Last week I wrote about how re-visiting a book I had loved for most of my life revealed some flaws that made it, basically, unlovable.
There is also the flip side, though: when something you’ve loved for long time changes in some way, and you discover new reasons to love it.
“Please Don’t Ruin It.”
We all have that moment of fear when we hear about a book or a comic or even a video game that we loved being made into a movie.
(It’s kind of curious; we don’t seem to get as upset if a movie is made into a game or a book. It’s just movies that seem to evoke that reaction).
When I heard that A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L’Engle, was going to be made into a movie I was at first elated, then frightened. About the only really successful moviefication of a book I liked was Princess Bride, but that made sense because the author was already an accomplished screenwriter.
Please don’t ruin it, I thought, along with many, many others. It’s an interesting way of thinking: I have these memories of reading the book (and the sequels) as a youth of about twelve. I continued reading and re-reading them on a regular basis into my late 20’s/early 30’s.
To give you an idea of the place they held, the first ensemble dance performance I co-created in college was named after characters in the sequel, A Swiftly Tilting Planet, and the third book, A Wind in the Door, introduced me to St. Patrick’s Rune (At Tara in this fateful hour, I place all Heaven with its power…) that became a personal touchstone.
And that’s just the stuff I recognize as conscious influences. On a deeper level: I basically grew up into Calvin, without realizing or intending to.
You know how I know that?
The Movie Showed Me
They changed a lot in the movie. Casting a more diverse group for starters, and that was so refreshing, because the twelve-year-old boy never imagined Ms. Which, Whatsit, and Who as beautifully as the actresses who played them. They changed bits and pieces of the plot, and there were parts that terrified me from the book (a suburban world of perfect conformity) that were not nearly as developed in the movie as I would have liked.
But…Storm Reid’s portrayal of Meg Murry made me feel the fear and abandonment more than the book ever had. Ava Duvernay’s direction and pacing didn’t so much replace the images I’d created in my head as much as solidify them, fleshing them out in the way that I imagine the Harry Potter Theme Parks do for people who started with the books.
And along with the representation of others, there was the character that “looked like me.” No, not her father – for some reason, I never identified with him. No, the young Calvin, played by Levi Miller (no relation). I saw in that young man’s character the kind of support and quiet strength that epitomizes what can be good about masculinity. Not to say I’ve achieved that – this is fiction, after all – but I could see how his character had influenced me.
And Zach Galifianakis as the Happy Medium was nothing like I would have imagined the character…and yet was somehow not only perfect, but also gave me a new character archetype to emulate.
The Moral of the Story Is…
In an age of internet outrage, it’s easy to get defensive of our “pure” experiences of books, songs, and other touchstones of our youth. Especially with all the changes that happen to each of us, our memories of these works seem to be anchors to our memories of who we were in the past. Changing them can feel like a threat to the person we were, or at least who we remember being.
It doesn’t have to be that way.
Rather than fearing changes in the things we love, we can be open to the possibility that the changes will allow us to find new ways to love them.
Wrinkles and all.