The Book Was Better. Or Was It?

I was at an event recently and someone said something about long hair or dragons or gratuitous nudity, and my sister and I locked eyes across the room and in unison said,

“HAVE YOU SEEN THE GAME OF THRONES TRAILER????”

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I am so stoked for the upcoming Season 7. I am one of those obnoxious viewers who read the books first (but, admittedly, not in the sense that I cared about the books before the show. That would be my best friend and my husband who both started reading them in like, seventh grade. Super hipster cred.) But when I did read the books, I loved them.

Now that we are out of the book world in the series and solely in the television world, I find that I am more excited than ever to see what happens next. I have always been the kind of viewer that if there is a book that a movie or television show is based on, I will do my damnedest to read the book first.  It feels more pure and respectful to the originator of the story. To consume it how it was intended.

However, I don’t know that it makes for a more enjoyable experience overall. I am torn on this. On the one hand, a movie can almost never compare to a book. It’s often too rushed, having to cover an entire world and story in two hours or less (The Lord of The Rings, excluded) or drawn out unnecessarily for the box office pull (i.e. The Hobbit and Hunger Games trilogies).

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The ultimate adaptation viewing experience. #LOTRforever

On the other, a television show, which has the time, space and scope to really capture the story that is also in the book, can be pretty sublime (i.e. Game of ThronesBig Little Lies, The Handmaid’s Tale, and Sherlock before it got weird). I love seeing the characters come alive and the world before me, especially in the world of Westeros with it’s costumes, and creatures and battles. Having also been a reader, I am thoroughly invested in the characters from knowing their backstories, every nuance, triumph and loss.

It can make for a very enriched viewing experience because you have the advantage of being emotionally prepared for a death, the thrill of anticipation to see how a certain story arc will play out or battle scene will be depicted. It is magnificent to see beloved character and story work before you.

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But knowing what’s going to happen is a double-edged sword. I often find it kind of annoying because I am also often disappointed. The beauty of art is that it hits everyone differently. You are going to take something out of a story or character that touches you that wouldn’t someone else, that the author may or may not have even intended.

When you have a team working on translating an entire story and interpreting it for the screen, they may or may not include those nuanced, special moments that struck such a deep chord with you because it didn’t strike them. It’s a challenge to please everyone and so often, an adaptation is made to appeal to the most basic of interpretations or for the most rabid fan that it’s alienating. It seems a difficult balance to strike.

I also don’t like losing the thrill of surprise. What has been so captivating about last season of Game of Thrones was the not knowing. Sure, I still have been shocked seeing it before me (hello, Red Wedding more horrifying to watch than read). But to know it’s coming and also have to be (okay, “have to be”) the annoying person in the room who points out all of the inconsistencies between the book and the show gets old, even to myself.

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This was much easier to let go of with the Harry Potter movies for example, because they were never going to be the books. They were never going to capture the same kind of magic. I anticipate the Cormoran Strike mini series (based on the Robert Galbraith books) to be equally disappointing, not because it won’t be good enough in its own right, but because no one has managed to capture in film what J.K. Rowling can do in word. I’ve accepted that and can, thus, just let it be what it will be.

Ultimately, I suppose it is simply about making a choice as a viewer on whether or not be a hater. I choose optimism. I want to enjoy it. I want to go in with the highest of hopes and want to just support, enjoy and rejoice in the nerdy satisfaction of all the art forms. I’m not going to stop reading the books, or stop watching the shows that they are based on, so I might as well enjoy it as much as possible. After all, we live in the Platinum Age of Television and have a sea of literature at our disposal at all times. What’s not to love?

Who else is stoked for Season 7?!

What are your favorite book adaptations? Least favorite?

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