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Adapt and survive, or adapt and die?

September 18, 2017
I don’t quite remember who – it might have been Damon Alban but don’t quote me on that – but a musician anyway once said that having someone re-mix your song was a bit like someone offering to take your dog for a walk, only for them to bring back a different dog. I guess the same might be said of page to screen adaptations. Of course, there’s been a controversial adaption in the media this week with the announcement that Scott McGehee and David Siegel are working on an all female version of Lord of the Flies. This has produced the comment from the author William Golding himself that, ‘(Lord of the flies) would only work with little boys, because little boys are more representative of society than little girls,’ and has divided social media into two (or maybe three) camps split a long the lines of either a) it’s political correctness gone mad, what next, a female James Bond? or b) it’s being written by two men, so it’s going to be nothing but palm leaf bikinis, with every cast member a size zero, apart “miss” Piggy, who will be a size two and wear glasses, and of course the third camp, who were forced to study it at school and couldn’t care less, as most books studied at school have all the joy beaten out of them by exam questions no matter what they are. I imagine the truth will end up somewhere in between. Yes, you can argue that the original book was a satire on a white, upperclass colonial elite as typified by the public school system, and what it was trying to say was not that all children are like this, but that children institutionalised by a pretty brutal and toxic education system are, and so it won’t ever translate to an all female cast. You could equally argue that white, upperclass women were just a much part of that colonial system, and in general are just as nasty and tribal as men, and we do both men and women a disservice by trying to pretend that one is inherently nicer than the other, so there’s no reason why they can’t directly swap in for their male counterparts. Perhaps the real argument is that it’s time we stopped endlessly adapting things which have already been adapted, filmed, rebooted and homaged, and write some original stuff perhaps, maybe? We all get very attached to the books we love, we live in their world and we become friends or enemies with their characters, and part of the power of reading is that we each adapt the book ourselves inside our heads. It is a uniquely intimate experience which can only be equaled by listening to music, and so of course when we hear someone else is going to make those internal pictures external, we all know that it won’t be the way way we see them, because it just can’t be, and that’s a loss. Once