…I want to be a Book Slapper.
On one side, it’s because as a member of the audience, I want to see the movie I deserve to see. On another, authors should not be asked to endorse a film they are not proud of. On a third, we could heal the rift between book lovers and movie lovers. You know how to stop every “the book is better than the movie” argument? You make the movie a reasonable adaptation based on the source material.
One of my favorite books that has ever been adapted is Stardust. It is one of few adaptations whose changes differ from the source, but do not change the story. It’s a charming story that I truly love (enough to incorporate in my wedding ceremony) and while I love the movie for different reasons than I love the book, I adore them both for the story that exists there, one both the movie and the book eloquently drive home.
Another is The Princess Bride, which wildly differs in many ways between book and film. However, I believe the key successes in this adaptation are William Goldman’s screenplay – the author adapted his own book to film – and Rob Reiner’s clear love of bringing this film to life. It’s a legacy piece that continues to withstand obsolescence.
This is what I see as key to adaptation, and why I think Book Slapping should be a highly regarded position in the film studio. These are people who, above all else, support the story’s heart and the intent so that it can be passed on to a wider audience. This is not an argument for 10-hour versions of your favorite stories so we can make sure every little detail is included (that’s probably more of a lobbying position – and you’re looking at a limited series then, right?). This is a position that works as a liaison between the studio and the author; a person who figures out what the actual story is, and ensures that when the film is finished, that story is intact.
Yes, this is a long-winded introduction to how frustrated I am with the Hollywood adaptation machine. This is not to say that I don’t enjoy movies. I do, and there are a number of movies I enjoy in spite of being bad adaptations, and still more I didn’t even know where books before I sat down to write out this rant.
And I will continue to see them because I continue to get excited about them. I get excited when books I like get adapted. It means exposure, it means a wider audience, it means a chance for the things I love to become more of the things I love. But instead, it usually means that I get frustrated over the changes – pointless changes, usually – that take away from the story that I came to see play out on screen.
Think about all the books you’ve read that have been adapted. How many were good movies? How many were faithful adaptations? How many were as good as the book? Better?
I’ve heard the conversation plenty of times: someone says “the book was better than the movie” and someone else always says “well, duh” or something similar. Why have we accepted that this is the way things are? Why are we not holding the entertainment industry to a higher standard?
“Fool me once,” the adage goes, but how many times can we be fooled? I’m sure I’m not done. I will be tricked again. Or, I will find out a movie was a book first and finish the book to find how different it was from its source material.
I wish I had an answer or some kind of solution. I don’t. All I can do is continue to demand better of Hollywood for authors and fans alike:
If you want to adapt a story, adapt it. Do it well. If you want to tell your own story, do that instead. Quit taking other people’s stories and changing them how you see fit. It plays on the fan’s desires for a good adaptation; that’s disingenuous. Be better. Do better.
…at least until someone hires me as a Book Slapper.