Transcript: Not Now, I’m Watching Adaptations

[Funin’ and Sunin’ by Kevin MacLeod plays]

Chelsea: Welcome to episode six of Not Now, I’m Reading. Only we’re not reading this week. We’re watching. It’s Not Now, I’m Watching Adaptations. This week we are talking all about adaptations that we loved. All about adaptations we didn’t think worked very well. And, in a bigger, kind of sense, what we think makes a good adaptation or makes a bad adaptation. As always, I am Chelsea.

Kay: And I’m Kay.

Chelsea: And we’re gonna start with what we’re currently reading. What are you reading, Kay?

Kay: All the things. So I have not had a ton more original fiction reading done since last time.

Chelsea: That’s okay, ’cause I haven’t done any fic reading so we’ll still get a little balance in there.

Kay: There you go. I am still finishing my reread of The Telling by Ursula LeGuin. Which, if you are familiar with Le Guin’s other work, this takes place in the same universe as The Left Hand of Darkness and The Dispossessed. It’s part of Hainish cycle/Hainish saga shared world universe thing. They’re all interconnected, but only that they take place in the same universe. There’s not any carry over. They’re not sequels or prequels to each other. And this one is about basically a cultural anthropologist and linguist who goes to another world and what they find out about this society. It’s really great. It’s really slow and makes me feel not particularly intelligent.

[Chelsea laughs]

Kay: Which is a thing that happens with a lot of LeGuin’s work.

Chelsea: Yeah.

Kay: I love it, but it can be very dense. And the narrator of this book in particular is incredibly cerebral. And there is much less just regular back and forth dialogue than in some of her other work. It’s a lot of internal monologue stuff. So it’s very interesting. I can only read a few pages at a time. It’s just one of those books.

Chelsae: That’s fair.

Kay: It’s not anything bad about it. It’s really good. There’s a line from this book that I’m planning on getting as a tattoo, so obviously this is a book that I love, but dense. Not for everyone. Dad, don’t read that book.

[laughter]

Kay: And then I’ve got a couple of fics that I wanna recommend. These are things that I have either recced to people recently or reread recently. The first one is finishing the hat by screamlet. I guess you could say that it’s historical rpf, but it’s really Hamilton fic. It’s, the summary is: The summer after publishing the Reynolds Pamphlet, Alexander Hamilton takes a trip to Philadelphia with Philip, Angelica, and Alex Jr. And it’s just really fucking hilarious and it’s a bit of a character study. And I just want to read this dialogue exchange for you, ’cause I almost died laughing.

Chelsea: Yes, please.

Kay: “Pa, was there news in your letter or did you just want Angelica’s attention?” John asked.

“God, was there?” Hamilton asked. “It feels like ages ago. Anyway, it concerns your sister and she’s obviously not interested.”

“I said I was listening, probably,” Angelica replied.

“Well,” Hamilton said. “I wanted to invite you, Miss Angelica Hamilton, on a brief journey I’m to make to the capital.”

“Which one?” Angelica asked. “We’ve had like thirty.”

“Philadelphia, baby, the capital of America is Philadelphia.”

“So I’m finally going somewhere,” Angelica said. “Finally leaving New York to see some part of the world that isn’t New Jersey or Albany, and you’re taking me to the place you called the worst place I’ve ever lived except that place destroyed by a literal hurricane?”

Kay: And I just. It’s hilarious.

[Chelsea laughs]

Kay: And amazing and it is just super snappy and smart, as all of their fic is. Really big screamlet fan. If you have been following my Star Trek fanfiction recs on twitter, I’ve recced at least five of theirs, i think, over the last 300 days or so of reccing fics. [laughter]

Chelsea: Nobody’s complaining.

Kay: It’s a not inconsiderable number. That fic is really great and I also wanna recommend no one can stop me, not even gravity or nasa by magneticwave. Which, another writer I just kind of blanket recommend. This is a Star Wars original trilogy fic. It’s Leia/Han, which I don’t read a ton of. I don’t tend to read canon pairings in fic that much.

Chelsea: Interesting. Yeah. Especially canon het pairings. Not usually my jam.

Kay: Especially cause I am a big Han/Luke shipper. #NoShame. This fic is also really fun. The summary is another little snippet of dialogue that I’ll read for you again.

“Fuck you,” Leia says. “Who said anything about getting married? Did Luke say anything about getting married?”

“Luke is not involved,” Luke says, not looking up.

“Hey, Luke is not involved,” Han says, pointing at her. She’s going to bite his finger off, then they’ll see how much pointing he can do with it. “This is about you and me, princess.”

“There’s not going to be a you and me,” Leia says. “I’m going to have this baby with C-3PO.”

C-3PO says, “Madam,” tremulous.

[laughter]

Chelsea: Oh, Jesus.

Kay: It’s so funny. It’s so funny!

Chelsea: It’s so good.

Kay: And I just. Both of those fic writers are people who I read when I want something to be hilarious, but also give me lots of feelings. [laughs] Which is such a fine line to walk and only a really talented writer can manage it well and they both do consistently. So, again. Screamlet and magneticwave. Both excellent. Thoroughly enjoy.

Chelsea: I have not been reading much fiction lately. Or what are words. I haven’t been reading much fanfiction lately. I’ve been reading a ton, I just haven’t been reading much fanfiction. I just finished a whole slew of romance novels, including books three and four of the Spindle Cove series.

Kay: Yay!

Chelsea: Book three is called A Lady by Midnight and book four is called Any Duchess Will Do. Book three is about the music teacher who works in Spindle Cove. For those who didn’t listen to our last episode, Spindle Cove is basically a community, a largely kind of summer vacation resort community, for girls who kind of don’t fit in and who for various reasons kind of don’t always have the best place or the biggest place in society. So they can kind of come here and joy each other’s company. They share the space with a group of militiamen who are very kind of just sweet, sweet men for the most part except of course when they aren’t. Book three is about the music teacher in town, Kate Taylor. She’s very happy in Spindle Cove. She’s a fantastic musician and she teaches music to the young girls, but she also has this very intense, at first, dislike of Corporal Thorne, who’s this very broody, very dark, definitely wrestling with his own demons, as you will. And of course they don’t stay hating each other, ever, and it’s just delightful.

Kay: I love enemies to lovers romances. [laughs]

Chelsea: And that’s exactly what it is. Because it’s got so much of that, like you were saying, sparry back and forth and the banter in those ones is particularly excellent.

Kay: Yes. Tessa Dare does such good banter. Peak banter.

Chelsea: She does such good banter. She does such good female characters. She always manages to make her men really flirty without it necessarily going to cheesy territory.

Kay: Such a fine line.

Chelsea: Such a fine line.

Kay: She just waltzes right along it, it’s gorgeous.

Chelsea: She does such an amazing job. And book four is about the barmaid. The barmaid at the, it’s like a tea shop slash also tavern. Which gets explained in the first book. But basically she falls in love with this duke who’s kind of dragged into town by his mother.

[Kay laughs]

Chelsea: And his mother basically says you have to pick someone. You have to pick someone here. So he sees her.

Kay: So fine, there you go.

Chelsea: He sees her and says fine, I pick ehr. So she basically starts to go through, they call it duchess training.

Kay: It’s great.

Chelsea: She’s not from any upper class lifestyle so she has a lot to learn. It’s definitely less enemies to lovers than the last one, but it’s still a little bit of that. But I highly recommend Spindle Cove if you want really sassy heroines who are really smart and who, the books do a really good job of presenting well rounded women. All of the women are painters or musicians or scientists or writers or all have kind of their various talents that they have time to indulge in in Spindle Cove. So that’s a really cool aspect of this series.

Kay: They all have really rich personal lives outside of the romantic storyline, which is great.

Chelsea: Yes, which we always love to see. And then the last thing I’m gonna talk about is one I’ve just finished. And it’s Let It Shine by Alyssa Cole.

Kay: Yesss.

Chelsea: Which is so good. Oh my god, it is so good. I didn’t really know what it was about. I am 99% sure that I bought it because either Bree or Alisha tweeted about it when it went on sale and I was like done! Bought. And then it just sat in my —

Kay: Done.

Chelsea: Yep. And then it just sat in my Kindle library as is always the case with books that I buy on a whim.

[laughter]

Chelsea: They just sit there until I’m ready and this book came at the perfect time. This book is about Sofie. Sofronia Wallace. Who is a very polite, very proper, in appearance, black woman in 1961. But underneath all of that prim and proper is a lot spirit and a lot of passion for the resistance. And so Sofie joins a group of fellow kind of college age students who are participating in the lunch counter sit ins and some of the bus rides through Alabama to Montgomery through the south to register black voters. And also a part of this group is Ivan Friedman. Who is a boxer and whose grandparents were living in, I believe, Romania during the time of World War II. I may be mistaken about the country they lived in.

Kay: It’s been awhile since I read it. I’m not sure.

Chelsea: Yeah, but they are, they were refugees from Europe during World War II and Ivan is Jewish and because of the persecution his grandparents and his parents and he has faced because of that, he feels very much aligned with this resistance group and with these protests for civil rights. There’s a really cool discussion of how his career as a boxer that’s super violent actually prepares him really well for nonviolence. And about how knowing how to take a hit and what it’s like to actually be confronted with physical violence is a really important part of dealing with that physical violence. Which I just thought was really cool. But obviously Sofie and Ivan, you learn they had some history as children. I don’t really want to spoil what happens there.

Kay: No spoilers, but awww.

Chelsea: No spoilers, but as a white Jewish man and as a black woman in 1961 they face a whole host of obstacles together outside of the fact that they are, you know, participating in lunch counter sit ins and voter registration bus rides. So this book just has all kinds of great historical drama and family drama and really cool discussions of religion and race and how the two are similar, but also how they are very, very different. There’s a really great discussion about how Ivan, if he chooses to, can hide his Judaism, whereas Sofie can obviously not hide her blackness. And how that difference shapes how they view and interact with the world. So a lot of really cool stuff going on, especially in less than 150 pages. So I highly recommend seeing if you can track it down at your library or buying it online, because it’s a great read. And that’s all I’ve got.

[Funin’ and Sunin’ by Kevin MacLeod plays]

Chelsea: Yeah. So in that case, we are gonna go ahead and talk about our topic of the week, which in this case is adaptations. What we like about them. What makes them good. What makes them bad. When we first were gonna talk about this, I was telling Kay, before we actually started recording, at first I was kind of a little wary. Because I was like I don’t’ know man, adaptations aren’t really my thing.

[Kay laughs]

Chelsea: And then I was like actually that is a lie. And a lot of things I love really hard —

Kay: That’s a lie. [laughs]

Chelsea: — are adaptations of things.

Kay: And we’re living in a golden age of adapted cinema.

Chelsea: Amen. And adapted tv. There’s a lot of good stuff going on.

Kay: A good chunk of the stuff being produced right now is adapted material, so.

Chelsea: I forget that adaptations include like all of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. And all of DC.

Kay: Yep.

Chelsea: I think part of it too is the way I have adaptations kind of classified in my brain is a little limiting or maybe has some constrictions on it so I don’t really realize how many things actually are adaptations of other things. For me, my thing right now, I feel like tv is killing the adaptation thing. I feel like with Starz doing American Gods and Hulu covering The Handmaid’s Tale, and with —

Kay: Which ugh.

Chelsea: What, you don’t like Hulu doing The Handmaid’s Tale?

Kay: I cannot. I cannot watch that right now. [laughs] I can’t watch that right now.

Chelsae: It’s very intense. I do one episode a week and that’s literally all I can handle.

Kay: Yeah, there’s no way. We’re already living in the darkest timeline, don’t show me the future.

Chelsea: Dude, we’re living in the upside down and everything is terrifying. That went real dark real quick.

Kay: I think it’s really interesting that it took longer for adaptations to become big sources of award-winning TV. Although, I guess, prestige tv as a thing is relatively new.

Chelsea: Yeah.

Kay: Whereas adaptations on the big screen have been very popular in winning awards for basically as long as —

Chelsea: That’s very true.

Kay — cinema has been a thing. One of my very favorite recent examples is The Martian. If you’ve ever heard me talk about this. I have a lot of feelings about this. I actually don’t like the book that much, of The Martian.

Chelsea: Interesting.

Kay: I think the narration just didn’t work that well for me.

Chelsea: Did you listen to it on audio?

Kay: I did the second time. So the first time I just read it and was just like I don’t love this. It’s a lot of try-fail cycles. Which is interesting for a while and certainly moves the action forward. But it gets pretty repetitive on the page.

Chelsea: Yes.

Kay: And you’re just with Mark a lot. And I like Mark Watney.

Chelsea: But it is a lot.

Kay: His thoughts are not always interesting to read. He is a lot, that Mark Watney. And it has some first novel structural problems.

Chelsea: yeah.

Kay: Which, it’s just a thing that happens. I’m really looking forward to Andy Weir’s next book, which is gonna be about a heist on the moon. It’s coming out later this fall. We’ll link to that.

Chelsea: Andy Weir’s next book is called Artemis.

Kay: And we’re super looking forward to that.

Chelsa: Super excited.

Kay: It’s already been optioned and is gonna be made into a movie by the same people, it looks like, did The Martian movie. It sounds like it’ll be fun. The thing about The Martian movie is it’s for me an example of the source material had a good idea that you didn’t love the execution of and it works better in a cinematic format. At least for me, it worked better in a cinematic format. Because instead of reading these written logs you get to see Mark Watney doing video logs and talking to a camera as he’s doing things. And they did, I think, a much better job of rotating back and forth between the team on the spaceship Hermes and the team down on Earth and to Mark stuck on Mars. By himself. That poor man. That poor, poor man. [laughs] And it had an excellent cast, even if they’re not all my favorite people, but they all gave really excellent performances.

Chelsea: And I think that’s an important — all the adaptations that I think of that have the most, recent and not, have amazing casts. Or have a large majority of amazing cast. And obviously every movie, you know, the level of your cast will have an impact on every movie, but I feel like there’s something about adaptations. Maybe it’s something in the hump of having to overcome the image that people already have in their minds? And so you have to have an extra powerful actor to do that. Maybe it’s because the adaptations have to pull out of the books the things that they think are the most important and you need a powerful set of people to convey that across. I don’t know what it is.

Kay: Because every reader is going to come to every adaptation with their own expectations, their own thoughts of what they thought were the most important aspects of the work, their own wants about what they think should be the things that have to be there. Like, we’re both big Harry Potter fans. Both of the books and the films.

Chelsea: I think we have to set the Harry Potter adaptations into it’s own, it’s a case study for everything we love about adaptations because there’s so many different styles.

Kay: I know actual theses have been written about this.

Chelsea: Because the Harry Potter movies have also done the thing I dislike the most in adaptations. Which is that you add things that are unnecessary because you have elided to much from the original plot.

Kay: And don’t include things that we really love.

Chelsea: Also yes.

Kay: I will forever be bitter about not only shifting some of the roles between characters from the book to the movie. Which basically made Ron completely unrecognizable in the film series.

Chelsea: yeah, he’s basically a dick for the most part. As much as I love Rupert Grint. I have a thing for redheads.

Kay: [laughs] Fair. Fair.

Chelsea: I’ve been in love with Ron from like day one. [laughs]

Kay: But also there are entire plot threads and characters that they left out when adapting the books. Like, Peeves? Is one of my favorite parts of the books and he’s not in the films at all.

Chelsea: Here’s my counter argument to that. As much as I love Peeves, Peeves is not necessarily integral to the plot. And because you have to make choices because it has to or it should function as a film independently as its own medium.

Kay: Which they do not.

Chelsea: And that’s my thing. Some of the Harry Potter films function very well on their own as movies. Most of them do not. [laughs] Which is part of the problem, because if you’re not familiar with the source material?

Kay: And we say this as people who have read them multiple times, but I went to most of the premiers with my mother. Who has not ever read the books. And every time we would leave the theater and she’d be like I don’t understand half of what happened. And I would have to fill her in on the canon book material for half of what happened in the movie to even make sense. Which is the mark of not a great adaptation. Do we still love them?

Chelsea: Of course.

Kay: Yes. But they don’t stand alone as they should.

Chelsea: They don’t.

Kay: They just don’t.

Chelsea: And that’s just my golden rule of thumb or whatever when it comes to evaluating how I feel about adaptations. Is that I feel like you have to, at a certain point, take them as separate things.

Kay: Absolutely.

Chelsae: Because books and movies function differently and you have to make different narrative choices and character choices and certain things don’t translate. So you have to evaluate it as a film on its own so that’s why, as much as I can love them as part of this thing of Harry Potter that I love and is such a big part of my life, I can also say that as adaptations they’re not great. They’re not great. Some are better than others. I love some of them more than others. I love the third one the most because I feel like it operates the most independently as its own movie.

Kay: I agree on that point.

Chelsae: Again, it’s not the greatest. You’ll still probably be a little confused. It’s hard to imagine because I know it so well so it’s hard to get that remove of not filling in the gaps myself because I read that book seventeen times. And that’s what I feel like most people’s favorite movie is the third one. Because it functions, not only is it beautiful, but it functions as a movie by itself . One of my favorite adaptations, recently, which I know might be slightly controversial is actually The Great Gatsby.

Kay: Wild.

Chelsea: Crazy.

Kay: Absolutely wild. I’ve not even seen that all the way through. I couldn’t watch that all the way through. But I’m not a huge fan of the source material, so. Jenny, our friend Jenny just gasped somewhere and doesn’t know why.

[laughter]

Chelsea: Her spidey senses are tingling. Her Jenny senses. But so this is the thing. I can fully acknowledge all of the problematic elements of The Great Gatsby. I still love it. I consider it one of the perfect summer books. I’ve read it every summer for the last I don’t know how many years. I definitely have my issues with the adaptation in the framing of it. Again, they added a frame tale that wasn’t necessarily to the story and I don’t know if they did it because they underestimated the readers’ intelligence and so they felt like they needed to provide some extra —

Kay: It’s a Baz Luhrmann movie, so probably. [laughs]

Chelsea: Probably. It’s the story of Nick and Gatsby and Daisy. Cliff Notes it if you skipped it in the eleventh grade. But. Toby Maguire and Leonardo DiCaprio, they do this thing where it’s Nick and he’s in a mental hospital seeking therapeutic help and his therapist is having him write down his life story and so he’s telling The Great Gatsby in a frame tale. Which is just so fucking unnecessary.

Kay: So unnecessary.

Chelsa: But again, and I feel like this is part of what comes across so well in the visual medium. The opulence and the insanity and the kind of oppressiveness of summer heat in the 1920s and all of that comes across really well visually to me. Caveat I also really like Baz Luhrmann. If Baz Luhrmann is not your flavor?

[Kay laughs]

Chelsea: This is probably not gonna be a movie that you like. Cause this is like the Baz Luhrmann-iest movie ever.

[laughter]

Chelsea: Like, it’s not quite as bad as Moulin Rouge, which I think is, like, you can’t get much more pure Baz Luhrmann aesthetic than Moulin Rouge.

[Kay laughs]

Chelsea: It’s a close second because they don’t sing. [laughs] It’s not a musical.. But I love it.

Kay: Which, that’s a shame. I probably would’ve actually watched the whole thing if they sang. [laughs]

Chelsea: But again, this is a casting choice. Leonardo DiCaprio as Gatsby is just. I feel like there’s a reason he’s able to play both Gatsby and whatever that dude’s name was from The Wolf of Wall Street.

[Kay laughs]

Chelsea: I feel like those are the same people in different generations. And I, they are con artists. They can be thieves. They are after the wrong thing for the wrong reasons.

Kay: That’s another one of those casting things where the cast is really essential to your enjoyment of the adaptation. Which, I really wanna talk about adapting the classics.

Chelsea: Mmkay.

Kay: I think works that have been adapted multiple times and you have the fans who either hate all of the adaptations or they’re big fans of a very particular version. Like, it’s easy to talk about Jane Austen adaptations and I know Jane Austen is not your particular bag.

Chelsea: Which, spoiler alert, is where this whole conversation came from. Because we were just randomly talking about it one day and I mentioned that I do not like Jane Austen source work, but I love 95% of Jane Austen adaptations.

[laughter]

Chelsae: Cause you read Jane Austen yearly, right? Like quite a bit.

Kay: I am a Jane Austen junkie. I usually read her collected work every year. Like, I usually get to all of her novels every year. I don’t always read them, I’ll listen to them on audio sometimes instead. But basically every year. And Jane Austen adaptations tend to be my comfort watch movies or tv shows. There’s something really soothing about the rhythms of courtship in them. There’s not gonna be a terrible ending. There’s not gonna be something super tragic that happens in them. I’m not gonna be surprised. No matter how you adapt it, I’m gonna know the bare bones of what’s going to happen. And because they’re stories that are so beloved by multiple generations of people you get really interesting takes every ten or fifteen years of all of them.

Chelsea: Yeah.

Kay: For instance, Emma. There are so many really great adaptations of Emma.

Chelsea: Clueless. Clueless is my personal, it’s one of the best adaptations.

Kay: Clueless is one of the greatest movies of our time. I’m not being facetious. It’s also one of the best Jane Austen adaptations of all time.

Chelsea: I literally am raising praise hands to the ceiling right now for Clueless.

[Kay laughs]

Chelsea: I wish you guys could see me. I love that movie so much. And it’s such a good adaptation.

Kay: It’s so good!

Chelsea: And I would reckon that a large number of people who have seen it would not necessarily know or would have immediately pegged it for an adaptation of Emma. Cause I, granted I was young when I saw it, but I didn’t know for a long time that it was an adaptation. It wasn’t until I actually took a class in college —

Kay: [shocked] What?

Chelsea: — where we read all of Jane Austen’ work. All of her juvenilia. All of her novels. Everything. And we also watched an adaptation of each of her major novels. And that was when I we watched Clueless. I saw it on the syllabus and literally shrieked in this very legitimate —

[Kay laughs]

Chelsea: — and serious academic english classroom. And I was like ohmygod we get to watch Clueless! So super profesh. [laughs] Cause I am not a huge Jane Austen fan, like I said. I think her stories are fantastic. And I think that’s why they make such good adaptations and why I love so many of her adaptations. I find the language to be too much for my general reading enjoyment.

Kay: I mean, she was one of the early pioneers of the novel as we understand in the modern sense.

Chelsea: Yes.

Kay: So they are very, very dense. Oh, quick aside. If you are a Clueless fan, we highly recommend As If: The Oral History of Clueless as told by Amy Heckerling, the Cast, and Crew. It’s by Jen Chaney. We both listened to the audio and it’s excellent.

Chelsea: It’s fantastic. It does exactly what it says on the tin. It talks about making the movie and what it was like to film it and the critical reception and all of that. But yes. So and i think part of my problem with Jane Austen is that iI was told for a long time before I read any Jane Austen: Jane Austen is hilarious. She’s so funny. It’s so witty. It’s spicy.

Kay: It’s smart, sharp social satire. Which it is. But.

Chelsea: Which it is, but there’s a certain level of reading you have to be at to kind of pick up on some of that social satire commentary and I was not there. So I was expecting haha chuckles and that is not what I got.

[laughter]

Chelsea: That is not the kind of humorous that Jane Austen is. But like I said, as a storyteller, and this is why I feel like so many of her books have persisted, is because the stories themselves are really great. And fundamentally they reflect of humanity and things that are very similar for people across the ages. Which, like you were saying —

Kay: Her observations about people are super sharp. And feel very relevant still.

Chelsea: Yes.

Kay: Which not a lot of literature from that time holds up even close to as well as Austen’s work does. Which I think is a testament to how talented she was.

Chelsea: While I do not have any hard numbers on this, I would be willing to wager that Austen probably has the most number of adaptations behind Shakespeare. In terms of the number of times and different styles her work has been adapted in.

Kay: [skeptically] Maybe?

Chelsea: Don’t hold me to that, because there might be something I’m not thinking of.

Kay: Maybe.

Chelsea: I’m having trouble thinking of someone who’s been adapted as much.

Kay: It’s, at least in the Western world, she is one of the most adapted authors.

Chelsea: Did we wanna talk about any other adaptations we think don’t work super great?

Kay and Chelsea: There’s so many. [laughter]

Kay: Can we talk about the terrible Emma adaptation with Gwyneth Paltrow? Cause it’s bad.

Chelsea: It’s so bad.

Kay: Have you seen that one?

Chelsea: It’s so bad.

Kay: So bad. There are definitely people who will not agree with us.

Chelsea: Yes.

Kay: But.

Chelsea: I know some people who that is their favorite movie.

[Kay groans]

Chelsea: I know. I know.

Kay: The Emma adaptation starring Gwyneth Paltrow does not work for me at all. And it is a combination of very strange script choices and weird casting choices.

Chelsea: I find the casting choices in that movie to be particularly odd.

Kay: It’s very hard to get past some of the casting choices.

Chelsea: I will caveat that Emma is my least favorite because Emma is supposed to be spoiled and whiny and selfish and that’s part of why Clueless —

Kay: I love her. I love Emma, she’s such a punk.

Chelsae: Because Cher Horowitz manages to be all of those things while not making me want to throw up in my mouth.

Kay: [chokes] This close to an in real life spit take.

Chelsea: Literal spit take.

Kay: Oh my god.

Chelsea: That was so good. But I’m just saying. The Gwyneth Paltrow version, I think, lacks a lot of essential charm necessary to get over how atrocious Emma is as a human being. [laughs]

Kay: And it’s hard to tell how much of that was directorial and script choices versus —

Chelsea: Versus Gwyneth? And I’m not just putting it all on her.

Kay: Versus Gwyneth just being awful.

Chelsea: That script was not great.

Kay: And I don’t think she’s a terrible actress. I don’t think she’s a terrible actress. I think she was a very odd choice for Emma. First off, she was too old.

Chelsea: Yes.

Kay: Which can be an easy problem with Emma cause she’s a teenager.

Chelsea: And that’s why it works so well in Clueless. Because Cher Horowitz is awful, but she’s also seventeen. She’s seventeen or eighteen.

Kay: Right.

Chelsea: Eighteen year olds are awful.

Kay: I understand that for modern viewing audiences sometimes they pick an older actress just to make that main romance more palatable because in the book?

Chelsea: Yeah.

Kay: Knightley is like twenty years older than her. So I understand why they sometimes try to age up Emma. But then the characterization just makes her seem like a whiny brat rather than literal teenager who is learning how to be a human.

Chelsea: If you’re a thirty year old woman acting like a seventeen year old? I’m not here for that. [laughs] But, you know, if you’re reasonably seventeen year old-ish looking and I can believe you’re supposed to be an actual teenager there’s gonna be more allowances made for that characterization. I have to know your feelings on Pride and Prejudice adaptations.

Kay: I love all of them.

Chelsea: Okay.

Kay: I’m one of those strange people who just kind of loves them all. I think it’s probably because, so. A lot of people hate the Keira Knightley one that came out in 2005.

Chelsea: I just don’t like Keira. Is it James McFadden? Is that his name?

Kay: Matthew MacFadyen?

Chelsea: I was close. I knew the last name. I loved him as Darcy.

Kay: He was great.

Chelsea: Obviously, Colin Firth is the best —

Kay: And that was the first time I ever saw Rosamund Pike in anything. So bless you, Joe Wright.

Chelsea: Bless you, sir.

Kay: For bringing her into our lives.

Chelsea: Yeah. I didn’t hate the Keira Knightly version. The soundtrack by Dario Marianelli is gorgeous. It is A+.

Kay: A+. The score for that movie’s gorgeous. And I thought the way that they shot that was really dreamy.

Chelsea: Yes, it’s beautiful.

Kay: It’s beautiful and.

Chelsea: Eh. I didn’t feel like some of the acting was.

Kay: There are a lot of historical accuracy things that drive people bananas, but I just don’t really care. Frankly I just don’t really care. That’s not why I’m watching, but that is a consideration when you’re looking at an adaptation. Some people are really looking for historical accuracy in various aspects of the film. And I generally don’t care. I just don’t. [laughs]

Chelsea: And there’s always that, you have things like the BBC version, which is literally like six hours long? Seven hours long? I mean, it’s a big chunk of time.

Kay: The miniseries is fairly long.

Chelsea: You get a lot more detail.

Kay: I know that it’s blasphemy, but I do not like — is it Jennifer Ehle?

Chelsea: That plays Elizabeth?

Kay: I don’t love her as Elizabeth.

Chelsea: That’s fair.

Kay: If you don’t love your Elizabeth the whole thing’s not gonna work.

Chelsea: And that’s a long time.

Kay: It’s a longggg time.

Chelsea: And I don’t love Keira Knightley, but I can sit through an hour and a half of Keira Knightley. I could not sit through six and a half hours of watching Keira Knightley in that adaption. [laughs] There is a Bollywood version called Bride and Prejudice. Which is actually surprisingly delightful.

Kay: It’s super cute!

Chelsea: I had not heard of it until I took that college class I talked about before, but that was one of the adaptations that we watched when we were reading Pride and Prejudice and I loved it.

Kay: I don’t remember the name of the actor that plays Darcy in that, but he’s not great. But the movie itself is quite cute.

Chelsea: And if you’re looking for a multicultural non-Anglo/Western adaptation of Austen I feel like that’s a solid choice or at least definitely kind of a door to open and a path to go down.

Kay: And I don’t think either of us were super into them, but I do like this new trend of YouTube adaptations. Multimedia adaptations they’ve been doing the last few years. There’s Emma Approved. It’s not my personal thing that I enjoy watching. Cause it just kind of required more time commitment over an extended period of time than I’m really into in my visual media. I’m really bad at keeping up with tv shows and so it felt like that except even more stressful because it’s these small chunks you have to watch all the time. But I liked that it was bringing in new people and younger people to really lovely classic pieces of media that I really love. And I thought that the attempts of diversifying some of the materials were not as successful as they could’ve been, but I appreciated that the attempts happened. [laughs]

Chelsea: The one I am thinking of is no longer recording, but that means you can go back and watch the entire backlog, so that might be a way to get around some of that episodic hangup, if that’s a thing for you. But it’s called Classic Alice. And it starts as one that opens with a riff on Crime and Punishment, but it kind of follows this college girl Alice as she goes through her english degree and the events in her life mirror various books. And there’s romance and it’s from a list called 14 Exceptional YouTube Series That Literature Lovers Should Watch. And of course we’ll link that in the shownotes. Your mileage may vary depending on how you feel in general about kind of shorter visual works or just kind of more episodic things in general, but it’s definitely a cool kind of trend in adaptations or a riff on adaptations that I think is really cool. So, we are running a little long. Which is totally fine. But do you have any kind of last thoughts or wrap up stuff about adaptations in general? Or specific adaptations? Any you really wanna recommend?

Kay: Do we want to recommend some that we really love? One of my alltime favorite movies based on one of my alltime favorite books: Sense and Sensibility. The version that Ang Lee directed, which was his english language debut directing. And the starring role and screenwriter, Emma Thompson. Amazing. Amazing adaptation and it’s a case where even the scenes that are added, that are original to the adaptation, feel like they could just have been a cut scene from the original book. Which I really love. If you’re gonna add new material it needs to feel cohesive and have the same spirit as the rest of the work and she managed that perfectly. She actually, I remember reading an interview with her where someone was telling her I loved how you adapted this such and such scene and she just smiled and nodded and didn’t tell them that she had written that whole cloth for the film and it wasn’t from the book at all. Which I thought was just fantastic.

[laughter]

Chelsea: I’m gonna totally cheat on my recommendation and recommend the Ang Lee version of Brokeback Mountain, based on the Annie Proulx story. A story which is only like sixty pages long, and turned it into one of the most tragically queer heartbreaking movies that I’ve seen in a very long time. And it’s shot beautifully. And it’s heartbreaking and it’s. There’s lots of things to be said about it, good and bad, but it’s, I still think, a wonderful adaptation.

Kay: And there are several, I love this comic book adaptation renaissance we’re having. So there’s a ton of comic book movies that I really love. The first two Captain America movies are some of my favorite movies of the last decade. Captain America: The First Avenger and Captain America: The Winter Soldier. I loved Logan.

Chelsea: LOVED Logan.

Kay: Which is semi based on the Old Man Logan storyline. We’ll have to do a Logan episode at some point.

Chelsea: Yeah. So. But cause. I have a lot of feelings about Logan and the X-Men.

Kay: Love. Also, have to shout out, not a comic book adaptation, but Arrival. One of my favorite movies of the last decade, maybe?

Chelsea: So good.

Kay: So good. Adapted from a really wonderful science fiction short story by, is it Ted Chiang? It’s so great.

Chelsea: So great. Excellent.

Kay: The cast is excellent, and I say that as someone who doesn’t even like Jeremy Renner at all. I wish they  had not had Jeremy Renner in this movie, but other than that it was basically everything I could possibly have wanted from this adaptation. And it’s. I’m just so impressed because if you have read the short story that it’s based on it’s very thinky and strange and when I first read it I was like there’s no way they’re going to adapt this for the screen in any kind of satisfying way. And they did! And it was amazing!

Chelsea: It’s amazing.

Kay: I will be bitter until the end of time that Amy Adams not only was not nominated for an Oscar for this role, but this year Emma Stone won for one of the worst movies I have ever seen. [laughs] And she can’t sing and it was a musical. We’ll not even get into that.

Chelsea: I wanna say one thing, which is Johnny Depp is gonna be in the new Murder on the Orient Express movie.

Kay: Now I can’t see it.

Chelsea: And before you come yell at me about the fact that he dies, I don’t care. Just the fact that he’s in it means I can’t pay to see it in a comfy theater seat with a giant soda.

Kay: He can’t have my money.

Chelsea: He can’t have my money. And I know —

Kay: My money can’t go to him at the box office.

Chelsea: But then I want to recommend two, well okay. One I want to recommend more than the others, but delightfully as a pair they do work. And that is both of the adaptations of Dan Brown‘s books.

[Kay laughs]

Chelsea: I’m a Danfan. I’m on the Danfan crew.

Kay: This is an entirely judgment free zone. I’m not judging you at all.

Chelsea: No, that’s fine. The thing is that I don’t. I think that if you’re still judging people for wanting to read Dan Brown books in 2017 you need to reevaluate some decisions that you’re making with your life.

Kay: Get a new hobby.

Chelsea: Get a new hobby. You know what, come find me, I have several hobbies that I can give you. [laughs] Because everybody needs a little bit of fun, whatever form that takes. But as ridiculous as these books are, I actually think that the movies do a pretty good job of adaptations. They manage to take this huge amounts of Dan Brown info dumps that I love. That are completely Dan Brownian and that are why I read his books. But they manage to take that infodump and actually streamline it and get it across in a way that is much more efficient and visually impactful. Of course, I feel like Tom Hanks as Robert Langdon is always a solid choice. Tom Hanks as any kind of professorial trust me I’m a middle aged white man role —

[Kay laughs]

Chelsea: — is just where Tom Hanks is making his money at.

Kay: If that’s not going to Tom Hanks, I mean I dunno who else could possibly do that.

Chelsea: I mean, Mel Gibson isn’t getting it anymore.

Kay: Chelsea, I just realized we got an hour into our episode about adaptations and neither of us mentioned Lord of the Rings.

[laughter]

Chelsea: That’s because I can’t, I can’t, I can’t. I can’t. Okay, like. This is my thing. They’re great adaptations.

Kay: They’re some of the top grossing films of alltime.

Chelsea: Regardless about how you feel about the source material or the movies, I don’t think you can argue they aren’t a great adaptation from book to movie.

Kay: If you’re like me and it took you fifteen tries to get through the damn Two Towers cause it’s boring as fuck.

Chelsea: I didn’t’ even read it.

Kay: The movie is just glorious. [laughs]

Chelsea: Okay, internet. I got to Tom Bombadil and said nope. Fuck that noise. And that’s within the first 150 pages of the first book.

[Kay is still laughing]

Chelsea: And I was like why are they singing? Why is there, why are they taking a nap and also singing songs what is happening? So I was like nope. I’m over it. You know what? I won’t read the books I’ll watch the movies. I’ll look at the absolutely adorable Billy Boyd and Dominic Monaghan.

Kay: I absolutely 1% endorse the course of action where if you’re trying to read Tolkien’s work and you’re meh, just watch the original trilogy of the Lord of the Rings movies.

Chelsea: Because they are fantastic. So those are our much eclipsed feelings. We hardly talked about superhero stuff other than your brief mention.

Kay: We could talk about superhero stuff until the end of time.

Chelsea: I know.

Kay: Basically we are really glad that we are getting superhero stuff on the big screen with decent budgets.

Chelsea: More ladies and people of color.

Kay: Yes, please.

Chelsea: So as much as I love my snarky superhero men I’m okay if they just take a little bit of a backseat for a second and we get some more ladies.

Kay: Can we just not with the daddy issues for a while and let us see something else.

Chelsea: If you have to play intergalactic star matter catch with your dad to resolve your daddy issues I don’t want to pay $13 to watch it. I’m literally on twitter right now seeing people talking about Game of Thrones and whoop. There’s another adaptation we didn’t talk about.

Kay: I feel like we could touch on that real quick.

Chelsea: I think that the thing about Game of Thrones is now they’re not adapting anymore. So it’s one of the few things we’ve seen that started out as an adaptation, but now it’s branching out into its own creative choices so it’s kind of like it’s creating fan fiction of itself.

Kay: And the original creator is still alive and contributing to the adaptation but not the one making final decisions on anything. Which is wild.

Chelsea: It’s so weird.

Kay: So wild to me.

Chelsea: Sometimes I try and imagine what it would be like to be George RR Martin in lots of different ways, but specifically to have input on this thing that you created and are still working on.

Kay: He’s never gonna finish ’em.

Chelsea: You shut our mouth, Kay. You shut your mouth.

Kay: He’s never gonna finish ’em!

Chelsea: You don’t put that out into the atmosphere.

Kay: I’m ptuting it out there into the atmosphere. You guys can all hate me forever. George RR Martin is never finishing that fucking series. It’s not gonna happen.

Chelsea: Do you think he’s not gonna finish it because he’s gonna die before he gets a chance, or he’s just never gonna, he’s just gonna choose to never finish ’em.

Kay: I personally have not read all of the books, so I’ve only read summaries of these.

Chelsea: That’s fair.

Kay: And I also failed out of the series several episode — not episodes, several seasons ago. Because I just got really tired of the violence against women and ugh. I think George RR Martin wrote himself into a corner. Doesn’t know how to write himself out. And he has more money than god, so he doesn’t need to any time soon.

Chelsea: That’s true. But you don’t think he has any kind of sense of loyalty to all the people who gave him all that money to finish this thing that he started?

Kay: I’m not questioning that he thinks he’s gonna finish it.

Chelsea: That’s fair. That’s fair.

Kay: I just think that he’s not.

Chelsea: Gonna get lazy, basically?

Kay: I think if he ever does finish it it’s not gonna be in a manner that is satisfying for his fans.

Chelsea: I just, it’ll be interesting to see, because he’s contributing to the show, I’m always gonna wonder how much of whatever book he writes, if there’s any overlap at all, I’m always gonna wonder did you give that to the show first or did they have that idea and you took it from them?

Kay: Yeah.

Chelsea: And it doesn’t necessarily matter because they’re in a collaborative creative environment so it’s not necessarily a strict attribution of ideas like that.

Kay: But it’s a very weird chicken or egg situation. Right? [laughs]

Chelsea: If as soon as they had stopped adapting the source materials he had stepped off and said okay I’m gonna license you guys this intellectual property to finish out these stories, but I don’t wanna have anything to do with it. That would’ve been a different creative choice but he didn’t do that. So it’s always gonna be this weird, I don’t’ think future readers are ever gonna be able to read the books without also having to consumer the television show. They’ve become so intertwined because he’s got such a strong creative hand in both that I just thank just. I try to imagine literal generations of people who read these books before the tv show [laughs] who’ve been reading these books for twenty years and now have this whole other thing happening and so it’s a very interesting dynamic in that particul aristuation. While I completely understand anybody who has noped out on the tv show, as someone who has continued watching? I’ll say the last season was much better. Maybe because they’re mostly done adapting the source material, they’ve made their first steps away from the source material which is super rapey and super violent and super awful to women.

[Funin’ and Sunin’ by Kevin MacLeod plays]

Chelsea: But okay. I think that’s about all we had on adaptations. This has been a very long episode. Not sure how long it’ll be after the final cut, but. We have been talking for quite a while about adaptation.

Kay: This was a lovely very rambly conversation. If you stuck with us to the end? Thank you for  listening to our semi coherent thoughts about adapting for the screen. [laughs]

Chelsea: As always, we will be back in a week it’s gonna be Not Now, I’m Reading When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon. As always, you can find us in all of our internet homes. Take care of yourselves and we’ll see you in a week.

Kay: Bye!

Outtakes:

Chelsea: Yeah, basically it’s TV canon au continuation fanfic and it’s wonderful.

Kay: Which, like, I love book Ron. I love him so much. I don’t like him very much in the films.

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