Tuesday, July 31, 2007

'i am your father'

Evangeline and Rachel just saw the Star Wars trilogy for the first time last week. When we reached the famous scene when Darth Vader tells Luke that he is Luke's father, Evangeline burst into laughter. She suddenly understood the joke in Toy Story 2 when Zurg and Buzz are facing off on the elevator.

In some ways, I feel my daughters have missed something by seeing Star Wars at their age, or perhaps even in seeing it in the context where they know the joke first and foremost. There is no way they can appreciate what a shock it was to viewers who saw that movie for the first time and heard Darth drop that particular bombshell. I remember that even back then it was primetime grounds for debate and discussion. We had back-and-forth discussion for years about whether it was true, with people pulling out one bit of evidence or another to support their position. For my girls, there is no way the mystery ever could reach that level of suspense.

I rather feel they will have the same problem with "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows." Too much of the ending will be known to them, because so many of their friends already will have read it.


JJ said...

I have these thoughts about all the movies that are being made recently based on classics... the idea that there are people who will only know Lord of the Rings from the movie... of the Narnia Chronicles. As a fan, I'm loving that they're attempting to make movies from those books (as flawed as they may be), but as a teacher I find it alarming... because those are the one series of books that I have always used to introduce and encourage my classes to read, and if there is a movie out there that kids can see instead... well... it's just not the same.

marauder said...

That, unfortunately, has been the nature of the struggle between film and literature ever since the first moving picture. I rather imagine bards, scops and other storytellers objecting the first time someone wrote down a classic tale like "The Iliad" or "Beowulf." "But why would anyone stay and listen to it, when they can read it whever they want?"

In a way, big- and small-screen adaptations of old stories are not adaptations so much as they are retellings, with as many differences with their source material as John Steinbeck or T.H. White had with Malory. Certainly anyone who sees the recent "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" is not going to get the sense of Aslan's majesty that they would get in the book, and they're going to think that the climax of the story comes on the battlefield and not on the Stone Table. It's just not the same story.

But as a former teacher myself -- and, more importantly as the father of two girls, one with an insatiable appetite for books -- I hear what you're saying. It's a tremendous loss when kids won't pick up a classic because they think they've seen it already. We got our older daughter past that snare by reading to her nonstop from infancy through the present. I'm expecting similar returns with the younger child now that she's learning to read as well.

My second year teaching, I was able to turn some of my students around through the incentive of a seemingly "easy A." It was pretty simple: I told the students first marking period that they would get an automatic A on the book report just for reading and convincing me they had read "Les Miserables." No writing necessary. Only one kid took me up on it, but he made my day after he saw the Broadway musical and told me the book had been better. I had near-full participation by the end of the year, particularly when I announced a read-a-thon: Bump up your reading grade 1 percent for every 100 pages you read, bump it up to an automatic A by reading more than I did. Even after the promotion ended, I still had one kid who had started out the year hating to read, who I now had to remind to put the latest Michael Crichton novel away since it was math class.