Our book club chooses one book every four to six weeks to be discussed at a later date. When we get together, the six of us enjoy a lively discussion even though we each have differing opinions.
We are perfect examples of what is called reader-response theory.
Reader-response theory suggests that the written word’s (author’s) intention and what the reader understands are two different things. The good news, these two different views do meet somewhere in the middle. Regardless what the author intended, the reader adds to what is on the page based on his or her own past experiences.
This happens with any created object. What the “artist” presents to the world is often seen and appreciated differently by the reader, the audience, or the consumer.
This often happens with movies. The director creates a movie, but the movie critic sees one thing, and the movie goer sees another. We each respond to the film based on our past experiences, our likes and dislikes.
Knowing this, which do you prefer to do first, read the book or watch the movie?
For those of us who read the book first, we form a solid mental picture of the characters, not just what they look like but also their inner workings, their motivation. Through the written word, we have been privy to inner thoughts, back stories, imagery, mood, and this ‘bias’ affects our expectations should “our” book become a movie.
We balk when the characters do not look like we pictured them, and worse yet, if torrphey do not act and react like we expected. We scrutinize the film, looking for the details we enjoyed in our reading – the inner dialogue, the back stories, the conflict. We are not forgiving should the setting, the imagery, the mood, or the pacing not jive with what we “pictured.”
We pretend expertise and become amateur filmmakers, looking for evidence to back our criticism - the use of sidekicks or confidants, camera pans, background music, and visual effects. We become film critics if our “favorite” scenes get written out of the scripts or end up on cutting room floors to fit budget restraints or maximum run times.
Book-first readers are merciless.
I know very few who see the movie first and then reach for the book. They would be surprised in the difference between the two presentations. On rare occasions, if I see the movie version first and it intrigues me, I’ve been known to buy the book.
· In the movie How Stella Got Her Groove Back, the character played by Whoopi Goldberg was not a character in the book. She was added as a confidante into the movie to share Stella’s misgivings over dating a man many years younger than she was.
· Characters have been added and deleted in series like Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones in order to streamline the stories.
· The movie character Lestat played by Tom Cruise in The Vampire Lestat looks nothing like the description the author portrayed in the book, though he did the part so well he won over its author Anne Rice.
· Whole sections of the Harry Potter books were eliminated to fit into the maximum time frame allowed for a movie.
· The beginning of the movie Jurassic Park is totally different than the book, but that scene was later incorporated into subsequent versions of the series.
· Books like The Book Thief or Ready, Player One do not transfer well onto film even with the help of modern technology. Part of the charm and expertise of both books was allowing the reader to envision the wildly impossible.
· After I watched The Martian, The Descendants, and Waiting for a Dancer, I had to buy the books, and I am glad I did. I craved more details and understanding than what the movies provided, and the books supplied them.