“The White Queen“, based on the book of the same name by Philippa Gregory, is now showing on the Starz channel and tells the tale of Queen Elizabeth Woodville, consort of Edward IV. I also heard that a series based on Diana Gabaldon’s “Outlander” books will start filming for the Starz channel this fall. With all these book-based tv series coming out, it made me wonder if tv shows honor the material they bring to the screen or if, more often than not, they end up spoiling it.
Now I did watch the first (free) episode of “The White Queen” online since unfortunately, I am not a Starz subscriber. It has been years since I read Gregory’s book, but the show seemed to follow the book quite closely and I am anxious to see the rest of the episodes when they become available on DVD or through Amazon. The costumes were beautiful, the cast well selected, and the settings authentic. Because this story covers historical events and real historical figures, I think the tv show has less “artistic license” and therefore must remain more true to the book and general historical record. But that is not always the case, as with Gabaldon’s entirely fictional time-travel books. Will the tv show have to “interpret” certain characters, scenes, or plot points?
One entirely fictional franchise that I thought stayed faithful to the book material was the “Twilight” series. Although I had many friends say otherwise, I think the movies stayed true to the spirit and storyline of the books, enhancing my enjoyment of the stories. But I think everyone can think of examples of the opposite. Book-based movies that I thought missed the mark included: the movies made from Dan Brown’s books and the Bourne movies (based on books by Robert Ludlum). These movies all had major stumbling blocks for me where the story simply fell flat. For instance, I think a lot of the magic of Robert Ludlum’s first book is exactly how Jason Bourne loses his memory, which is largely glossed over in the film. Others such as “The Time Traveler’s Wife” fall into a middle category – they didn’t faithfully follow the book but still managed to capture the magic of the story.
I think tv shows and movies based on books are uncomfortable for we readers because many times, the character doesn’t look or speak how we envisioned them, the narrative is substantially changed and/or edited for time or content, or the setting seems fake or inaccurate. We who love the book feel a sense of betrayal when the mental picture we have doesn’t match what is on the screen. Sometimes, I feel the need to re-read the book after seeing a particularly awful adaptation, just to convince myself that it really was enjoyable in the first place.
So I wonder how other avid readers feel about movie and tv adaptations of their favorite books. Are you anxious to see “The White Queen” and the “Outlander” series on tv? What about the newly casted movie “Fifty Shades of Grey”? Will you be disappointed if the shows deviate at all from the books or will you enjoy seeing the characters on the screen, regardless of the interpretation?