Updating the Classics


Remember a few weeks ago when I claimed I was not a canon girl. When I claimed that you can change things around in adapting books to cinema and I was totally OK with that. Well, since then I have been having that conversation over and over again with people, refining what I think and what I said and I have to amend my statement. You can completely make changes going from book to film but leave my books alone. There is no reason to change my books!

To clarify, I love a great adaptation. Change the setting, rename the characters; let’s be honest there are only so many plots out there and if you can retell a story inventively I am totally on your side. One of my favorite movies is “10 Things I Hate About You” which unless you are very young, very illiterate, or both you know is based loosely on “The Taming of the Shrew.” Princess of the Midnight Ball was a fabulous retelling of the 12 Dancing Princesses.

So where is the line? Recently I read about some trends which make me cringe. First off there is Orson Scott Card’s book Hamlet’s Father. Up front I have deep political and moral differences with Card. But when I read that he was going to re-frame Hamlet through the lens of homophobia and bigotry I was, well, I don’t even have words for what I was. the publisher claims:

“Once you’ve read Orson Scott Card’s revelatory version of the Hamlet story, Shakespeare’s play will be much more fun to watch—because now you’ll know what’s really going on.”

According to a review over at Rain Taxi

“Old King Hamlet was an inadequate king because he was gay, an evil person because he was gay, and, ultimately, a demonic and ghostly father of lies who convinces young Hamlet to exact imaginary revenge on innocent people. The old king was actually murdered by Horatio, in revenge for molesting him as a young boy—along with Laertes, and Rosencrantz, and Guildenstern, thereby turning all of them gay.

Card knows this is what is “really going on” how? Where in the play is this revelation revealed? Or is this rewrite merely an thinly veiled hate filled screed? Haters, stay away from my classic books!

The second trend that baffled me when I read about it was the idea of rewriting classics as erotic fiction. The specific one I know about is Jane Eyre Laid Bare. Why do we need to do this? Wasn’t the avalanche of marriages between classics and monsters enough? I am looking at you, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Really if you want zesty classic reading, it is not like erotica was invented with the publication of 50 Shades of Meh. You can start with Satyricon from Ancient Rome, move on to The Decameròn from 1353,  Fanny Hill,  Arabian Nights, Justine, or the Misfortunes of Virtue, Lady Chatterley’s Lover, Tropic of Cancer or The Story of O. Much like I don’t want to have certain visually images of those near and dear to me nor do I want to have someone else map out Mr. Rochester and Jane or Elizabeth Bennet and Mr Fitzwilliam DarcyThere is plenty of good erotic literature out there. Really just leave my classics be.

6 thoughts on “Updating the Classics

  1. Jane Eyre Laid Bare – I can’t believe that was even published. I happen to love 10 Things I Hate About You, I just re-watched it the other day and was thinking how young JGL looked.

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