10 September 2009

100 Issues for 100 Days: #25

#25: This Used to be My Playground

Tonight was the premiere of the CW's The Vampire Diaries. As I said before, the book series that this show is based on shaped a good part of my childhood. I've always been a lover of vampire stories. I read many of Anne Rice's books when I was 11 and 12 and I still love her writing. But one day I stumbled across L.J. Smith's The Vampire Diaries and I was hooked.

In all honesty, all of the author's stories follow the same general arc. There is a female protagonist (in this case Elena Gilbert) and she is caught in between two guys. In VD, it's initially Matt, the sweet jock, and Stefan, the dangerous but good vampire. As Elena becomes more entrenched in Stefan's world, she becomes caught between Stefan and his brother, Damon, who is a far more dangerous vampire. Eventually, Elena becomes a vampire due to her dalliances with both brothers.

What makes the book series so intriguing is the devotion that Elena has to her friends and ultimately her town and that against all odds, it's not about her choosing between these two brothers but instead about how much she is willing to sacrifice to keep her town safe from the evil these two brothers unintentionally bring.

The show, while drawing on some of the larger elements of the original (vampire brothers fighting for Elena's love, Damon's ability to turn into a crow, Stefan's disgust of his brother and determination to act human) so far misses out on some crucial details. The CW's Elena has a younger sibling in the form of a cute, drug-addicted brother. Perfect fodder for the CW crowd but the book's Elena has a little sister named Margaret, whose pet kitten plays an important role later in the story. In the novel, Stefan and Damon originate from Venice during the Italian Renaissance era. In the show, they are part of the original founders of the Virginian town the story is set in, though they still retain the obviously Italian name, Salvatore. And it's a small note but the name of the town in the book is Fell's Church while in the show has changed it to Mystic Falls. Minor but since one of the major characters that comes into play is named Honoria Fell, I guess that part of the story will be scrapped. Also some of Elena's friends have been sacrificed so far (Meredith) while other minor characters have been played up (Vicki).

There are some changes I'm happy with. The character of Bonnie is now a Black female, which is a welcome change. It's nice to have more characters of color in my favorite story.

But the question I ask myself whenever a remake or adaption like this happens, is why does this affect me so much? Why do these changes affect the sanctity that I've created around my favorite stories? Part of it is fear that this will be the only way one of my favorite stories will be remembered. There is a permanence about film and television that can supersede literature. There's very few people that can argue that the name Harry Potter doesn't conjure an image of Daniel Radcliffe. Right now, I've convinced one of my students (who reminds me a lot of myself) to read the series. And with all the Twi-hards out there thinking this is some sort of rip-off of their universe when the Vampire Diaries actually existed more than a decade before Twilight was published, it's hard not to be defensive and hope that if theyre going to create that permanence they get it right.

The second part of it is that when you read (and re-read) books the way I do, you create a world, a set of images that resonate with you forever. Because I enjoy Nina Dobrev as an actor, I'm not up in arms about the fact that she looks nothing like how Elena is described in the story but in truth, she looks
NOTHING like Elena. As the heroine of the story, it's a bit hard to swallow.

I've given the show a chance and though it's not terrible, it's not
my Vampire Diaries. And as the fall schedule begins to get crowded they're going to have to give me more than a good soundtrack to keep me tuning in. As it is, I just have the urge to pull out my books and read them every week. It would be a far better use of my hour.


Anonymous said...

the name changes aren't that big of a deal. they had to change the names of things because of legal reasons. also meredith is supposed to show up later in the series, so she's not completely written out.

shananigans said...

I know all that but I did enjoy how the Fell's came into the story later.

I know about Meredith but by not introducing her at the beginning they set up that Black best friend thing which is pretty cliche.