Why Can’t I Just Watch the Movie Instead of Reading the Book?

photo 3Ask Ginni, our resident Literary Lady, anything you want to know about reading and relationships! She’ll comb the books and wrack her brains to help you out with your page-turning problems, your wordy woes, and your novel nuisances. Fire away, Bookworms!

Dear Literary Lady,

Why can’t I just watch the movie version of books? Aren’t they pretty much the same thing? – WaitingforDVD, Lexington, KY.

Dear WaitingforDVD,

You can. You can also have margarine instead butter, aspartame instead of sugar, decaf instead of caffeinated, and the gluten-free, low-fat, low-cholesterol, sugar-free, carob version of dessert. You can also listen to the acoustic cover of your favorite song at open mike night.

What I’m trying to say is that watching the movie version of great books is a bit like eating vegan food or listening to cover bands—even when it’s good, it’s just not as good as the real thing.

Why? Because you’re only getting one interpretation of the real thing when in fact there could be many. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but a thousand words may paint a thousand different pictures. Movies will only give you one.

When you read a book, your interpretation of it is unique to you. Your Jay Gatsby might be a more dapper version of your cousin Archie, and not at all like Robert Redford or Leonardo DiCaprio. Atticus Finch might invoke memories of your grandfather, who Gregory Peck just doesn’t embody. Unlike the movie, reading the book is a personal endeavor, an exercise in your imagination, a story screened solely through your experiences.

There are some spectacular films based on books out there—films that are true to the plot and come close to capturing the ineffable qualities of the book’s characters. You should absolutely watch them. BUT, you should also read the book. A movie tells only one story about a book, and you just might have your own.

Love and paperbacks,
Literary Lady

  • Joann Azevedo Moran

    Also they can never fit everything in a book into a movie.They leave out characters and whole plot lines–if you never read Gone With the Wind you would never know that Scarlett had three children by three husbands.

  • Elaine Harris

    To me the movie is like a cliff note it just gives you an overview without many details to really bring the characters and story lines to life.

  • Eagledelphia

    Because odds are the movie is going to be awful

  • Yes, I totally agree. We all have our own pictures in our head of our most beloved books – and how disappointing when the movie messes up “our” vision of how it should look and sound. My favorite adaptation is “Atonement.” It brought the book to life exactly as i had imagined it. I think it’s sublime, but of course there are probably plenty of people out there who absolutely hated it!

  • BreakingAwesome

    If a movie were like a book it would be boring. Books are great to read but movies need to be interesting and can’t show everything. Imagine a movie that constantly explains everything and shows every single detail. It would be very long and very annoying. That why it quick based and very fun to watch. While some movies are not as good as the book, if the director wants to they can make it so that at least the most important part of the books is covered and some side factors. Movies are there so we can watch and have fun as a family or a lone. Most people just cannot enjoy a book like a movie. Everyone is different, however most of us find it better to have something illustrated of us than rather doing it our selves while reading the book. I like both reading and watching, but at times, i like to watch movies more because they are just more grasping and it doesn’t take a long time to understand what is going on and its more interesting to see how the book is visualized in the movie.

  • Tim Sroka

    Because the movie is NEVER(let me repeat that) NEVER, as good as the book. NEVER!!!

  • BelleZGamer

    “Love and paperbacks”. Can I steal that for my email signature?

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