I’m creating a folder for all my rambles about bookish/nerdy/fandom things, because I think I’m going to have a lot XD . I’m calling it ‘Fan Babble’ and I’m using it as a place to dribble about whatever fandom stuff I want that may or may not have a point. So I suppose welcome to Fan Babble.
So I recently watched Netflix’s adaptation of A Series of Unfortunate Events and it got me thinking about adaptations of books.
Since the times of monks copying the bible in cathedrals, books have been something special. For thousands of years before the invention of the printing press, you were lucky if you knew how to read. It was how we told stories to the world, so that people across the world could potentially share the same adventure.
After the book came the radio show, and then the film, and then the television. (Or maybe the film came before the radio show. Don’t quote me on that.) And now things are changing again, with the internet. Stories are evolving, morphing and taking vastly different forms. And yet…
Experiment time! How many recent adaptations do you see that are movies? Just think of a few. Now how many are TV shows? Fewer? What about other types of media? Mini series, theatrical productions, podcasts? Even slimmer, right?
That brings me to ASOUE. I loved it. I think that it really told a provoking story, had remarkable characters, stayed true to its themes, all that jazz. 5/5. Good job Netflix. But you want to know a secret? I didn’t read the books.
Yes, que the rampage of fans everywhere. I see your pitchforks and lighted torches in the distance.
But you know what? I don’t really care. I have no interest of reading the books, even after watching the masterpiece that was the Netflix show. Why? A number of reasons; I never wanted to read them as a kid so I feel like I missed that phase, I have other books that interest me more, the fact that from what I’ve heard they stayed about as true as you can get to the original books, so why would I experience the same thing again when I could consume new stories? I used to be so strict on not watching adaptations before I read the books. I sometimes wouldn’t even watch the trailers until I read the book. Do you know how many of those books I actually read? I can think of a few (The Books Thief, The Maze Runner, The Fault in Our Stars, Paper Towns, to name a few). You know how many of those adaptations I’ve seen? One: the Maze Runner. And I actually didn’t finish reading that one, because I got bored and gave up.
When I limit myself in the stories I consume, I’m basically limiting how I enjoy my free time. And it’s supposed to be free time. So now I don’t tell myself that I have to read a book before I watch the adaptation, or that I have to read the book at all. Are there still times that I want to read the book before seeing it on a screen? Absolutely. But it’s not a rule for me anymore. Basically, I do what I want.
Which brings me to my second point: Not every story has to be a movie. Seriously. Look at a Series of Unfortunate Events, which I think is a prime example, because it has both a movie and a show adaptation. I liked the movie well enough, but I don’t remember thinking that it was really remarkable or anything. It was a fun and creative story, but I really couldn’t see what made it so unique from every other kids’ book out there. Now I know why; the very atmosphere is imbued with this aura of whimsy sprinkled with a touch of dread and horror. One of the biggest themes is one that I’ve never seen portrayed in this way before; that of the juxtaposition between youth and adulthood. The adults act absolutely ridiculous, but I think that’s the point; to satirize the way adults dismiss and talk down to children that are perfectly capable and highly intelligent. I totally related to the Baudelaire children, because I felt exactly the same way when I was a kid. It’s almost as if the entire world is tailored to fit into the eyes of a child, and we get insight into what life is like for them. That’s something that I think is best fleshed out in a longer work, like a TV show, because it took a few episodes for it to be really developed (or at least, for me to realize it).
I think specifically a Netflix show was a good way to go about making this adaptation, because you get an entire season at once. The show hooks your curiosity from the beginning, but for me that’s now necessarily enough. If I was given only one episode a week, I would quickly lose interest. It’s a very gradual obsession, giving you little bites of the mystery at a time, until by the end of the season you’re left on the edge of your seat with no idea how you got there.
So I say all that to come to this conclusion: not all books are the same, so why should they all have the same kind of adaptation? Books are a uniquely flexible kind of medium to tell a story; they can be 700 pages and part of a 6 book saga, or they could be a novella and barely reach 100 pages. They could be trilogies, stand-alones, or have five short stories along with them. Other sources of media aren’t as malleable. It’s hard to cram a 700 page book into an hour and a half chunk of story. Some authors writing styles don’t work for or just aren’t showcased in their best light under some media. Lemony Snicket’s narrative is so unique and quirky; the addition of the narrator in the show was like the icing on top of the cake, and something that the lack thereof in the movie caused it to not be as rounded as it could have been.
So producers of all types of story mediums, I implore you: experiment with the types of stories you’re making. If you choose to make a book adaptation, really dig into the heart of it, figure out how you can best bring that heart to light, and always remember that a story is a gift: it doesn’t have to be properly wrapped, but when you do it makes the experience of unwrapping it all the more magical.
So what about the rest of you? Did you like the Netflix version of ASOUE? Did you read the books way back in the day, or are you inspired to read them now? What kinds of adaptations are your favorite? (Personally, I love TV shows, because it just leaves so much room to really explore the book’s events and themes) And of course: what are some of the most unique adaptations you’ve experienced? (You probably know of my love of the Lizzie Bennett Diaries on YouTube) I’d love to know your thoughts.
And as always, have a lovely day and I’ll talk to you again soon. 🙂