‘Allergy To Originality’: A New York Times Op-Doc by Drew Christie

Drew Christie’s animation explores notions of originality through the vehicle of an uncannily informative conversation between a cinema box office attendant and an inquisitive patron.

The animated sequence was commissioned by The New York Times’ Op-Doc forum, an online sub-section of the editorial department. This initiative hosts ‘short, opinionated documentaries, produced with wide creative latitude and a range of artistic styles, covering current affairs, contemporary life and historical subjects.’


The pencil drawn short takes it’s visual cues from a rich assortment of internet imagery. These drawings are adjacent references which snap to the dialogue in such a quick succession that the viewing experience reaches the fringes of an information overload. The scrappy mark making and looseness of the mimetic drawings act as a buffer, slowing our recognition of what is depicted, further inhibiting the intake of information.  Such a process challenges the viewer to identify the visual references and establish their connection to the densely informative dialogue. Although I was not able to spot all the connections I found this an engaging and rewarding viewing experience.


The documentary element in this animation can be justified by the casual introduction the film makes to complex ideas such as poststructuralist philosophy. Michel Foucault and Roland Barthes were among the first to articulate the illusion of originality in the arts.  In their respective essays, ‘What is an Author?’ and ‘The Death of the Author’, they proposed originality was scarcely achieved, if ever, while suggesting that creative endeavors, such as writing, are simply the amalgamation of an incalculable collection of conscious and unconscious influences. By referencing Wikipedia content this film exquisitely crafts sweeping summaries of such notions while tying them irrefutably to contemporary popular culture, specifically Hollywood cinema.


The comedic value in this short animation is found in the juxtaposition of encyclopedic rhetoric in the context of every day conversation. Further tension is crafted as an element of one-up-man ship creeps into the dialogue. However I find this animation’s purest social commentary is found in the implausibly informed box office attendant. This character embodies a contemporary world where anyone is a few clicks away from appearing to be an expert.