Monday, October 30, 2017

media colonization

is my term for when a movie adaptation drowns out the novel, or the real-life events, that it was based on.

Apologists for movie adaptations are always telling us that the changes they make from the source material are "necessary," though they rarely explain why and even more rarely do so adequately.

Then fine; in that case, I say, let the two go their separate ways and don't confuse the one with the other. But that doesn't happen: the movie drowns out the source.

That's why I wrote my post on Goodbye Christopher Robin. I wasn't there to critique the movie as such, of which I had nothing to say but "rather dull and slow-moving," but to lay out its differences from the records of known facts and the memories of Christopher Milne.

Of course I've been on about this for years regarding the Lord of the Rings movies, whose revisions and changes have infected Tolkien scholarship. Frankenstein, too. It doesn't matter if the book is still on the shelf if the movie is what's in the head.

When I first raised concern over media colonization regarding The Lord of the Rings, which was slightly presciently for the Jackson movies, because it was at a Mythcon panel in August 2001, over 4 months before the first movie came out, my friend Lee thought he had a rebuttal. He stood up and pointed to his t-shirt, which bore a portrait of L. Frank Baum, one of his favorite authors. Baum's Oz, he said, has survived the famous movie adaptation.

Maybe for him and his fellow Oz fanatics, it has. They've virtually memorized every word that Baum, Ruth Plumly Thompson, and everyone else has ever written about the place. I know they have: I've been to their conventions and witnessed their trivia contests.

But, I said, not for the general world, too much of which doesn't know 1) that it's not a dream, 2) that they're not ruby slippers, or even 3) that the book has a different title than the movie.

Another example, a very small but telling one, has been playing out in the newspaper comics the last week, in the strip Luann by Greg Evans. Luann is a college student who's started mentoring a shy 13-year-old girl named Fay. Fay wants to go into theater but was too shy to audition for her school's production of The Wizard of Oz. So Luann is trying to build up her confidence about doing such things.

The thing about Fay is, she's never seen the movie. She doesn't even know it's a musical. But she has read all of Baum's books about it (there's 14 of them, a trivia fact I know from hanging around Oz fans).

So then why does she refer to "the flying monkeys"? In the movie the monkeys aren't called anything, though the Witch tells them to "Fly! Fly!" So if all you know is the movie it's a reasonable extrapolation to call them flying monkeys. But if you've read the book, you'd know that they're called Winged Monkeys, and since the movie doesn't contradict this, writers about the movie who have read the book call them Winged Monkeys when discussing the movie also. Even Wikipedia half-knows that. (It uses both terms.)

I also question Fay's interest in playing Dorothy. Judy Garland was 16 when the movie was filmed, and played Dorothy as somewhat younger, but nowhere near as young as in the book. I don't recall if Baum gives Dorothy's age, but in the illustrations she's a little girl, not even a pre-teen.

Or Fay's interest in Glinda. Glinda is not as important a character in the book as in the movie, where she's an amalgam of two characters from the book. And, of course, Luann dresses Fay up like Glinda from the movie, not Glinda from the book.

OK, it may be a bit much to expect the comic strip to show Fay asking, "What is this costume?" But to have her, wearing it, play out a quote that isn't from the book, and apparently isn't from the 1939 movie either, but one of the recent spinoff movies (though reputedly it's originally from Edward O. Wilson) - well, it shows that Fay isn't the book nerd she pretends to be. She's been infected by media colonization too.

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