A Word on Book Adaptations

To All the Boys I_ve Loved Before by Jenny Han Movie Tie-In Cover

Over the years, when it comes to film and TV adaptations of books, I’ve seen a million comments in a similar vein:

  • Why didn’t the author cast a different actor?
  • Why did the author let them change a scene from the book?
  • Why didn’t the author pick different music?
  • Why? Why? Why?

(On a side note, this applies to book covers, too.)

This has come to my attention again with the release of the movie version of To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han. As successful as the movie is, Han has come under attack from the male Asian American community, and has been suffering abuse all over the internet.

Much of this centres on her making the Asian heroine’s love interest white.

However, some of it is about the inclusion of actor Israel Broussard in the film. With the actor’s newfound fame, people have been digging into his social media accounts. He is from Gulfport, Mississippi – deep Trump country – and it’s been discovered he made all kinds of horrific, racist, discriminatory (now deleted) tweets over the years.

Here’s the truth about adaptations:

THE AUTHOR HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH ANYTHING.

Nothing whatsoever. When you sell the rights to your book, YOU’VE SOLD THE RIGHTS TO YOUR BOOK.

You get no say in the casting. You get no say in the writing of the script*. You get no say in filming locations, or music, or costumes, or what the movie posters look like.

It is no longer your story.

Please remember that before attacking an author about something they have no control over.

 

*Added to say that very occasionally an author might get a say in some script choices. Usually this only happens with very famous authors of a very well-established series. And even then the input they get is minimal.

For example, Diana Gabaldon is listed as a “consultant” for Outlander, and yet that still doesn’t mean she writes the scripts, nor that she gets a say in the overall production.

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One thought on “A Word on Book Adaptations

  1. I so prefer when an author retains a certain amount of control over the adaptation, but you’re right, it’s definitely not the norm. One of the big reasons I’m looking forward to the Good Omens TV show is that Neil Gaiman is working as a producer, which gives me a bit more faith in the final product.

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