Azure Jane Lunatic (azurelunatic) wrote,
Azure Jane Lunatic

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When the book becomes a movie: book-fan reactions in terms of microscopic-scale appropriation

So on the Mortal Instruments fan email list, the old "Can a movie ruin a book?" debate came up.

A lot of the responses mentioned the usual: the difficulties of translating a book to a visual medium, changes made to the basic structure and tone of the original, how sometimes it's necessary to treat the book and the movie as separate entities rather than trying to see them as part of a coherent whole or even the same thing. My response:

One really interesting thing is what movies do to the fan culture.

On a personal level, it's generally possible to read a book, love it, watch the movie, dislike it, and then go back to loving the book and ignoring the movie (unless the movie was so bad that every time you think of the book you're reminded of the movie and how much you hated it).

But when a movie comes out when there's an existing fandom for the book, there's generally a sudden influx of fans who have been brought into the fold by the movie -- and they may not have read the book(s), and may not have enjoyed them. If the book and movie are sufficiently different in tone, there can be significant culture clashes between the original book fandom and the new movie fandom. Given the tendency to consider the book fandom and movie fandom as the same collective fandom, the book fans could feel that their fan culture is being invaded and appropriated* by people who are not taking the time to even attempt to appreciate the original source.

Movie-fans coming up with metatextual analysis pieces about the movie may not take into account stuff that was brought up with more detail in the books, and it could be really frustrating for a book fan to see the source material being ignored.

The mailing list is primarily full of younger fans, as it is a series marketed at the Young Adult crowd, so I did not expect most of them to have been following along with the Racefail commentary, or necessarily understand what cultural appropriation was. And while on the one hand it is very good to know what these things are, on the other hand, the list is not my space to start that discussion, and there is a certain level of righteous indignation and reactive backlash to that indignation that sort of comes along with the discussion.

On the gripping hand, I felt that I would be amiss if I were to talk about an incredibly minor type of cultural -- subcultural -- appropriation, and not at least make reference to how minor it is in the grander scheme of things, and provide some sort of background to the whole thing as it touches on fandom -- yet dumping teenage fangirls unprepared into the sort of nastiness of that whole imbroglio (like shoving them un-warned at [info - personal] rydra_wong's link collection) would be many kinds of wrong and bad. In the end, I went with a footnote:

* Fannish subcultural appropriation, one fannish subculture being taken over by another, is overall a less significant issue than larger-scale cultural appropriation, but this mailing list is probably not the place to get into any sort of in-depth discussion about the larger issues. For those who are interested, a basic introduction to the concept can be found at and some more stuff on larger-scale cultural appropriation in a fannish context can be found here, with some links:

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