The movie or the book..?

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What Should Come First…

…the movie or the book?

It’s a question that’s come into play for me a lot in the past. Is it better to read the book before watching its movie or TV show, or is it okay to switch it up sometimes? Up until a comparatively short time ago, I would have told you that you should read the book first—always, without question, no matter what. I’m afraid I had (and still have) a bit of a tendency to be a purist. How could anyone taint the meaning and initial impact of a story by watching its adaptation first?

And for a while, I was able to adhere to that, at least when I was aware that the movie or show in question was based on a book. Why on earth would I want someone to form my opinions for me? To fill my head with their own idea of what the story was and distort whatever thoughts I may have formed on my own? I made sure to follow this regimen with Lord of the Rings, with Harry Potter, and with pretty much any other story that I held in high regard.

But then, whether by accident or deliberately (I’m no longer sure which), I started watching movie versions of books before I had read the story. I began to fudge on my steadfast rule by watching movies like Pride and Prejudice and Emma and North and South, and, more recently, shows like Game of Thrones. And I discovered that by viewing one artist’s representation of another artist’s work, I was able to more fully grasp and enjoy the book that the adaptation was made from. I could take from the film version that which helped me to understand the book better, and I could choose to discard what didn’t. I could use the artist’s imagining of the book to expand my own imagination, or I could reject it and form different opinions altogether. I was beginning to make room for change amid my former rules for reading. In short, I began to discover that neither order of consumption is good or bad; both have their own merits and disadvantages, and neither form of the story necessarily has to compromise the other.

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