‘You are unique…just like everybody else.’
This simple statement is a pretty common oxymoron. While it is still true that there are no two people who are 100% identically the same, the fact that we are all different is one of the main things humanity has in common. So is there such a thing anymore as originality? No matter what we wear, how we act or what we create, there is a high chance that there is someone else out there in the world who is doing the exact same thing. But that doesn’t mean it’s all doom and gloom…
Is originality even a thing?
Everyone is shaped by their experiences: Everything that we come into contact with over our lives shapes us into the person and the personality that we become. Due to this, inspiration is everywhere and we may even be influenced by things that we aren’t even aware we have noticed. A newspaper article from 10 years ago could be the reason you want to draw pictures, in the same way that a loud car stereo blasting 80s pop driving past you may make you want to start writing. It could be near impossible to pinpoint the exact reasons why we are all the way we are, but it doesn’t stop the fact that we have all been influenced by something else, which was no doubt influenced by something before it and so on and so forth.
Fightclub breaking all the walls
So it possible to still be original? If everything we ever create is nothing more than a step up from something we have seen, can we even say that it is our own work? From a legal standpoint, intellectual property has guides in place to ensure that no work has been intentionally copied: As long as you can prove that you created a piece of work through your own thought processes and own design plans, chances are you’re going to be fine (obviously it’s a bit more succinct than this, but I don’t think I have the time to explain it all!). But on a more philosophical level, is it possible for any of us to claim that our brand new identity or our way of dress is an original one?
Everyone knows the old troupe: In high school you have those who follow the norms of society, and then you have the odd little groups of people who do not.
Mean Girls showcased this perfectly…
From the sociological aspect, all of these little groups within society are known as ‘subcultures’ where everyone within that subculture shares the same norms and values. However, in today’s society these subcultures can have very blurred cut off points within them. I, for example, would not necessarily fit into one subculture alone: I may be blonde, wear a lot of pink and love pop music, but I also love video games, superheros and reading science fiction novels…I also don’t think I’m a mean enough person to have been one of the Plastics, but I digress. Subcultures by nature always include some form of similarity: members tend to dress the same, talk the same and even believe the same things. Key examples of this are the 1980s Punk, the 2000s Goth and even now the emergence of the Seapunk. They all look the same as each other, but at least they’re not mainstream. In some ways, subcultures go against originality as the entire practice seems to try and place members of society into boxes. Is this why originality is so hard to come across? The use of labels?
So what does this mean?
Today’s society is a massively innovative one with common social norms being challenged everyday from every aspect of itself. Young people are leading the gender revolution, wanting to do away with normal sexuality labels and gender stereotypes and instead move to an inclusive and free state of simply just existing: love who you love, be whatever gender you decide, believe whatever it is you wish to believe…but know that you will be accepted purely on who you are rather than how you have been socialised and labelled. For some people, especially those in a creative setting, this can be a whole new challenge, as trying to be memorable in a world where everything merges together is not an easy task. but perhaps this is where we fail.
Just because something has done before does not mean that it is not original or innovative. it is common knowledge that anyone can copy something: If i can’t draw, I’ll just trace a picture, if I can’t write songs, I’ll just mash a load together. Originality comes from the little bits of you that you add to it to make it better: Five Night’s at Freddy’s fans are another key example of this as while the games they make are not, by nature, original content, the stories they create, the character interactions they add and the overall game play of said games are enough to make the new games original enough to improve and add to the existing base. Everything may not be original, but if something is added to the original to progress the entire idea forward, then that alone should be enough to be original.
“Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it.”
– C.S Lewis