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Movies verses Books

by Judy Richardson | Published August 9, 2021

Books verses Movies-My Latest Rant

While some big box bookstores and Amazon still are selling books. There are more and more choices for entertainment today. Like the huge aisle of breakfast food choices at the grocery store adults and children have myriads of choices I never had growing up. As senior citizens many of us still enjoy just plain Cheerios and a good book.  While we may have succumbed to going digital to save space, there is still the feel of holding a book and turning those real pages.

Recently I watched a made for television film series based on a book by one on my favorite authors. It was shocking but not surprising. Thus, you are being subjected to my second posted rant: what movie makers do to books and what if anything are our grandchildren reading?

Over the years of teaching American Literature, I always assigned the reading of a fiction book or short story and directed my students to write a comparison of the plot, characters, setting and theme of the book and the film. The conclusion of main focus would be what they learned from the comparison and which form of the story they preferred.  I wanted them to notice the difference between what they imagined as they read the book, and what the film makers did to the story.  They were encouraged not to read something they had already seen on film.

I have always found that my imagination saw different visions of the characters unless the writer was exceptionally clever in his or her descriptions, and the film maker tried to make a match.  When I was teaching 8th Grade, we studied The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells. After reading some of the story and listening to the Orson Wells radio broadcast I asked them to draw a picture of what they thought Martians looked like. The pictures were both funny and scary.  Later when I watched the original film War of the Worlds, I thought back to what my students might have thought of it. Could they compare what they imagined with what the movie makers created?

When I visited a local bricks and mortar bookstore, I was reminded of the cereal aisle again. There were thousands of books to choose from. I noticed a big section of what I would call hard cover comic books.  They are called Anime or Magna and a bookstore helper told me it was a hugely growing section.  It seems that nothing has changed since my comic book days. A picture is still worth a thousand words.  No doubt some folks my age will remember the life saving Classic Comics. If you needed to read one of those really heavy-going books, you could squeak by a book report if you read the comic book.   I grew up with cartoon comics of Bugs, Elmer, and Micky Mouse.  We were allowed one a month and visited the library regularly to check out and return books.

The first animated cartoon we saw was Disney’s Fantasia. The animation was based on artists visions created from classical music. I still love to watch and listen to it.  Early Disney films were designed by artists, not the computer. Some of the computer-generated films like Up and Shrek are my favorites, but I always think it is ironic that those early Disney films like Cinderella started with an opening book. They realized what they were trying to do,

It saddens me to see that our popular culture is becoming more and more screen- bound. Film makers and computers create what they visualize as the story doing all the imagining for you. While parents may have time limits on screen time, what if they did the same in opposite for reading and then asked their children about what they are reading. Which would you rather do? Read the original Treasure Island by Robert Lewis Stevenson, or watch the film or cartoon version of the story. What does Long John Silver look like? If you read the book first, did the film do him justice?

It seems to me that we are rapidly becoming a civilization that is too lazy to read and imagine; we would rather have someone else do the thinking and imagining for us. We will sit and watch the re-re-re retread of a classic story. Dr. Jekyll and Mister Hyde has been remade in various forms over 30 times.  Still writers will take stories and themes from Shakespeare’s works. Are we living in a world where we no longer want to use our brains and imagine new ideas?

A brief conversation with my daughter, who is a writer, reminded me that it is very difficult to get anyone interested in a new idea for film or book. Profits from advertising are what spawns the retreads of anything that was popular in an earlier version. So, spinoffs of characters and plots will continue to plague us. Producers and publishers are more interested in marketing a redo of an old story than taking a chance that a new idea might sell. How many spinoffs for Sherlock Holmes are still emerging?  Harry Potter was indeed a fluke, but somebody recognized it was new and special.

I can’t help wondering what my grandchildren and their children will do for entertainment. Oh yes, virtual reality and Artificial Intelligence will be doing their thinking and seeing   for them.  As for me, I will enjoy the originals in my own little world of yesterday. That is what makes someone my age comfortable.

Also posted in The Good Ole Days