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.