Hello, and welcome to the midsummer slump! I hope you're not withering in the heat. I, for one, will be escaping to the cooler weather of Ireland pretty soon here so if you notice I'm a little quieter over the next couple of weeks, don't worry—I'll be back in full force when it's not as sweltering. Fall can't come fast enough!
One thing I AM loving this summer is HBO's latest gem, Sharp Objects. It's a show adapted from Gillian Flynn's eponymous novel, and it's everything I hoped it would be and more after reading the book—creepy, moody, and intensely unnerving. If you were wondering what Amy Adams is like at her prime, look no further.
Watching the first couple of (extremely well done) episodes of Sharp Objects got me thinking about some of the buzzier movies and television shows from recent memory: Game of Thrones, Gone Girl, Big Little Lies, Orange is the New Black, Room, The Handmaid's Tale, Call Me By Your Name, The Fault In Our Stars...The list goes on and on. And what's the common thread here? Well, all of these were books before they hit the screen. Lately we've been seeing adaptions made left and right. It seems like every day has an old story to tell in a new format, and I have to wonder: why are we so enamored with adaptations?
Book-to-screen adaptations have historically done well with critics—as of 2014,more than 60 Best Picture winners at the Academy Awards were films derived from literature, and we've seen the recent success of adapted television shows at the Golden Globes and the Emmys, where 57% of wins go to adaptations.
Adaptations also have a knack for raking in revenue at the box office, taking in 44% more on average than original screenplays. And what's more, books that are adapted for the screen tend to receive a boost in sales after the release of the adaptation, with some books seeing the largest share of revenue come in decades after the book's initial publication; in some cases, a film adaptation can breathe life back into a book that was forgotten or never remembered in the first place (take, for example, the resurgence of the travel memoir Tracks after the movie came out...33 years after its initial publication).
Clearly, there's some kind of symbiosis happening where adaptations are concerned. I'm curious as to what the exact nature of that relationship is; my hunch is that adaptations often have a built-in fanbase thanks to whatever popularity the literature it's based on had initially, and on top of that, the production will garner whatever attention it was going to regardless from people who hadn't read the book. If the book was popular on its own merit, being adapted can only contribute to its following (at least where sales are concerned—you can't unsell a book). If the book being adapted wasn't well-known to begin with, having it adapted into a TV show or movie is basically a lengthy commercial for the story, and we all know how powerful advertising can be.
The reputation a story has often transcends its medium, so any acclaim a book has will likely stick around as it transitions to the screen and vice versa. Fame feeds off of itself. And then, think about just how much vetting and crafting and blood, sweat, and tears a great book endures on its way to publication. Maybe it's the case—not all the time, but sometimes—that the stories told in adaptations are more thoroughly fleshed out and developed than those told in original screenplays. Maybe the stories told in adaptations are just better, having been through the grinder of two different industries where entertainment value is king. A story told once can be stellar, but what kind of magic is possible when we get the chance to tell it a second time in a completely new medium? I'd love to hear your thoughts.