Wednesday, April 30, 2014

What I've Learned from Binge Watching Game of Thrones (Without Reading It First)

I have a confession: I never, ever, ever watch a movie before I read its literary counterpart.

Ever since the travesty of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, my favorite of the HP books at the time of the movie's release, I have refused to trust Hollywood with the task of accurately adapting a book into a movie. (I mean, come on, the movie never even explained that Mooney, Wormtail, Padfood, and Prongs were Remus, Peter, Sirius, and James.)

Don't misunderstand: I'm not a book-to-movie purist. I'm aware that some things need to change in order to take a book and make it a movie. I'm even okay with a different ending, as long as there's a reason for it. No, you won't find me banging down doors because the ending of My Sister's Keeper was changed or because an entire, semi-important character from The Hunger Games wasn't included in the movie (I'm looking at you Madge).

What you will find me doing is judging the snot out of every one of the filmmaker's decisions. I love comparing what was changed, deciding if it worked, and trying to figure out why. I'm less concerned with the accuracy of the adaptation, and more concerned with if it works.

I was the girl sitting in Breaking Dawn Part 2 who wasn't freaking out about that scene, but who was trying to piece together how it fit in with the book's ending. When I was watching The Great Gatsby, I seriously considered the implications of opening with Nick in a mental institution before deciding I didn't like it. I'm the girl who reread Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in two days before the final movie, just so I could know all of the details to compare. My point, dear reader, is that I like to be informed of the tone of the novel, what the reader is supposed to get out of it, and what the characters are supposed to be like before I see it adapted for the screen.

I completely went back on all of my standards when faced with the task of reading Game of Thrones before watching the show. Between a busy schedule and societal pressure to know what on earth a red wedding is, I decided not to wait until I had read the books and dove in to the show headfirst. 

And I enjoyed it. A lot. I liked not knowing where the plot was going; I groaned the cliffhangers and the shocking deaths; I couldn't get enough of the twists and turns. The best part was that I could just watch the show. I didn't care that they added characters, or didn't include such and such plot point because I didn't even know anything was changed.

I just let the show guide me to wherever it wanted, with nary a complaint from my over-analyzing mind. This experience has made me much more open to the idea of watching adaptations before reading the book.

However, I feel almost as if I've let the show Game of Thrones spoil me for the delights of the books. Sure, seeing the events unfold on screen is awesome (and fairly easy on the brain after a long day), but assuming I do eventually read the books: will I enjoy them as much as I would have if I hadn't seen the show? Obviously I will never know the answer to that question, but I'd like to think I will like them just as much no matter how many of the deaths I already know about.

In conclusion, my Game of Thrones experience has taught me that it's okay for me to not read the book first, but it has also made me think about the reading experience I'm giving up by doing that. I think that in the future I will be more open to watching a screen adaptation before reading the book, and my decision will have less to do with snobbery and more to do with which experience I think holds more value.

What about you? Do you like to read the book before or after seeing it's adaptation?

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