Welcome to another Discussion Post here on Lacy Literacy! Today we’re going to be talking about Books vs. their TV/Movie Adaptations.
Recently, I was inspired by Mia over at Pen & Parchment who talked about her personal aversion to film adaptations of books. Because I have a lot of opinions that aren’t as popular, I decided that I wanted to share them in the form of a discussion post because Books vs. TV/Movie Adaptation opinions can be dividing and I’d love to hear all of your thoughts on them.
When a book gets opted for a Movie or TV adaptation, book lovers turn into a chaotic mess. There’s a ton of concerns when your favorite book is about to be turned into a new format. Will the casting be true to the books? How are they going to adapt the plot? or, more importantly, what will they be doing to your favorite characters? Worry is warranted. However, the needless hatred of them when they aren’t like the books is not so warranted.
I think we need to go into more movie/TV adaptations without the idea of “it has to be exactly like the books”. Honestly, you’re setting yourself up for disaster. Making a truly loyal book adaptation, is impossible. There’s simply no way you can turn book series into another media seamlessly. Events, people, and places will have to be changed. It’s the nature of the format.
Look, I get it. Many a movie/TV adaptations have done a terrible job adapting their source material because they went too far from the books and divorced the characters and the themes from the story so much that when it got on the screen it was a hot mess (like The Lighting Thief & The Golden Compass). Having to experience your all time favorite books being turned into 2 hours and 40 minutes of directionless nonsense is painful. But, divorcing the characters and the story from the books can reap incredible benefits. In fact, all of my favorite Movie & TV adaptations of books are ones that diverge heavily from the books that they are based off of.
Title: True Blood
Air Date: September 7, 2008 – August 24, 2014
Books it’s based off of: The Southern Vampire Mysteries by Charlaine Harris
Why it’s better than the Books: For all of its problems, True Blood is one of the best examples of what adapting a book series into a show should be like.
In True Blood, vampires have only recently “come out of the coffin”. While reading the books, the setting isn’t well developed. We’re told that vampires are recently out, but that’s it. Because the books are from Sookie’s firs person POV, the books had limited world building potential. Throughout the show, there were scenes with characters showing what the new culture is like. The opening scene shows a debate on television about vampire rights & we get to see a lot of scenes with the American Vampire League and The Fellowship of the Sun.
True Blood took minor characters from marginalized identities like Lafayette, a black gay man, who was killed off in the second book after having maybe two lines and then turned him into a major character who has his own storyline (albeit the writers could’ve done a lot better by him). Additionally, True Blood gave Sookie deeper female friendships that didn’t end for petty, nonsensical reasons.
The shining thing that made it stand out was how it diverged from the books. True Blood kept a lot of the major plot points like Bill & Sookie being together at one point, Eric loosing his memory, etc, but the motives for each event and the road that led to them was different. While they made changes, the changes made sense in show canon which is what matters. Often, when adapting books writers will divorce the story from the characters so much that the characters don’t make much sense because they were being propped up by the development the books had, not what the show had. But, that’s an issue I’ll get into deeper next.
Title: Game of Thrones
Air Date: April 17th 2011 – Present
Books it’s based off of: A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin
Why it is worse than the Books: I’m upfront about this: I think that Game of Thrones is one of the worst shows on television. It’s sucked out the bite out of the characters & the plot and turned it into a weekly hour of misogyny, racism, homophobia, bad acting, and poor story telling.
However, that wasn’t always the case (although it has always been misogynistic & racist). I liked the show the first two seasons. As the series is a behemoth clocking in at around 900 pages per book, it’s impossible to truly adapt because the setting is so huge & the characters are so numerous. I understood the changes they made up to a point. While the show did cut a lot of world building content, the visuals were spectacular. I’m still in love with the early costumes for Margaery because they fleshed out her character, which is something you visually can’t do in books all that well.
GoT did wonders for non POV characters they did include. In A Song of Ice and Fire, GRRM is very particular about his POV characters which means that you don’t get to see non POV characters have their own actions independently of main characters. However, in GoT we got to see more of characters like Petyr Baelish whose appearances would otherwise be limited to a few Stark POVs.
Where did GoT go wrong? Well, when it started to truly cut off from the books in Season 4 (and because it was still being written by the human turd pictured below).
Now, you can make changes to character motives. When it’s done right, it’s interesting. However, when a series has relied heavily on the development from the books and then the writers start throwing in show canon, it becomes a problem. Making changes has to be intentional in every aspect. Piecing together storylines from the books while adding new ideas and characterization without revising the original book storyline leads for a messy, nonsensical plot. It’s why actions & motives of many GoT characters don’t make all that much sense, and it’s why GoT has become this “the fan favorites always win and are imperfect” thing despite not actually showing that in their showverse (the best example of this is through Jon & Dany’s storylines).
But, that’s my two cents.
My Favorite & Least Favorite Book adaptations do have some good in them which is why I don’t write off Book adaptations when they start straying away from book canon. And I don’t think you should either.
What’s more amazing than to see your favorite characters take a new journey and a new shape? And if it’s terrible that means you get to have fun mocking it. I mean, what was more fun then all those fanvideos we got out of The Lightning Thief movie?
And now for the discussion part. I’m really excited to see what you all think about Books vs. their TV/Movie adaptations, so join the discussion below!