Bookish Rant: Unconventional Endings Need Not Apply

Filed in Bookish Rant or Raves , Draconismoi , featured Posted on May 16, 2013 @ 12:00 pm 13 comments


“I don’t think man was meant to attain happiness so easily. Happiness is like those palaces in fairy tales whose gates are guarded by dragons: we must fight in order to conquer it” -Edmund Dantes.

Book adaptations are a constant bone of contention for Book Lovers. Do we want to see our favorite works beautifully depicted on screen a la Game of Thrones? Or are we outraged by the humorous defilement of a definitely not humorous body of literature in School of Thrones? (Note: Regardless of sexposition in the former, and lack of Arya in the latter, I am a huge fan of both adaptations.)

I take most adaptations on a case-by-case basis. But will instantly and irrevocably transform into a flaming ball of nerd-hate when screenwriters who are essentially transmitting the story directly from page to screen, get a sudden aneurysm brainstorm and “improve” the ending. Screw things like plot, character development, catharsis, or completing an emotional journey!

Unconventional endings are often anathema to the silver screen. Nevermind that these bastardizations render the core story entirely meaningless. Poor souls who aren’t familiar with the source material in these situations are no doubt left wondering what the point was…..while timidly edging away from the novel-fandom gibbering and frothing at the mouth a few aisles over.

SPOILERS ABOUND BELOW. All referenced works have been widely available for years. The Titanic sinks, the Germans lose the war, and Count Dracula is a vampire.

Moving on.

Consider The Count of Monte Cristo, in which Edmund inconceivably reunites with Mercedes. Oh, and it turns Albert was his son all along (of course he was totally willing to raise the kid as his son prior to learning paternity). Obviously.

Are you fucking kidding me? Did any of you people even skim the book following the it’s-a-smugglers-life-for-me interlude? Edmund Dantes himself wouldn’t accept this ending. SEE INTRODUCTORY QUOTE.

A  Little Princess

Do you realize you just wasted two hours of my life by turning the definitive revenge tale into a period rom-com?* Hence: flaming ball of nerd-rage.

Back when I was a baby book lover, a new adaptation of A Little Princess was released. Minor change were apparent from the trailer. Sara was going to school in New York during WWI – presumably to make it more appealing to American audiences. Well within the acceptable parameters for a straightforward adaptation. I even loved the interludes where Sara’s retelling of Ramayana was acted out on screen (though, in hind-sight, it completely undercuts her supposed imaginative genius in favor of showing how caucasian imperialism co-opts native culture for its own ends). Why be picky? I was 10, and one of my favorite books was being made into a movie. Yay!



Then Shirley Temple took a shit all over my movie!

WHY IS SARA’S DAD ALIVE?! He dies, okay? DIES. The whole POINT of the story is that Sara’s dad dies. He’s not missing in action. Not conveniently comatose or afflicted with amnesia. D.E.A.D.

This ending will never cease to enrage me. I can’t tell if it comes from some ridiculous notion that children must be shielded from the death, or an even more ridiculous notion that the story is better when a loving dad goes into combat without making any arrangements for his daughter in the event of his exceedingly likely death.

There was a time in which I scoured the internet for any goddamn adaptaion of this book that included the appropriate ending. I found onewhich was not available in the U.S. When I acquired it by other means – it was in German. I don’t speak bloody German! Also, Sara was cast 10 years too old for her part.

Before you think this little trick is reserved for classic works, take a moment to consider Hannibal. The sequel to Silence of the Lambs. During which the FBI betrays Clarice, leading to her running off with Dr. Lector in a very bizarre and twisted love (?) story.

Or you can watch the movie and see Dr. Lector cut off his own hand and abandon Clarice in one of his death-houses. After which she can be charged as an accessory to murder, cannibalism, and torture – and then be uncermoniously tossed out on her ass by an unforgiving government. Because GUESS WHAT HOLLYWOOD, that is exactly what would have happened. Did you not retain any information from the rest of the story? FBI = shithead douchenozzels. Clarice = outcast scapegoat.

In the end, I think Ursula LeGuin put it best (as she often does) when responding to the atrocious adaptation of Earthsea:

I wonder if the people who made the film of The Lord of the Rings had ended it with Frodo putting on the Ring and ruling happily ever after, and then claimed that that was what Tolkien “intended…” would people think they’d been “very, very honest to the books”?

So. Screenwriters. Grow a pair. The End.

Bonus round for the extra-special adaptation of The Secret Incest! In which The Secret Garden couldn’t just end with Hey-Dad-I-can-Walk-Let’s-Be-One-Big-Functional-Family, but instead mandated an incestuous epilogue.
Don’t worry, they killed Dickon off in the prologue.

*Bear in mind I totally love Gankutsuou. Because it is a true adaptation. Taking the story and making it something new. Like The Secret Garden Musical being told from the perspective of the adults, or The Lizzie Bennet Diaries dragging Pride and Prejudice to the modern age.

About Draconismoi

Draconismoi is a Legal Aid Attorney out on the frozen tundra. After two weeks of -30F, she started telling people she moved to Alaska because she loves the indoors. Right now you'll find her curled up under all the blankets she owns, surrounded by a pile of books. Every so often she emerges from her cave (when there is food) and wonders how she'll justify prolonging this behavior once the temperature rises and the sun returns.

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  • blodeuedd May 16, 2013 at 3:50 pm

    I agree with it all

  • draconismoi May 16, 2013 at 4:34 pm

    I know! RAGE!

    Also, isn’t the incestuous epilogue to The Secret Garden super creepy? Thanks to Downton Abbey people are all “blah blah the Brits marry their cousins all the time.” But I am here to tell you there are distant cousins and then there are ‘our-mothers-were-twins’ COUSINS.

    That’s practically siblings in my book – and we all see how that worked out for the Lannisters.

    • Ailsa May 17, 2013 at 12:22 pm

      “we all see how that worked out for the Lannisters” Hahaha. I’m laughing so hard at that.

      I don’t think I’ve seen either of those adaptions – I have the BBC adaption of The Secret Garden which was done as episodes, but I can’t remember how close/not it is to the book. Perhaps a re-read & re-watch is in order this summer.

      • Draconismoi May 17, 2013 at 12:34 pm

        There are plenty of good adaptations of The Secret Garden out there – which is why The Secret Incest was so jarring. Though I noticed form youtube comments that the many audience members are less concerned with incest than the surprise appearance of Colin Firth.

        And if you haven’t seen that 1995 edition of A Little Princess or 2002 mockery of The Count of Monte Cristo….DON’T. SAVE YOURSELF THE PAIN.

  • Susan May 16, 2013 at 6:15 pm

    I’m laughing. Hard.

    I share your rage. . . except for Shirley. I saw Shirley’s A Little Princess when I was very young, long before reading the book. In my mind, I don’t even equate them as being the same story. The Shirley Temple movie is just a typical Shirley Temple movie. Doesn’t matter what the story is, they’re all the same: Shirley cries, pouts, makes everyone laugh and be happy, shows her dimples, sings and dances a bit. She even keeps her American accent. Hey, what’s not to love?

    I think the NY-set adaptation bothered me a bit more since it actually pretended to aspire to be more like the book, so the differences were more jarring to me. IYKWIM.

    (I was so excited when I heard they were adapting Earthsea, but then I couldn’t even bring myself to watch it. Sigh.

    Sometimes you just have to pretend the ending doesn’t exist. Just hit the stop button before you get there. Like the last scene of the Keira Knightley Pride & Prejudice (sexy as it is). Or the latest television remake of A Room with a View.

    • draconismoi May 16, 2013 at 7:36 pm

      I feel ancient. I just had to google IYKWIM. I never got past text-speak 101. Anything that isn’t a cover for swearing tends to throw me.

      NONETHELESS (See? Old person phrasing), Shirley Temple’s overemphasized dimples, blatantly fake curls, and incessantly aggravating tap shoes are directly responsible for RUINING what really should have been one of my favorite children’s movies. *Snarl*

      Oh, and do not EVER watch Earthsea. It’s really bad. Even by made-for-the-scifi-channel standards bad. They get everything wrong. EVERYTHING. I could probably do another post on atrociously bad adaptations that fail from start to finish and feature this one.

      • Susan May 17, 2013 at 10:21 pm

        Please. I’m probably old enough to be your mom; I’m just incredibly immature.

        But I cannot believe you are dissing Shirley Temple. Sacrilege!

        Don’t worry. I have no intention of EVER watching Earthsea. Syfy (or whatever they’re calling themselves) doesn’t have a very good track record for this kind of thing (cough, Harry Dresden, cough).

        • Draconismoi May 17, 2013 at 10:29 pm

          I don’t blame Syfy for Harry Dresden. I blame Jim Butcher’s blatant misogyny for Harry Dresden. Sometimes a drastic deviation from the source material would be a good thing.

  • LeeAnn May 17, 2013 at 6:02 pm

    I loved LaVerle Spencer’s The Fulfillment. Then I heard they were making it into a movie and was thrilled. Then THE ENDING. Which stank. Many years later, I met a lady who was a former neighbor of Ms. Spencer’s and I mentioned how they’d ruined the book making the movie. And SHE took the time to contact Ms. Spencer and ask WHY they’d screwed with the story. Ms. Spencer indicated she was thrilled to sell her book for a movie but didn’t realize they (the people producing the movie) had full control of the plot, etc. I imagine that’s often the case. The producers were probably folks who thought great cinema equals sad ending. Guess there are always people who think they know better than the author. Buncha boneheads.

    • Draconismoi May 17, 2013 at 9:27 pm

      I have no familiarity with this book. Or movie.

      I am, however, surprised someone would confront on author about the onscreen mangling of a book. I expect most authors are banned from set, screened from phone calls, blocked on Facebook – and otherwise considered anathema to the “magic.”

      Unless they are GRRM and are actively working with producers and helping write episodes and HEY WHAT DO YOU KNOW creating amazing work. Score.

      • Susan May 17, 2013 at 10:28 pm

        Exactly. Only an elite few authors (Rowling, King, etc.) get to have any kind of input into big/small screen adaptations. Most have to content themselves with being happy for the check and trying not to worry about what will happen to their “baby” after selling the rights.

        OTOH, it doesn’t surprise me that a fan would be upset and chastise the author, even if it is misplaced passion. It’s like the people who get mad at actors for stuff their characters do. It’s that real for some people.

  • LeeAnn May 17, 2013 at 11:06 pm

    I didn’t “chastise” anybody. I wondered aloud and the neighbor took it from there.

    • Susan May 20, 2013 at 7:22 pm

      I meant the neighbor, not you! I was thinking when I first read it that she was also a fan, but she was just questioning on your behalf. Sorry if it sounded as if I were taking you to task.

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