Basically, i’m addicted to text and allergic to adaptations.
One place this comes up a lot, actually, is in discussions about the Bible with lilithchilde. The Bible is an important text, right? Lots of people are interested in what it has to say. There are many interpretations and lots of interesting things to be gotten out of it. People keep making movies about the Bible. I am far more interested in engaging with the original text than in seeing how other people think it might have looked. (There’s also the midrash kind of thing, telling stories that are only suggested in the original text. But that’s a different thing.) I do admit that sometimes that can be powerful. Like, watching ABC’s Judas movie made me love the story of the centurion, which previously had never held any particular interest for me. I admit that academic explanations of the power of the story would not have convinced me as viscerally as the scene in the movie did. I have sufficient issues with books-made-into-movies generally, though, that i’ll give up such rare moments in order to excise everything that does so bother me.
So what is it exactly that bothers me? Basically, that movie adaptations make a particular interpretation solid for the viewers. It discourages people from reading the original, because movies are easier to take in, and minimizes the imaginative process if one does actually later read the book, since the movie experience is firm in one’s mind (thus i particularly hate children’s books being made into movies)
Also, you always lose stuff. Usually characterization. Authors do so much in writing that is just impossible to do in film. Plus, often stuff has to be cut just to make the film short enough. I, of course, think if you are going to make a film version of something, make it however long enough it needs to be to do the original justice, and if that’s 6 hours and you don’t want a 6 hour movie, then don’t make a movie of that text.
Novelizations of TV episodes annoy me. Novels and screenplays are different mediums. If you want to make a movie, use a screenplay, don’t adapt a novel. If you want a novel, don’t adapt a movie or TV show. I am consistently allergic to adaptations. I am committed to the superiority of original text.
lilithchilde asked me once how fanfic fit into this, because the fact that i love fanfic seemed to contradict what i was arguing. I don’t think it does, though. If you want to play in someone’s world? Go for it. You can write what you think might have happened off screen, between scenes, whatever. The closest fic ever comes to shit like novelizations of episodes is stuff like “Once More, All Naked, All Gay” (aka, “Once More, With Sarcasm”). That stuff is satire/parody, though, and that is different from adaptation, and i’m fine with that.
I try to see the movies before I read the books, because I like to appreciate the film as it's own text and then compare it to the book, and examine why and how things were changed to fit the different mediums in the adaptation.That makes a lot of sense. I've never been much of a movie person, so i tend to just want the original narrative and then be done with it*, but i certainly understand the interest in the changes involved in adaptation. If i were a different kind of dork, i would be all over that, since i’m so into interrelations in other areas.
*Yes, i really am a “heard the story once, moving on” for the vast majority of books, movies, whatever. I own relatively few books in large part because there are so few i would reread. I rarely rewatch movies.
lilithchilde asked me once, during one of these discussions, if i think of TV/film as being an inferior media to text, and thought it’s irrational and unfair, i think i do. So that bias probably colors my entire discussion of this issue, i admit.
The only times i will knowingly watch a movie-adapted-from-a-book is when i’m not interested in investing in the book but am willing to give up a few hours for the movie. I learned over J-term that Hitchcock’s films (many if not all; i’m no Hitchcock expert) are adapted from novels/short stories. I am okay with this, not only because he does it so well, but because i’m not particularly a mystery/horror/suspense gal, so i am rarely interested in reading such a book, but don’t mind watching a movie.
I was thinking about how geeking out over fairy tales this semester has reminded me that i am an English major, and it occurred to me that one thing i have loved a lot is all the modern adaptations, including filmographic, of fairy tales. So i had to ask myself, how this okay and even good, when usually it’s bad? I guess it’s because the tales become almost archetypes, so reworking them becomes something more along the lines of satire/parody. You’re not just putting the story on film (okay, some movies do, but they’re the lame ones) you’re doing something different with it. You’re changing the story, not just the medium.
Conversation with Joe (“some books are good movies. you generalize too much m'dear.”) reminded me that covers of songs are also a part of this issue. My basic feeling is “Occasionally a cover is better than the original, but why would you bother in the first place?” (Okay, sometime you have a specific purpose. Not talking about that.)
I have known for a long time that i attach to the first way i experience something, so even if i were to become interested in adaptations, i would still insist on the original first. The NHS production of Little Shop of Horrors will always feel like the “right” one to me, for example.
Speaking of, how do plays fit into all this? They are texts which are only really complete when performed, so by definition the “text” keeps changing. I guess i feel like that’s fine, to keep performing a play with different actors, different sets, etc., because that’s how the text is meant to be.
(Incidentally, the only book-adaptation movies i can think of that did it well enough for me are The Last Unicorn and The Neverending Story, and i feel like the fact that i knew both as movies first has something to do with that. There are probably others that i am either forgetting or just don’t know about.)
Generally i think i feel like “What’s the point?” of turning a book into a movie (or whatever). If you want to play with a text, go for it, but if all you’re doing is representing it another medium, that seems to me like a waste.
So there you go. All the angles i can think of. Yell at me. Point out the holes in my logic. Whatever.