14 April 2009

Do you XOXO Gossip Girl?

News outlets everywhere are applauding the fact that an abridged audiobook was included with the first season of Gossip Girl on DVD. (http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/18/business/media/18gossip.html). Now, I’m all for promoting reading, and I do believe that listening to an audio book is a “worthy” literacy experience, but I’m scratching my head over how an abridged version of the first GG novel, read by Christina Ricci, is going to get girls reading.

The GG novels are really well written. They had an enormous fan base before the CW adapted it into an hour-long series. To date, GG has sold 5.6 million copies (http://www.suite101.com/blog/dansgirl0605/gossip_girl_dvd_promotes_reading). That’s pretty impressive, and one might attribute that popularity to the show, or an audiobook tie-in. I’m sure the show was responsible for some new readership, but season one averaged 2.6 million viewers per episode and season 2 featured 2-3.1 million viewers per episode . Granted, the first season got hit with the writer’s strike, but viewership in the flawless second season is half of the number of copies sold of the first book in the GG series alone. There are several books in the series, too, and these books are like potato chips. You can’t have just one. I’m sorry, but I can’t credit Blake Lively or Christina Ricci for getting girls to read. Girls were reading on their own, sans CW! (I should note that I do know some boys who read the GG series; I don’t mean to be sexist).

If any of you are diehard GG readers out there, I want to know how you feel about the adaptation. Several sites, blogs, and message boards dissect the show compared to the book, and many fans weren’t happy. Were you? I liked the book better, and I was irritated at how Hollywood they made things: the book’s Jenny Humphrey was short, top-heavy, and she had curly brown hair. In the show, Taylor Momsen plays Jenny as a tall blonde waif (She played Cindy Loo Who in the Grinch movie--she’s classic adorable blonde Hollywood child actor). Vanessa is an alternative chick with a shaved head in the book. On the show, she’s a normal looking girl whose only “unique” feature is that she’s from Brooklyn. Okay, so I was a tad dismayed to see how things had changed on the show, but I still watch it every week.

Do you all remember the feeling of loving a book, looking forward to the movie, and then being disappointed with the adaptation? Do you remember feeling upset when others (as in, the rest of the world, or a television network, or the popular girl at school) discovered the same piece of media you were in love with? Did you ever feel betrayed or territorial about it? That’s how I feel about The Time Traveler’s Wife. In terms of teen/tween lit, I felt that way about GG, The Wizard of Oz, Bridge to Terabithia, The Handmaid’s Tale, and even the illustrations in the Babysitter’s Club. Have you guys had experience as a saddened reader, a pleasantly surprised viewer, or a fervent fan of one or the other? What about as a teen? Has this happened with teens you know?

This is why I’m skeptical of crossover fan bases: If you start off watching GG and then read the book, chances are, you won’t be a fan in equal measures TV and book. I hope that TV encourages reading. I just have not had personal experience with it. Has anyone liked a show or movie better than a book? I can honestly say I like Ghost Whisperer better as a show than a GN.
How do we encourage teens to try out different media forms without alienating them as fans? Is it me, or does this transition always work out better in Sci-fi? I’ve never met a fan of LOTR books who didn’t love the movie. Most people I know like at least one of the Harry Potter movies. Is this because Sci-fi adaptations are done better? Is it a more accepting fan base? Sometimes when you’re a fan of a subject, the medium is secondary to the content: I love anything Beatrix Potter, regardless of the form it comes in. Is this a twisted form of brand loyalty? I’ve noticed that the transition from book to TV happens much more often than TV to book. Thoughts? Experiences?

As librarians, readers, parents of teens, and teachers, what strategies do you guys have for encouraging TV watchers to read, and novel-readers to read graphic novels, and movie lovers to try music? How do we perform effective cross-medium materials advisory? Do we ignore the movies? Do we recommend the corresponding book title for someone’s favorite TV show? Or do we find something similar but different? I’m sorry I don’t have any answers. My mode of blogging seems to be hurling a bunch of questions at you guys, revealing a chunk of my nerdiness/completely shallow taste in TV, and then failing to write a compelling conclusion. In the TV adaptation of my life, this will be fixed.


  1. Do you really think GG books are well written? I like the show, but I tried to read the books and I couldn't...because I didn't like the way they were written! :)

  2. I should qualify that comment by saying I watched the show first, then tried to read the books...and it did not work for me!

  3. I thought that they were better written than a lot of the popular "good books" out there. The GG books have less typos that Stephanie Meyers' books, which isn't saying much. I guess I started reading the book with zero expectations, and was marginally surprised :)

  4. I don’t think there is an easy answer for one being better than the other, because every time I think I see a pattern I think of examples to prove myself wrong. That said, if I watch a movie or television show and then learn it was based on a book I always read the book if I love the movie or show. I think as a librarian it is important to remember that while one may enjoy watching a show or movie and also like the books, or visa versa, it is hard to gage if there will be overlapping fans without just looking at the quality of the individual items and how people feel about them. Many fans of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” read the graphic novels, watch the show, read critical essays, and/or read fan fiction. On the other hand, many fans of shows never would read books related to them. I, for example, do not tend to enjoy novelizations of movies, but that would not stop me from reading other related materials.

    I feel like usually the original form is the best, but it is hard to give any absolute, because that is not always true. For example, one of my favorite comedy movies to watch is Legally Blonde. The novel that the movies and play are based on is nothing like them. Elle is a terrible person. She is so opposite to the character in the movie it is hard to see how they are the same character in anything more than set up and name. I hated it and could not get beyond the horrendous hot tub scene where Elle is scheming to sleep with a taken man. “The Princess Bride” has always been a favorite movie of mine, but when I finally read the book I thought it was not funny and was offensive to me (especially how Buttercup is treated).

    On the other hand, I also read the first few books in Meg Cabot’s “Princess Diaries” and I felt that while the first movie was true to the spirit of the books the second got rid of her boyfriend (who is a big part of the books). Most recently I feel like the “Twilight” movie ruined the books for me to a large extent. I had pictured the characters completely differently. Aside from how strange I think Edward looks, Bella looks much more beautiful than the normal girl in the book. In the book Bella has no idea why someone would be attracted to her, but it is hard to believe that the Bella of the movie ever had been ignored by boys.

    Sometimes they are very similar and both are quite good. For example, Harry Potter is different in the movies (for example the kids are much cuter than they are described), but the movies for the most part capture the spirit of the books (“The Prisoner of Azkaban” being the best in my humble opinion). This is a rarity though. Later Harry Potter movies did not live up to the hype (mostly due to things being changed for the movie that didn’t go down the same way in the book).

    In other instances the two forms take such hugely different takes that they hardly can be compared. The Disney movies “Twitches” and “Twitches 2” are based on a novel, but the entire set up is different. Another example of this is “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist.” I loved both the movie and the book, but they were incredibly different. I wonder if such a huge departure in plot, but not in spirit, helps a work translate better.

    What I am really wondering about is the new movie version of “Where the Wild Things Are.” Do you think they can make a good movie, true to the spirit of the book? It is a picture book so obviously there is a lot that is going to need to be put in the movie to fill in the huge gaps and it is live action with computer generated characters rather than being an animated movie. Does this make it easier to be seen as a wholly new work? In my opinion the movie “Jumanji” was very exciting and when I realized it was a book I read it, but was very disappointed. It was probably would have been a good book to begin with, but the movie was much more exciting. So, with one of my favorite picture books I wonder if I will be able to enjoy it or if it will be a huge disappointment.