I have a real beef about movies that started out as books. If I’ve read and loved a book and then it becomes a movie, I just don’t like it. I spend the whole movie pointing out all of the differences in the characters, the plot and anything that isn’t the same as it happened in the book. My husband once pointed out that it’s almost like I don’t like the movie on principle. This is especially true if it is a book that I read in childhood.
Based on some of the recent discussions around the Harry Potter movies, it seems like I’m not the only one who hates movies that were once books. Some people say that comparing the movie to the book isn’t fair. So why do we do it? Why is it that the movie never quite stacks up?
Books Shape our Reality
Reading a book when you’re a kid is a lot more than reading just for fun. Some research has shown that what we read in childhood helps us define who we are as a person. Think of your favourite childhood reads. Did the characters feel real to you purely because you could relate to them? Or was there some deeper connection between you and the protagonist? There’s something to that connection, or deep bond that forms between young readers and the fictional people who teach them how to be. Dr. Dill-Shackleford would argue that what we form is called a parasocial relationship to fictional characters. Even though the relationship is one-sided, we bond with the characters on some deeper level because they help us sort out our real life issues. But is that enough to make you hate Movie Harry vs. Book Harry?
We Take it Personally
When we are young, books help us understand the world around us, and as we follow our character friends on their journeys, we start to see ourselves there too. Is it possible that we bond with the stories and the characters who live in them so much that when they are represented in the movie and they appear different, they just don’t live up to the character that lived in our heads? (A person who has fictophilia bonds with them quite a lot). I think it’s because that character, is in part, us. The character on the screen? Not so much. That guy (or girl) is a product of Hollywood and to our minds, it’s jarring to see a version of their character that cannot compare with whichever version of Hermione or Ron or Harry that grew from our minds. I
Whether or not you are a die-hard fan of a book or character, seeing them in a new context can be hard, so if you hate the movie version of your favourite character, give yourself a pass. Sometimes, the best characters are the ones that live inside of our heads. Maybe, it’s just that book magic and movie magic are two different types of magic. I’ll let you decide which magic is the best kind.
What do you think? Do you like the movie or the book version of your favourite read better?