That's all dubious enough for an entire blog, if not an entire New York Times editorial, but that's not the quandary I mean to pose with my question about who Spider-Man belongs to. What I mean is, once you create something like Spider-Man and release it to the world, and it's powerful enough that it lodges in the cultural consciousness, to what extent does it become the conceptual property of everyone?
Taymor and her co-writer Glen Berger have used a great deal of narrative shorthand in re-telling Spider-Man's origin, relying on the fact that the audience already knows the ins and outs of the mythology. At the same time, they have infused the story with their own mythology, even as they dispense with aspects of the character that are central in other depictions. Certainly it's a tribute to the power of a particular art that it can be effectively interpreted in a number of ways, that so many different worthwhile themes can be taken from it, while it still maintains its essential thrust. But to what extent does such a widely reinterpreted idea still "belong" to the guy or guys who originally had it? With universes like those built in Star Wars and Star Trek, which are subject to such a huge amount of fan "ownership," when does the original artist (as people like Stan Lee and George Lucas seem to have done) throw up his or her hands, say "go ahead, take the idea for a spin, see what you can do with it" and just let it go?
When something that sprang from your own mind undergoes such large scale re-shaping, does it always rankle a little bit or is widespread cultural acceptance the highest possible achievement for an idea? That's what I've been wondering.
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