On Watching the Movie When You Haven’t Read the Book

I am a hypocrite.

Not really, but I needed a good hook for this post. If I had written this maybe three years ago I would have been a hypocrite, though, so we’ll go with it. Here’s why.

I used to fancy myself a book snob. I always adamantly claimed that any book was inherently better than its film adaptation (I still believe that’s usually true, with a few exceptions), and that any self-identified reader worth their salt ALWAYS reads the book before seeing the movie.

But a couple years ago I read some compelling arguments for watching the movie first that made a lot of sense to me. A movie is out of necessity a simplified version of a novel’s plot, so if you see the movie first, then read the book, you discover new details about the story, expanding your exploration of the plot, characters, and themes, rather than narrowing them. If you do subscribe to the idea that the book is always better, why not save the best for last?

So I’m no longer a stickler for read-watch order. And I’m also, I’m finding, not a stickler for reading the book at all!

I know.

I just watched , which stars Anna Kendrick and Blake Lively, who are both fantastic, and is also based on a book of the same title by Darcey Bell. I’ve known the movie is an adaptation almost as long as I’ve known of the movie itself. I’ve even seen the book at Target and at Barnes and Noble a couple times, and considered buying it so I could read it then see the movie (old habits). But I never did.

Because here’s the real tea: while I was interested in the movie, I wasn’t that interested in reading the book. It’s strange to me, too. Even now that I’ve watched and loved the movie, and with it fresh in my mind, I’m still not that motivated to read the book. I’m sure it’s a great book, and I’m sure if I picked it up, I’d like it, too. But I just don’t feel any desire to read it. I have some weird hang-ups about book-to-movie adaptations, but this is odd even to me.

But you know what? This is not the first time I’ve felt this way. Case in point: Jurassic Park. This movie is a masterpiece. I used to go over to my grandma’s house and watch the VHS tape in her basement over and over. I was six when it came out, so it’s understandable that I didn’t read the book back then.

But I’ve had 25 years; the book is a modern classic with an iconic cover, so why haven’t I read it? I don’t know. I guess I just don’t feel like I need to, not because the movie is a replacement for the book, but because I love the movie so much.

A former coworker of mine once told me that she had never seen some of the most popular book adaptations of recent years: Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, The Chronicles of Narnia. She loved the books, but said she didn’t want to see the movies because she didn’t want to ruin her perception of the books in her mind. I didn’t get what she meant then, but I do now, because I think I have the same thing in reverse.

So I get it. I have no reservations and no judgments about watching a movie adaptation when you haven’t read the book. Life is too short to be a snob about things like that. But I’m still waiting until I can read the book before I see Avatar.

Originally published at http://rhondablogsaboutbooks.com on April 11, 2019.

I write about life and culture through a literary lens. I co-host the Pop DNA podcast and blog at Rhonda With A Book.

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