Movies are making us (and our kids) read

Friday, March 30, 2012

Let's face it: The act of merely watching the movie is frowned upon if there happens to be a book attached to its premise. If you can't go to bat for the book, the assumption seems to be that you "don't understand the whole story" or "you are too lazy to read" or "you aren't smart enough" or "you don't care as much about the film as others who took the time to read about it."

Thus, to have read the book is a badge of honor. An aura of smugness hangs over anyone who vehemently proclaims this particular opinion and those who do not share that thought process instantly feel a sense of inferiority because of their lack of interest in exploring a particular story further by sitting down to read the book.

Last week's release of "The Hunger Games" film adaptation served as a harsh reminder of exactly how popular a series of books-turned-movies can be. Not since the "Twilight" franchise's films first shot to pop culture prominence in 2008 has a series been so anticipated, so adored and so cluttered with fans who will undoubtedly claim the books were better than the movies.

But you see, that's the point.

The trouble with "The Hunger Games" is the exact thing that makes it great. On one hand, it's the latest in a trend based on the type of book-to-movie elitism that has become increasingly prominent among young people. On the other, it's a book that might get children who wouldn't normally pick up a book to pick up a book. Then, if we get real lucky, some of them will pick up another book somewhere down the road when they are looking for something to do.

But becoming overtly dismissive toward one interpretation of a story over the other isn't going to allow that possibility to flourish. A book is a book and a movie is a movie. They are both interpretations of stories and they both can be great educational tools for children, teenagers and adults alike.

There's certainly nothing wrong with liking a book's version of a story more than a movie's adaptation of the same thing, of course. But to hold the two interpretations directly against one another is unfair to both the minds behind the art and the art in front of the minds. Come to think of it, it's also unfair to you, the consumer, whose possible preconceptions could stand in the way of a satisfying reading -- or viewing -- experience that you otherwise might have missed out on.

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