Sunday, March 06, 2011

Inspired by Ray? Borrowing From Bradbury

Bradbury has written hundreds of short stories and dozens of books, so it is not surprising that some of his ideas turn up elsewhere. Sometimes it will be plagiarism, as in the case of Playhouse 90's "A Sound of Different Drummers", which stole from Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451. Other times it will be playful homage, such as The Simpsons' passing reference to "A Sound of Thunder" in Time and Punishment.

Here is another case where there is an uncanny resemblance to pre-existing Bradbury material:

21 Jump Street - "Woolly Bullies"
This 80s/90s series, co-created by Stephen J. Cannell, has an episode about bullying. One character recalls his childhood torment at the hand of a bully. Now grown up, in order to put his demons to rest he decides to seek out his former tormentor... and is both surprised and satisfied to discover that the former bully is now a worthless, powerless, low-life. The Bradbury connection? A short story called "The Utterly Perfect Murder" (1971), which has an almost identical denouement.

The entire 21 Jump Street episode is on YouTube. The scenes most closely reflecting Bradbury's story start around 38 minutes in.

Also on YouTube is Bradbury's own dramatisation of "The Utterly Perfect Murder", from Ray Bradbury Theatre. The dramatisation differs from the original short story in some respects, but the meeting with the former bully is played pretty much as in the original short. Here's the section containing the adult meeting with the former bully:

Of course, Bradbury's story has that whole "here comes a murder" idea, so it differs from the Jump Street episode - but both stories hang upon that moment of discovery of the pitiful thing that the once powerful bully has become.

Is this plagiarism? Accidental borrowing? Homage?

My thanks to Cori for first alerting me to "Woolly Bullies".

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