Busby Berkeley Dreams

First, Erika got me L'Absente by Yann Tiersen for Valentine's Day. Talk about a good valentine. What a woman.

Now, here's what I've been wondering. At what point does homage become plagiarism? Here's what got the juices flowing. In a recent episode of Scrubs, Mandy Moore guest starred as JD's girlfriend who doesn't laugh at anything, but says "That's so funny" to everything. Clearly, this is taken from "The Switch" episode of Seinfeld when Jerry's girlfriend doesn't laugh at anything but says "That's funny" all the time. At first I was kind of annoyed because I like Scrubs. I don't like them to steal stuff. But is this homage to Seinfeld? In season 2 of Scrubs there is a JD vision of JD being Jerry on stage with the Seinfeld music playing. But I think this is different. In the prior instance, it is not a subtle nod to another show. It is the exact same idea.

Of course everything is borrowed in any creative endeavor, but there is a difference between giving respect to the people who influenced you and ripping them off. Things are easier in school here, because of footnotes and so forth. Here's an example of appropriate homage...Even the most casual listen to The Early November leads one to notice the influence of early Get Up Kids on the band. Thus, in Baby Blue, they give respect by quoting No Love. What's the difference? I'm not sure. That's the question I'm asking.

In film, some techniques and story-telling devices are borrowed from other film-makers (i.e. everything French New Wave directors ever did is used by others), but many times this can be attributed to the development of the craft. For example, a filmaker could give their respects to Fellini and Godard by making a fictional film about filmaking based on their experiences in the business. Or this hypothetical film includes a writer making a script based on Ulisses or a director dancing through the hallways of a hotel to avoid/deal with all the people bothering him. Perhaps any of this would be plagiarism. Perhaps none of it would be.

All this is to say that I want to know if there is a set of universal criteria in determining the distinction between homage and plagiarism. Tell me.

1 comment:

Trevor said...

Here's the skinny. It is Pelagianism if a person starts keeping tally marks on the number of tracts they pass out.

And I think homage is the stuff you get at a greek restaurant made out of chick peas and crap.

Hope that helps.