Texts in Adaptation

books-498422_640

It is not often I have time to sit down and enjoy a movie. We don’t watch much television. It’s probably because I refuse to pay for streaming services and there’s very little worth watching on the free to air channels. So we read or occasionally watch one of the movies or tv shows we have on DVD. 

However yesterday I sat down to watch the 2017 live action movie of Beauty and the Beast. Bec and I went to see it when it premiered here in the cinemas. It had special meaning for Bec as she was in the chorus when her school staged the Beauty and the Beast musical. It was quite interesting to sit in a cinema packed with adults to see a film about a Disney princess. And of course, we loved it.

Beauty_and_the_Beast_2017_poster

This time though, I was required to watch the film for my studies this semester. What kind of course requires me to watch a Disney film, you might well ask. The best kind of course I would think. A course that studies texts and their various screen adaptations, such as Beauty and the Beast, Pride and Prejudice, Logan, and an Australian film you may not be so familiar with, Jindabyne.  

Texts in Adaptation (that is indeed the title of the course) delves into the world of both literary and screen adaptations. As readers we all have opinions about much loved books being turned into movies, usually with the declaration – “It’s not as good as the book!” And until recently I would have said the same. However this course is challenging us to rethink the concept of an adaptation, to reject the idea of fidelity (faithfulness to the text) and to consider adaptations as texts in of themselves. The definition of text here also includes other media such as movies, tv and computer games.

It has prompted me to think about why we tend to think that the book is always better. Most often I think it is because we are readers first. We first experience the story and fall in love with it as a reader. The reading experience is completely different to the screen experience. Reading involves using our imagination to see the setting, the characters and the action unfold in our minds. We can choose the pace of the story, whether to read it slowly over a number of days or weeks, or to indulge in a binge read of a complete series. We can delight in the beauty of language as the authors creates worlds in our mind, arouses our sense, and taps into our emotions. We can reread parts or even skip ahead to the end. Our mind is actively engaged in making meaning from the text.

 

reading-book-1500650_640

Watching a movie, on the other hand, is a very different experience. While it can be exciting to see a beloved text on the big screen, we lose the choice of how the characters are depicted. Scenes and characters can be added or deleted. The setting or time frame or even the ending can be completely changed. We can come away thrilled at the experience or disappointed that it does not live up to the text that lives in our imaginations.

Sometimes there are practical reasons for changes. Sometimes the director or producers have a completely different interpretation of the text or motivation for even making the adaptation in the first place. Every reader interacts with a text in a different and personal way so it is impossible for an adaptation to please every one. But I think that one of the main reasons that we believe the book is always better, is that it is the way we first interact with the story. It’s not to say that screen adaptations are necessarily inferior, (although some probably are) – they are just different. The book is our first love and no adaptation can ever really replace that. 

 

The fidelity of an adaptation is often the thing that can get readers in a tizzy. We may love the text so much that any change is considered sacrilegious. But we might like to think a bit more about this idea of a text as original. Beauty and the Beast is a good example. Most people are probably familiar with the Disney version of this tale, however the origins of Beauty and the Beast date back to at least the second century CE with the story of Cupid and Psyche. There are numerous variations of the tale, including the one often considered as the original, de Beaumont’s version published in 1756. But as we know, fairy tales come from a long tradition of oral storytelling, so all these variations could be considered adaptations of adaptations…the original tale has been probably long lost. Do we really then have any right to be picky about screen adaptations? Aren’t they just another retelling in a long line of retellings which will continue as each successive generation retells the story for its own time?

It will be interesting to learn more about the business of adapting a text for the screen and the way that we can learn to appreciate an adaptation for what it brings to the story and the new meanings it may create, even when it may not be to our liking. I will still probably prefer the book, but that’s because I am a reader and the book will always be my first love. 

Advertisements

No More Plates

dog-165210_640

Just to be clear, we have not decided to dispense with using dinner plates but have finally come to the end of attaching Provisional Driving plates onto the car. After four years of attaching yellow learner plates, then red provisional plates and finally green provisional plates, Bec has officially come off her Ps. So no more plates on the car. Hooray!

Learning to Drive in Queensland

Once Bec turned 16, she was able to sit a written test about road rules to obtain her learners. She had to be on her learners for at least a year, log a minimum of 100 hours of driving experience, including 10 hours of night driving, and display the yellow learner plates on the car whenever she was driving.

learner_licence_l_plate_feature

At this time, we were still living in a small town out west, where it takes about five minutes to drive from one side of town to the other, so it was quite a challenge to log 100 hours. Fortunately, we took regular trips to Toowoomba and an occasional trip to Brisbane, as well as one road trip down to South Australia to visit family, so she eventually accumulated the 90 hours of day driving. The night hours were a bit more difficult. We hardly went anywhere at night, so when we moved to Toowoomba, we would deliberately go for a night drive. I would check out the Toowoomba map, chart out a route that would take us all over town, and off we would go.

After a year and 100 hours were logged, Bec could sit her driving test. I was quite nervous about how she would go but fortunately she had a lovely examiner who cracked some jokes and helped her to relax. After passing the test on her first attempt, Bec then had to spend a year on a provisional license with a red P plate. At the end of that year, she had to pass an online hazards test and then it was onto the green P plates. It was supposed to be only one year on the green Ps, but of course the rules were changed and she had to do two years on the green P plates. There were some restrictions for P plate drivers, mostly about who could be in the car late at night, but this never really affected Bec.

And now finally that is all over and we are both relieved. No more shuffling plates on and off the car. So often I would go out in the morning to take Dan to Yellow Bridge- oh, have to take the plates off. Sometimes if we were all going somewhere together, Bec would ask if she could drive – oh, have to put the plates on. I am so glad that’s all finished. I think it is an excellent system for preparing young drivers. Ensuring that everybody is safe on the roads is extremely important – the road toll is bad enough as it is.

I am also thankful that I only had one child to teach to drive.  I really feel for those parents who have three, four or more children. Teaching a teenager to drive is a very stressful job. Bec is a very responsible driver, but in those early months the brake pedal on the front passenger side didn’t seem to work at all! Funny how we push our foot to the floor, even though we know there is no brake there at all. Just habit, or panic, I guess.

People are sometimes surprised when I say that Dan will never be able to drive. I’m sure he’d love to. He loves driving the dodgems at the show and the driving games on the Wii, but that’s as close to driving a car as he’s ever going to get. He probably gets a little frustrated when he sees Bec hopping in the driver seat and he never gets to have a go.  It’s not that Dan couldn’t learn how to drive a car. I think he’d be able to steer the car quite well. He’d probably be ok driving the ute around a paddock, but not on the road.

fairground-1799593_640

Dan would never pass the learners test to start with. While he knows some basic rules – red means stop, green means go – he has enough trouble crossing the road safely. Dan’s autism means that he can be very fixed in his routines and when he gets in “the zone”, he just goes. More importantly though, he lacks the ability to make those split-second decisions when the situation or routine changes or somebody else does the wrong thing. If the traffic light was green, he’d go. Regardless. Besides, having seen his driving technique on the Wii, I think it would be a lot safer for everyone if he stayed in the passenger seat!

People have suggested that driverless cars might provide an option for people with disabilities in the future. Maybe, but I don’t think I’d be willing to give them a go. I don’t fancy being in a car which drives itself. For now, Dan will just have to get used to being in the passenger seat and driving on the Wii and at the show. I’m just relieved that I can  hop in the car and not have to worry about taking the plates off. 

Good Intentions

Version 2

Every semester I swear that I will be better organised and plan it all out. (it never happens)

I swear that I will start early and not leave things to the last minute. (yeah, so much for that idea)

I even print out the very useful planning templates from the university and put them on the pinup board that has been painted for that very purpose. (at least it looked nice)

And still life turns out like this …

hamster-wheel-1014047_640

Despite all the promises and beginning of semester resolutions, the last few weeks have been a mad sprint to the finish as I suddenly realised how many words I yet had to write before a series of fast looming due dates.

So I’ve been reading, reading, reading….and writing, writing, writing….

And at the end of that, I felt very much like this….

dog-2437110_640

So I promised myself that the next day I would just chill out.

I didn’t want to look at a screen.

I didn’t want to read a single word, let alone write one.

Just for one day.

One day stretched into a whole week.

I couldn’t even muster the energy to read for fun, and as someone who thinks that life without reading would be like living without breathing, well, that is so bad in so many ways.

But eventually life has returned to normal. I have finished agonising over what I should have written in that essay and didn’t and I’m slowly getting back to all the things that I pushed aside until… well, after.

It’s been hard getting the mojo back but I don’t think you can force these things. Sometimes we need to be kind to ourselves, follow our own schedule for a while and take time out to do the things that bring us joy.

And next semester I swear I will plan. I will actually fill in those templates. I will start early.  I will be better organised. (yeah, right)

Dan the Mailman

smurf-139454_640

In this digital age, an actual letter in the letterbox is a rare occurrence. Most of our mail is announced with a ping in the inbox rather than the roar of a motorbike. Yet every day we still trek out to the letterbox, just in case there is something to retrieve. However, apart from the occasional bill that still comes by snail mail,  it seems that Birthdays and Christmas are the only high points in the mail delivery year.

Dan has always liked opening the mail. Which isn’t a problem, unless it is mail I am yet to post. He likes opening parcels even better (don’t we all!). One time we caught him opening the gifts at his cousin’s 21st birthday party. Fortunately she was very kind hearted and didn’t seem to mind. But it did mean that at Christmas time we could only put the gifts under the Christmas tree just before we opened them – otherwise there would have been nothing to open on Christmas Day.

vintage-1898390_640

Dan likes posting things too. When he was very young, he liked to post all sorts of things – paper, lego, apple cores – into the combustion heater (when it wasn’t going, of course!), so we would always have to check very carefully before lighting it. Even today he still likes to post the letters through the slot of the big red mailbox whenever we do go to the post office. 

white-male-1847733_640

At Yellow Bridge, Dan is part of a small group that does a mail run. Every morning they go to the main post office in Toowoomba, collect the mail for a number of businesses around town and sort it into bags before going around to deliver it to the businesses. I think it is a great initiative which shows businesses and employers that people with disabilities are very capable. Instead of hiding them away in a sheltered workshop, they are out in the community providing a valued service.

One day when I was doing the grocery shopping with Dan, the lady in front of me at the check out recognised Dan because he delivers the mail to her workplace. She said he was always very quiet when they delivered the mail. Quiet? Doesn’t sound like Dan at all, but it was nice to hear people recognise the job they are doing.

Dan can even play mailman at home.

Speech therapy has been an integral part of Dan’s intervention even before he was diagnosed with autism. As an ongoing support, it’s important to find ways of making it fun and the therapists always do an excellent job of using games to practise communication skills.  One of Dan’s therapists had this really cool mailbox, where Dan could post a card in the top and it would pop out the bottom. There was a myriad of ways this activity could be used, from practising sight words, matching words and pictures, or constructing sentences. Dan really enjoyed it, so I thought it would be a good idea to have one at home.

Now we could have made a mailbox with a cardboard box – but that wouldn’t have lasted very long.  However, I remembered seeing a mailbox craft kit at our local Kaisercraft store, so we bought the kit, collected some supplies and got to work. 

 

And here it is – Dan’s mailbox…

Version 2

The cards don’t pop out the bottom, but Dan just opens the lid at the top and pulls them out – just like a real letterbox. We use it to play all sorts of games to help Dan develop his communication skills.

Despite all the whizz bang things we can do with technology, there is still much pleasure to be had with a simple red mailbox.

heart-159636_640