Saturday, March 30, 2019

Watching the Movie Before Reading the Book

I am here today to confess to a terrible bookish sin that I have committed. I know it's bad, but I hope that you can understand and show support even in these difficult times. So here it goes: sometimes, I watch the movie before reading the book. Please take as much time as you need to process this admission of guilt on my part, and know that I will deeply reflect on my behavior.

All failed attempts at humor aside, I know this is something that is pretty frowned upon in the bookish community or at least goes against what a lot of other readers like to do. So today I want to talk about the good and the bad when it comes to watching movie adaptations before reading the book.

First of all, I think the biggest argument against watching the movie first is that the book is always better, and so "spoiling" yourself with the movie will take away from the reading experience later on. While I agree that 99% of the times, the movie is better than the book, I can't say that I think watching the movie first has ever made me enjoy the book less afterward. I guess there's no way to really know, but one of my favorite books of all time actually falls into this category. I saw The Hunger Games movie before reading the book, and I still ended up absolutely loving the book afterwards. If anything, that movie is what made me pick up the book in the first place (and get me back into reading altogether, so it has a special place in my heart anyway).

There are other books that I only ever read because I watched the movie or TV show first. For example, I don't think I would have ever picked up the A Song of Ice and Fire series if I hadn't fallen in love with Game of Thrones on TV. And for Lord of the Rings, my preexisting love for the story is honestly all that got me through the second half of The Two Towers. I'm pretty sure that both of those series would've been way too intimidating for me to pick up if I hadn't seen them on screen first. So there have definitely been times where watching the movie before reading the book has worked out great for me.

Really, I'm trying to think of cases where the opposite is true and I ended up not reading the book because I saw the movie first, but I don't think there are any. Even the Percy Jackson movies didn't succeed in deterring me from reading the books. I will admit, though, that I have seen the first two (I think) Maze Runner movies and I have no intention of reading the series. I'm pretty sure this doesn't have anything to do with the movies themselves, but again I can't really know. I also recently watched the Dumpling movie and have yet to read the book, but I'll give myself more time before judging that case.

What often happens when I watch movies that I know are book adaptations is that I keep imagining how much better the story is probably fleshed out in the book. Sometimes you can really see where parts of the plot had to be cut, so reading the book afterwards feels like getting bonus content to a story you enjoy. This can be a huge motivation for me to pick up a book. 

I also always struggle to picture the characters I read about in books, so having an actor or actress to associate the person with can really help me. I know this can be very bad when the cast doesn't fit the descriptions, but to me it's still better than imagining a flesh-colored blob as a character in my head. 

Overall, I think watching the movie before reading the book isn't all that bad. Sometimes, I will just feel like watching a movie because it looks fun, and I don't think the fact that it is also a book that I might pick up one day should keep me from enjoying a good film. And really, when will I ever get to all these books on my TBR anyway, so why not enjoy a story in a different format from time to time?

What are your thoughts on watching the movie before reading the book? Are you someone who religiously avoids doing this, or do you also feel rebellious from time to time?

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