viewing.

    Film - Live Action 
  • O Brother, Where Art Thou? is loosely based on The Odyssey, yet The Coen Brothers admitted to having never read it, instead basing the script on adaptations they read or saw as kids, particularly the 1954 movie version starring Kirk Douglas.
  • Pacific Rim. Guillermo del Toro noted in an interview with Ain't It Cool News that, while preparing for the film, he made a point of not rewatching the kaiju and giant robot films that influenced him, and he told his design team to likewise abstain. Del Toro wanted his pastiche to have subconscious homages to the movies he loved, rather than deliberate copying from them.
  • The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans is a re-imagining of Bad Lieutenant, but director Werner Herzog claims to have never seen the original.
  • Terry Gilliam said in his autobiography that whenever his movies are inspired by classics (e.g. The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, The Man Who Killed Don Quixote), he prefers to work from cultural osmosis and vague memories, and only read the thing after the movie's finished. Likewise Brazil, a Spiritual Adaptation of Nineteen Eighty-Four which Gilliam was upfront about not having read and only knew of via Popcultural Osmosis. On the other hand, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is a legendarily close adaptation of the novel (almost word-for-word).
  • Christopher Nolan has acknowledged that Tenet was his take on a James Bond film... and that he purposefully abstained from watching any Bond films while working on it, so he could focus on recreating his memories of those movies rather than getting bogged down in real details.
    Christopher Nolan: So the influence of Bond on this is colossal, but I didn't watch any. In fact, I probably went the longest period of my life not watching a Bond film ever because it's not the real Bond film; it's your memory of it that's important and what it could be. (As quoted in Tom Shone's The Nolan Variations: The Movies, Mysteries, and Marvels of Christopher Nolan, 2021)

  • Despite being one of the only characters mentioned in all three parts of The Divine Comedy, Ulysses is based entirely on the brief allusions to him in the work of Virgil without The Odyssey as a reference.note  In fact, Dante had never read The Odyssey in his whole life because that work was lost to Europe until a century after the Comedy was written.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Doctor Who:
    • A lot of things that were never really in Doctor Who somehow began to appear as Internal Homages in later stories, under the mistaken idea they'd always been there — especially in the Sixth Doctor era, where stories were heavily influenced by a fandom that had watched the old stuff once, twenty years ago, and then in many cases could literally never rewatch it because of all the Missing Episodes. "Attack of the Cybermen" was an attempt at writing an homage to a Second Doctor Cyberman story, but it's absolutely nothing like a Second Doctor Cyberman story in terms of plot structure or tone. Similarly, the idea that Doctor Who assistants are always Screaming Woman Damsel Scrappy characters led to Mel, who was played up as if she were a 'retro' companion despite no character like her ever being in the show before. The majority of the Doctor's companions had been brave and resourceful women, who may occasionally have screamed when confronted with something truly terrifying.
    • Russell T. Davies's idea for Series 1 was that it should be like you remember Doctor Who being. This included exaggerating things that weren't really that noticeable in the original series, like turning the Daleks from an evil and destructive, but ultimately surmountable, species into the vilest creatures in the entire universe that absolutely do not stop until everything is dead, capable of challenging the Time Lords themselves, to match how they'd felt to the audience as children, and upgrading the Doctor's usual lack of carrying a gun to an anti-gun moral code (the Fifth Doctor did in fact use a gun - a regular one, with bullets, not even a raygun - to shoot an unhoused Dalek dead in one serial, and no one thought it was odd).
  • Quantum Leap (2022) showrunner Dean Georgaris told The Quantum Leap Podcast that he had watched every episode of the original Quantum Leap some time ago, but made the conscious decision to avoid rewatching it when it was time to make the sequel series so that it wouldn't influence its direction. This definitely shows: while there are a few characters from the original, and the central concept of Set Right What Once Went Wrong is still in place, the rules and lore of leaping are completely different, even though the show is a continuation and not a remake. Most notably, Ben simply takes over the bodies of the people he leaps into instead of switching places with them like Sam did in the original series, so there is no Waiting Room at Project Quantum Leap for the leapees to wait in, and Ziggy is just a computer program (and an "it") without a mind, voice and diva-like personality of her own like she had in the original (where she was a "she"). And the changes are not explained or mentioned. There is also an ongoing Story Arc involving what's going on back home at the Project itself, whereas the original was an anthology with very few connected stories.

  • "The Overload" by Talking Heads, the final track from Remain in Light, was a tribute to Joy Division, based entirely on reviews from the music press. It wound up a remarkably good Pastiche of Joy Division's gloomier material. (And, reportedly, the Heads were a bit disappointed when they finally listened to Joy Division for real.)
  • Havalina Rail Co.'s album Russian Lullabies (or at least, the songs Matt Wignall wrote for the album) was inspired by reading about Russian folk music, and purposely not listening to any.
  • Dirty Projectors' album Rise Above was a Cover Album of most of Black Flag's Damaged. Band leader Dave Longstreth hadn't heard Damaged in 15 years and purposely didn't revisit it, so most of his versions were very different from the originals.
  • The press release for Delicate Steve's debut album Wonderfalls. The record label asked Chuck Klosterman to write a biography and won him over by promising that he didn't need to listen to the album or talk to the band at all. Chuck leaped at the opportunity and wrote a nonsensical parody of the hagiographies that normally pass for band biographies.
  • In one interview, Neil Innes said that the most important part of writing the music for The Rutles was not going back and listening to any of The Beatles, instead going by what he remembered sixties music being like. And it still ended up being close enough that ATV Music claimed copyright infringement and got a 50% share.
  • The Flaming Lips' song "Take Meta Mars" (from In a Priest Driven Ambulance) is their attempt to cover Can's "Mushroom" (from Tago Mago) — when they didn't have a copy of the original song and had only listened to it once.
  • When Built to Spill side project Boise Cover Band covered "Back On The Chain Gang" by The Pretenders, they purposely did so by memory only - since they covered it as an instrumental, this included not looking up the lyrics.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • Calvin and Hobbes has a few story arcs where Calvin imagines himself as a Hardboiled Detective named Tracer Bullet, going through stock film noir plots. In the 10th Anniversary retrospective book, author Bill Watterson admitted he hadn't seen any noir films or read any hardboiled crime fiction. He was basically just riffing on genre tropes he'd picked up from seeing other noir parodies.

  • Man of La Mancha's writer, Dale Wassermann, boasted that he had never actually read Don Quixote cover-to-cover; he was much more interested in using the archetypal elements, including Cervantes himself, to talk about the Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism. The inevitable result is that a lot of the show, including the whole characterization of Don Quixote as an idealistic hero, relies more heavily on Pop-Cultural Osmosis than on anything coming directly from the book.
  • David Henry Hwang got his inspiration for M. Butterfly from a news story he heard on the radio. But he wanted his play to be an original creation rather than a Ripped from the Headlines piece, so he changed the names of all the characters and purposefully didn't do any more research into the news story. Ironically enough, there were still similarities between the two.

    Video Games 
  • Toby Fox has cited Moon: Remix RPG Adventure as an important inspiration for his game Undertale. However, Fox has also said he had never played Moon Remix himself, and his knowledge of the game mainly consisted of hearing about how in the game you do not progress and grow stronger from killing monsters or otherwise through acts of violence, but by helping others. This gave Fox the idea for a game which actively accommodates not killing anyone.

  • Flthulhu from Problem Sleuth and the Horrorterrors from Homestuck bear an obvious resemblance to the monsters from the Cthulhu Mythos, but Andrew Hussie has said he was primarily riffing on the Mythos' popularity in geek culture. So he used Popcultural Osmosis as his only source on the topic and never read a word of H. P. Lovecraft.

    Web Video