People are always lamenting how “Hollywood is just re-making old stuff over and over,” which is true to some extent. I think it was 2012 where a friend told me every single movie released that year except for 2 were re-boots or re-hashes of something earlier. Indeed, there are theories that there are only 3-4 basic plots in existence, and all stories are some variation of those plots with different details.
Before we all throw our hands in the air and give up on creating stories, consider the difference in voice. For easy examples, I’ll go to music. One of my favorite examples is “Proud Mary,” originally by Credence Clearwater Revival (aka CCR). Ike & Tina did their own version AND WON A GRAMMY for it. There are a lot of people who like Ike & Tina’s version more. CCR does a good job, but when I hear Tina sing it, I sort of feel like Fogerty wrote Tina’s song. The two versions have similar elements, but are vastly different because of the STYLE of the performers. Does it mean one is “better?” No, it means they’re different, and one version may be more attractive to people who enjoy that particular STYLE.
Consider Soundgarden’s “Rusty Cage.” I love love love old Soundgarden, especially the Badmotorfinger album. “Rusty Cage” is the first song on the album and gets it going with a fast-paced, chaotic guitar riff. Johnny Cash re-did the song with his “constant slow-rollin’ freight train” sound and turned that fast, chaotic riff into a smooth, regular one, and then on top of that his STYLE of singing completely changed the song. I enjoy both equally, because they’re practically not even the same song.
Another of my favorite examples is the ultra-famous song “Respect.” Most people think Aretha Franklin wrote it, but it was Otis Redding’s song before it was hers. Again, I feel like Otis wrote the song for her without knowing it, and Aretha put a spin on it that rocketed the song and her into fame. If you listen to both versions, they’re quite different, probably a large part of that is due to Aretha’s talent to make it DIFFERENT while still keeping it GOOD.
To some extent, STYLE in music is what VOICE is to writers. Thus, if a writer is re-telling a story that’s been done over and over, it’s their duty to make it DIFFERENT enough to call it their own and keep it GOOD like the original. This is usually accomplished by applying one’s own VOICE. Sure, the “man vs. society” archetype has been done millions and millions of times, but it’s one’s own personal touch that makes the story relevant and good.