5 Movies Where The Heroes & Villains Would Be Reversed Today
The world is rapidly changing, and as a result, many things we took for granted are falling by the wayside -- some entire industries, an iceberg or ten, your favorite movie premises, etc. Admittedly, "classic film storylines becoming obsolete" isn't a problem on the same level as "our grandkids will need protective goggles to go outside." But someone has to tackle this issue, dammit.
Meg Ryan's Indie Bookstore In You've Got Mail Would Be In WAY Better Shape Than Tom Hanks' Megastore
In the prototypical romcom You've Got Mail, Meg Ryan plays the owner of an adorable little bookstore that's literally called "The Shop Around the Corner."
Trouble ensues, however, when the giant chain Fox & Sons Books opens a rival location on the Upper West Side, threatening her business. Eventually, the obvious Barnes & Noble / Borders analogue pushes the little store into bankruptcy, costing the lovable employees their jobs. It's a pretty standard conflict of a mom-and-pop shop getting bullied out of town by a big corporation. Oh, there's also some stuff about Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks sexting each other via AOL Messenger or something, but it was clearly the corporate intrigue that put all those asses in seats.
But Now ...
Today, the movie would be about the big store's employees begging for work at the little indie shop, or one like it. Or anywhere, really.
Indie bookstores are doing extremely well right now, showing steady growth over the past decade even as retail trends keep looking grimmer and grimmer. Brick-and-mortar retailers in general are in decline, but brick-mortar-and-paper? Seven straight years of growth. Meanwhile, Borders completely shut down operations in 2011, as did their subsidiary for bored mall-goers, Waldenbooks. Of the big chains of old, only Barnes & Noble is still hanging in there, not taking the hint. Even as physical books have pulled a vinyl and made a comeback, B&N's sales continue to struggle. People love books almost as much as they hate going to Barnes & Noble.
When you think about it, this reversal of fortune makes total sense. Megastores were all about convenience, huge selections, and low prices, but the internet kicked their asses on every single one of those areas. Big bookstores are empty experiences -- unlike indie stores, where you can get access to special events, personalized attention, and the occasional contact high.
So basically, if You've Got Mail were made today, Meg Ryan's vibrant store of regulars would be enjoying modest but steady success, while Tom Hanks would be purging employees left and right as his bloated warehouse-style business got crushed by Amazon.
All the email stuff would be exactly the same, though.
Rent's Ridiculously Generous "Villain" Wants To Give His Friends A Free Million-Dollar Apartment And Open A Cool Studio
The de facto villain in the stage musical Rent and it's subsequent movie adaptation is Benny, a landlord who used to be roommates with the main characters, but has since become 1) stupid rich and 2) a dick. Now he plans to renovate their building -- which they spend an entire opening monologue ripping on for being dilapidated -- into a state-of-the-art multimedia studio with condos on the top. At one point, Benny offers to let his ex-friends stay in their condo for free (as well as foregoing the past year's rent) if they cancel a devastating protest wherein one character makes a bunch of homeless people moo. They say no, obviously.
Benny's vision is the symbolic obliteration of the characters' bohemian lifestyle, and taking him up on his offer would represent the their ultimate soul-selling.
But Now ...
Oh yeah, did we mention this building happens to be in Manhattan's East Village, which has been ridiculously gentrified by now? The musical debuted in 1993, but by the time the movie came out in 2005, Mark and Roger's apartment -- a massive loft space at Avenue B and 11th St., an incredibly prime location -- wasn't exactly "slumming it."
The film still took place in the early '90s, but if you're watching it in 2005 or later, it's tough not to at least kinda see Benny's side of things. The neighborhood's gonna get de-bohemian-ized very soon anyway, and Benny is willing to let them stay RENT-FREE in a fully renovated top-floor condo most would kill for. Just since the early 2000s, median property values in the East Village have risen from about $250k per place to around $1.5 million. Sinister, bohemia-destroying Benny plans to eat $50,000-$80,000 a year in lost rent (on top of paying a mortgage AND property tax) for a multi-million-dollar apartment, all so he can help his two slacker friends out.
Also, Benny's devious, anti-artistic plan is to open a multimedia studio where creatives can "do their work and get paid." This might've seemed like a sterile, gentrification-friendly move at the time, but nowadays, it'd be a WAY more interesting and progressive use for the space than throwing in another TD Bank or CVS. He wants people like Mark and Roger to continue pursuing their artistic passions, in a nicer space, and to help them earn a living doing it. That motherfucker.
If Rent happened today, Benny would be an insanely generous hero who's swallowing a six-figure loss to help out his friends while making the East Village more hip and artistic. When is his Wicked-style alternate story coming out?
The Characters In UHF Could Sell Their Station For Hundreds Of Millions Of Dollars And Be Fine
The movie UHF kicks off when Weird Al Yankovic's uncle wins the deed to a local ultra-high frequency (or, you know, "UHF") TV station in a poker game. Weird Al takes the almost-bankrupt station over, and against all odds, he and a pre-racist-outburst Michael Richards turn the joint around with some imaginative programming. No, it's not porn.
But! When Weird Al's uncle falls into a $75,000 gambling debt, it puts the station in jeopardy of being sold to an evil rival TV owner. In the end, the town rallies, holds a fundraiser, and raises the money just in time. Phew, close call!
But Now ...
That station would be worth -- no shit -- over $100 million today.
In 2017, wireless carriers bid $20 billion to buy out the spectrum used by 175 holdout UHF stations, coming out to about $111 million per station. Only 12 went off the air, too -- the rest simply shifted to lower or shared frequencies, and presumably started doing new shows about how to maintain your yacht or the best types of caviar. Merely for taking up space, these stations made bank. They didn't even need runaway-hit shows about firehose drinking. So yeah, a $75,000 debt (even adjusted for inflation) could be covered with the contents of their limousine's coin holder.
Now, even though UHF isn't exactly a gritty documentary about the late-'80s media landscape, a character does accurately mention that it's illegal for someone to own two stations in the same town. Or at least, that's how it was back then. In 1996, the Telecommunications Act made it legal for companies to own multiple channels in the same geographical location -- meaning that today, any number of national megacorporations would be free to bid on the station, causing its value to skyrocket.
If UHF happened now, they'd be facing no problems whatsoever -- the second they won the station in the poker game, they'd be imminent millionaires. And even if they did somehow incur a ten-figure gambling debt, they'd have numerous non-evil media moguls to sell to. Or, well, ones with less cartoony laughs, anyway. Probably.
The Rise Of For-Profit Colleges Turns Accepted Into The Wolf Of Wall Street
In Accepted, Justin Long and his friends create their own fake college to trick their parents after not being accepted into any real ones. Soon, the fake college fills up with hundreds of other rejected students, and they all start making up their own fun, goofy courses on whatever the hell they want. At the end of the film, they become an accredited institution after arguing that the current system is too rigid, and that their incredibly lax method of education is in fact an improvement. Because that's how education reform works.
But Now ...
You know what else promised a degree to people who didn't deserve one, who didn't do enough to warrant one, and who didn't feel that the current, rigid style of education fit their lifestyle? All those predatory for-profit colleges which are being sued and investigated as their degrees have proved worthless. Yes, shockingly, it turns out that colleges anyone can get into and which don't teach you anything aren't hugely respected in the working world.
You could still make the movie today, but it wouldn't be a lighthearted comedy about a kid helping out some like-minded buddies. It would have to be a dark film about young con artist preying on desperate, mostly poor people by exploiting their hopes and dreams. Something like Boiler Room or The Wolf Of Wall Street (so at least Jonah Hill can stay).
And remember the douchey frat boy who keeps trying to shut this whole Trump University operation right down? He'd be totally in the right. Hell, they'd probably put him in charge of the whole Department of Education at the end of the movie.
The Subprime Mortgage Crisis Makes It's A Wonderful Life's Mr. Potter A Prudent Businessman
A huge element of It's A Wonderful Life is that Mr. Potter, the villainous bank owner, refuses to give loans to anyone who can't definitively prove they can afford them. Meanwhile, kindhearted protagonist George Bailey is willing to help members of his community by giving them loans they may struggle to repay so that they can live in a nice neighborhood rather than Potter's slums. After all, what's the worst that could happen?
But Now ...
How about a subprime mortgage crisis which destroys millions of jobs and leads to a devastating recession? Had the movie taken place about 60 years later, George Bailey would have ended up being bailed out by the government.
The crisis was caused by banks preying on homeowners, giving big-ass loans for big-ass homes to people who might not be able pay them back, trusting it would eventually pay off. They wouldn't, and it wouldn't. The massive defaulting and huge numbers of foreclosures created an economic recession that left a big chunk of America (and even Europe) worse off than before.
Regardless of intention, today George Bailey would be the man who destroyed Bedford Falls by creating a housing bubble doomed to burst, while Potter would be the prudent businessman who was unjustly maligned for trying to do the right thing. Hey, maybe that drunken pharmacist who smacked lil' George around was also trying to warn us of something.
As for that ending in which the banker throws a bunch of money at the government and never goes to jail ... alright, maybe not everything would be different.
Dan Hopper is an editor for Cracked, previously for CollegeHumor and BestWeekEver.tv. He fires off consistent grade-A tweets at @DanHopp.
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