Why some people will never pick up a book... aka why I feel like screaming

Monday, February 22, 2010

The Help. Hunger Games. Ramona and Beezus. Snow Flower and the Secret Fan.
To name 4.
What do these have in common? They are all well loved books that are being adapted to film. Yes, they're being made into movies.

Whenever I hear that a book is being turned into a movie I feel a sense of loss, like the publishing industry or book lovers are forever losing something that started out theirs. I suppose in a way it's like "selling out", though I'm not generally one of those people that is bothered by this phenomenon. In fact, I'm actually elated for authors who are offered movie deals! How exciting must it be to see your work played out on the big screen? ESPECIALLY when there are famous actors involved!! And the $$$ associated with your book becoming a movie! Everything about this must be an incredible feeling.

So, yes, for the author, turning your book into a movie can be a wonderful thing. But all readers know what the cons are of a book turning into a movie. Probably one of the worst cons is that so much of what happens in the book is lost or sometimes, tragically, changed. And sometimes it's a matter of the beautiful writing that the movie viewer doesn't get to experience. I don't have to convince fellow readers about the advantages of reading -- exercising your own imagination, savoring the words used to tell the story, immersing yourself in the story, knowing the situation and characters better than you do from the movie, or even improving vocabulary and sentence structure, haha (funny, but oh so important). Once a book turns into a movie, though, it seems to distract from all its literary merits. The only people who read the book at that point are those that really enjoy reading anyway. Have you ever spoken with a non-reader who justifies the lack of reading by stating they'll just watch the movie? As if the movie ever justifies the book! (Okay, it can, but it's rare). These non-readers are missing out on so much by not reading the book and, also, by having a reason to justify it.

The books that are made into movies are often those novels that have been highly acclaimed. Whether it's the quality of writing or the captivating storyline that leads to the acclaim, it's all the more reason I feel people should get to know it in it's original form. AND I don't have the willpower to not watch the movie version, lol... so then the characters and storyline are forever cemented in my mind as they are in the movie.

Now, I'm not necessarily one of those people who wants things to myself. If I read a wonderful book, I want everyone else to read it. If I watch an amazing movie, I want everyone else to see it. BUT, I do think if I read a wonderful book, that everyone should NOT be able to just watch the movie version of it. So it's only understandable that I feel like screaming whenever I find out that a book, that is wonderful AS A BOOK, is being made into a movie. For instance, The Help! Phenomenal author debut. Hasn't even been printed in paperback yet. It's still on the bestseller list. And Snow Flower! Hugh Jackman is playing the male lead. It's been a while since I read this, so the fact that I can't remember a non-asian male in the book might not mean I'm right. But I do hope there is and that they're not just taking the liberty of changing something so significant.

So, what are your thoughts? Am I being ridiculous for feeling this way? Is it a big deal to you either way? Do you watch the movie versions? I do want to put a disclaimer here that I do enjoy some movie versions and realize some have become classics in and of themselves... ie. Gone with the Wind. I realize that. In fact, more recently I enjoyed the movie version of PUSH, Precious. And I'm even a little curious about how they'll translate Hunger Games onto the screen because it's limited in my mind and I'm sure it will be way different than I imagined it. But I'm talking here in general.

Just on a side note, this post also fulfills Task #2 of the Blogging Improvement Project 2010 entitled Pumping Up Post Titles. =) In fact, I was working on this post and then stepped away to fold some laundry. When I came back, my hubby was bent over my computer reading. I asked him what he was doing and he said he was reading this "article" because the headline caught his eye. (hahaha!) He didn't realize this was my blog post. So, I guess it worked. ;)


lunarossa said...

I totally agree with you. I usually cringe when I find out that a book I really like is being made into a movie. And to tell you the truth there are very few movies based on famous books that are really very good. BUT (there's always a but!) I think movies can make books known to the general public, especially to people who don't read very much, teenagers etc. The so-called classics can be sometimes 'heavy to read' and a good movie/tv adaptation can help along. I don't mean this will actually replace reading the book but help to get you near the author and the period in question. On the other hand bad adaptations do exactly the opposite, scare the audience away! Take care. Ciao. A.

~Jennifer~ said...

My husband says, and I quote "Why would I read a book? If anything fantastic was written, they would turn it into a movie. If there isn't a movie, then the book must not be very good."

It's sad and hurts my head. If I see a great movie and learn it's based on a book, I'll seek out that book and others by the author. But I like to read. Those who don't read are not going to be inspired to do the same and they are missing out.

That said, movies can be a great way to get the word out to those of us willing to read. I had vaguely heard about The Lightning Thief and figured I would might read it eventually. My husband say the trailer and demanded that we go see it, so I got the book from the library to read before we go. I loved it. Hugely loved it and probably wouldn't have gotten around to reading it for years if ever if the movie wasn't made. I see multiple reviews for The Lightning Thief daily in my reader, so others must be doing the same thing.

Having read a book before a movie comes out puts you in a special club. It allows you to know the true story well before non-readers. And yes, sometimes I wish the movie hadn't been made. The Lovely Bones was one of my very favorite books when I read it 6 or 7 years ago. Now all I do it defend it to people who saw the movie and weren't impressed. I use it as my argument for reading and they they use it as an argument against it. And we're all positive the other is wrong.

Wow, I had no idea I had so much to say about this. I'm going to stop here before I have a novel length comment. Great discussion post.

Tina said...

Great insights....Im torn sometimes on the movies because you get more visual action...but your right about getting more depth from the characters when you read about them. The Time Travelers Wife was one of my favorite books...the movie killed who the characters really were, it was a cute movie that stuck to the core elements of the book with no depth.....

Juju at Tales of Whimsy.com said...

Movies would be lost without books. They need books to keep giving them fresh material.

But I feel ya!

I like that movies sometimes bring me to read books I may have passed on otherwise.

Michelle (Red Headed Book Child) said...

What a topic! As a bookstore employee, it can get really frustrating when books take off only because movies were made from them. In some ways i do feel that the book itself gets devalued.
It IS nice for books in whatever way shape or form, to get attention so i can't hate on it TOO much. I'm pretty particular about what movies I will see that have come from books. And sometimes I just see them as two different projects.
I don't always pick the book first. Like Cold Mountain I saw first and the books is STILL on my list. But Jude Law, come on?
It's just too tough. I think there are WAY too many books being made into movies now. it's as if movies can't be made any other way. This boggles my mind.
I don't hate on them. i will just continue being picky.

Michelle (Red Headed Book Child) said...

One more thing to add, whatever gets people reading I guess. if it takes a movie then okay (shrug) or Oprah. go for it, i guess!

Bonnie said...

How about Confessions of a Shopaholic? I totally loved the series and when I found out it was being made into a movie I was excited.

After being angry for the first 20 minutes, I relaxed and decided the movie was cute for what it was. Well, it was not the book. I don't know how Sophie Kinsella can say she was happy about the movie. The only thing the movie had in common with the book was a character who shopped a lot and ironically worked at a financial magazine. That's it! What a BIG, BIG disappointment.

Kim (Sophisticated Dorkiness) said...

What a cute story at the end -- I'm glad the headline worked for at least one person (and I'm sure more).

I have mixed feelings about books to movies. Yeah, I hate the feeling that a book will get messed up or changed. But I also like that a feature movie might get someone to read a book they wouldn't normally have found. It's a mixed bag, that's for sure.

Jenny said...

lunarosa -- you make some good points. Especially for the ones that are GOOD adaptations. =)

Jennifer -- I like what you said about being in the special club, haha. I suppose movies can bring attention to books, so that's good. I just wish more people would then want to go read the book like I do, hehe. =)

Tina -- that's how I feel about the depth. It might be a good movie to someone who hasn't read the book, but when you have and you know there's so much more it can be frustrating!

Juju -- it seems like if they're not turning a book into a movie they're just doing a remake, lol!

Michelle -- that's a positive attitude to have. =) Esp. about movies bringing books attention.

Bonnie -- that was actually ONE movie that I thought would be soooo fun to play out on the screen! And it was soooo disappointing too! It had a lot of potential as a movie though. But again, because of my reaction to the movie, I've sort of devalued the books in my mind. Still trying to get myself to read the most recent on in the series. =/

Kim -- that's definitely a good way to look at it!

Mark said...

I try really hard to seperate the book from the movie when I go to see it. At times, I can't help myself, however. I was excited for the recent Narnia films, and I've wound up loving them. The Harry Potter movies got me reading the books.

However, there are also book adaptations that ruin the story. And try as I might, I find myself screaming at the screen, "Why did you change this?" Those are the ones that really irritate me.

Michelle (my books. my life.) said...

I like when books are made into movies. I like seeing someone's interpretation brought to life. And I kind of figure that people are either going to read the books or not regardless of whether it is made into a movie.

But I'm also pretty sure that there was no non-Asian character in Snow Flower...

Stephanie aka The Stark Raving Bibliophile said...

I have mixed feelings about book to movie adaptations, and for reasons I don't entirely understand, I am annoyed by those editions of books with movie promos on the cover.

Jenny said...

Mark -- I only saw the first of the Narnia movies but I agree it was well done.

Michelle -- someone's "interpretation come to life" is a good way to put it. I do agree it can be interesting to see movies for that reason. As for Snow Flower... it'll be interesting to see what they do with that, hehe.

Lauren {Geeb} said...

First I have to say WTF about Hugh Jackman being the lead in Snowflower!!! What the heck!!?? There were NO non-asian's period in that book.

Second, I love watching movie adaptions of books. And I equally love smashing them to bits when I walk out of the theater. The Narnia movies have been well done and so have the Harry Potter movies for the most part but then there was Hearts in Atlantis and Time Travelers Wife, and I want to burn down the theater (not really I am a very non violent person). :)

Jenny said...

Lauren -- LOL!
I love hearing everyone's views on this. I've surprisingly (to me) heard so many with opposite views than me -- like what you say about how you love watching the adaptations.

And yeah, Snow Flower... it'll be interesting to see what they do!

Kristi said...

Well said. I am so often disappointed in the movie version of a book that I loved. They can never, never seem to get it right.

Too funny about your husband being drawn to your title - I'd call that a success!

Care said...

I don't mind when a movie is made from a fave book - I'm just curious how it gets adapted and the whole process of what is in the book compared to what is in the director's mind. I tend to love going back and finding the book when I love a movie, too - goes both ways. However, I have yet to read Snowflower and now must forget about Hugh or I will see him in it! That to me is the biggest risk of reading a book when I already know who will play the characters. Always a FUN topic.

Mel (He Followed Me Home) said...

It's tough and you can't help but compare the two..the movies hardly ever live up to the books!

OK,it looks like I'll be the 1st to admit BUT had it not been for the movie hype I probably wouldn't have got all caught up in the Twilight phenomenon. Another pro to books it a wider audience reach. I took my son to see the Percy Jackson movie & he loved it, even wanted to know more about mythology - he's close but not ready to read the book, maybe next yr :)

Louise said...

I fully understand what you mean. I usually cringe when people think that xxx-movie is "just that - a movie - and NEVER realize that xxx-movie was actually a book long before there was even thoughts about making it into a movie. That makes me rather annoyed!

Kari said...

I'm excited there's a Ramona movie, but I'm a little perturbed they changed the title to Ramona and Beezus. It just doesn't have the same flow as 'Beezus and Ramona'.

This is funny that I'm reading this now...I JUST wrote a post on movies vs books.

Jade said...

I totally agree. Movie versions almost always suck compared to the books and I hate when people use them as a substitute for reading. But there is one movie I do recall actually liking better than the book: Twilight. And I think it's cuz they both sucked and at least the movie version kept the sucking to a minimum (sorry Twi-fans). But then they totally lost me at New Moon cuz it sucked AND dragged.

However, there is one time that I do enjoy movie versions and that's when they draw me to GENRES of books I wouldn't normally read. I dunno why, but I have a broader taste and appreciation in movies than in books. For example, I really enjoyed the movie "Into the Wild" but I don't think I'll ever pick up the book just because it's not the type I would normally read. Does that make sense?

Melissa said...

For the most part, I'm not a fan of books being made into movies. I think most movies wreck the book and I love books so much I hate to have them wrecked. Some movies (Lonesome Dove, Memoirs of a Geisha) are really well done, but there are so many bad ones out there I normally don't watch them. Especially if I really loved the book...

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