Books into movies: smart or detrimental?
Rachel Chistyakov - Tuesday, November 9, 2010
Pop culture is a big part of Milken life. If you ask students if they have seen the movie 10 Things I Hate About You, they will most likely say that they have. But if you ask them if they have read or studied the play The Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare, which the movie is based upon, they would probably give you a confused look and ask what you are talking about. The idea of taking a classical book and making a modern interpretation of it is an interesting idea, but it’s ineffective. The filmmakers have so heavily modernized these movies that the original book or play is no longer interesting to the viewer.
Another very recent example of this theme is the movie Easy A, which is a modern interpretation of The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne. Generally, when you think of a modern interpretation of The Scarlet Letter, you wouldn’t think it would be a teenage drama, considering the very adult themes of the novel. I’m currently reading the book for my American Studies class and I can’t draw any parallels between any of the characters, namely Hester Prynne, to a teenager’s life in the present day. This is why Easy A misses the mark completely: The Scarlet Letter is about adultery, blasphemy, sin, and guilt. In Easy A, Olive, the main character, doesn’t commit adultery- she actually doesn’t sleep with anyone throughout the movie, which completely contradicts the film’s connection to The Scarlet Letter. Therefore, when a teenager leaves the movie theater, they will have a completely wrong conception of the novel.
This theme does not just apply to classical books anymore. Many horror books have experienced the same deprivation that the movie industry has brought upon their more respected counterparts. The Shining, Salem’s Lot, Carrie, Cujo, IT, and Pet Sematary are all horror novels written by Stephen King and they have all been reproduced into movies. I’ve only read some of these books out of pure interest, but in all honesty, I had no idea that these stories were books before they became films. By watching the movie instead of reading the book, you lose a certain element in the story. I feel that the horror books should have much more fame than their movie reproductions. For example, I have read The Shining as well as seen the movie and the book offers a completely different experience than the movie. However, since the movie is so popular, barely anyone feels the desire to read the book because it takes more time. This has become the sad reality of the 21st century.
There are some exceptions to this theme of book-movie adaptations. The Harry Potter movies actually stimulate interest in the original books, and the Twilight series has the same effect on teenagers. This might be because these two book series don’t represent real life at all: they’re both fantasies. This genre seems to interest teenagers more than classical books, like The Scarlet Letter, and the movies seem to only increase their interest in these fantasies.
But, let’s be real: if you have seen 10 Things I Hate About You or Easy A, you probably will not go read the novels that inspired the movies unless you are forced to in your literature class. Classical books are slowly losing their zeal because of movies like these, and there is no doubt that this pattern will continue over time.