Movies and Television as Literature: Page vs. Screen

Movies and Television as Literature: Page vs. Screen

Why you should be both a discerning reader and active viewer:

n Parts 1 & 2 of Movies and TV as Literature, I've talked about the ways stories on the page and screen are the same. Now let's look at some of the ways they are different, and why you should be both a discerning reader and active viewer.  

Although I spent many years declaring "Books are better", I've altered my perception simply by learning more about what it takes to take a story from script to screen, and thinking in terms of "story" instead of "book" vs. "movie"--so I'm not going to argue the superiority of one over the other.  

I realize movies and television are often perceived as being stories for lazy people. And maybe that's true to some extent; it's hard to be a lazy reader, but easy to be a lazy viewer. However, stories can challenge us intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually, even if they are viewed instead of read.  

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Movies and Television as Literature: Theme

Movies and Television as Literature: Theme

It is easy to confuse theme with the subject or genre. For example, mysteries, thrillers, and police procedurals are often about the good guys catching the bad guys - but that's not theme. In most of these shows justice is being served, but that's not theme either.  

What is being said about justice?  

  • Justice is blind?  
  • Justice always prevails?  
  • True justice isn't possible, but the good fight is worth fighting anyway? 

Themes are messages conveyed to us through the choices characters make and the consequences of their actions.  

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Movies and Television as Literature: Story Elements

Movies and Television as Literature: Story Elements

Using an understanding of plot, characterization, setting, conflicts, and theme, we can move ourselves and our children from passive to active and discerning viewers. 

I admit it. For a long time I was a book snob. I think there is a picture of me in my high school yearbook with the caption "The book was better". I've long thought of books as sacred – the evidence of my devotion to the printed word is the size of my home library.  

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Why authors and filmmakers have a responsibility to their young audience

Why authors and filmmakers have a responsibility to their young audience

During my extended ventures into YA territory to help my kids find good books, I've noticed how many obscenities, profanities, and sexual situations are present in bestselling books marketed to the age 9+ demographic. I must concur with this article in TIME magazine that many YA novels would be rated R if they were movies instead of books.

Brigham Young University professor Sarah Coyne and her colleagues analyzed profanity use in 40 teen novels on the New York Times’ best-seller list of children’s books published in 2008. All the books reviewed targeted children age 9 or older--
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Themes in post-apocalyptic fiction

Themes in post-apocalyptic fiction

Post-apocalyptic fiction is a twist on the survival-against-all-odds story. We can look back as far as Homer's Odyssey to see themes of courage, creativity, and endurance in the face of epic disaster and brutal challenges.  Post-apocalyptic stories are full of explorations into questions of morality, ethics, and what it means to be human.

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Exploring the Classics: Dracula

Exploring the Classics: Dracula

For years it seems as though vampires, werewolves, and zombies have taken over the country.  They heavily populate successful books, movies, and television shows. Much of it appears to be aimed squarely at the Young Adult market, but come to think about it, it's not really a new trend. . .

My perception of the story of Dracula is that it is less about the monster himself, and more about the reactions of the book's naive and wholesome protagonists.

 

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"A Monster Calls" by Patrick Ness [PG Review]

"A Monster Calls" by Patrick Ness [PG Review]

I started reading A Monster Calls with a few preconceived notions based on the cover and the inside blurb. Titled like a monster book, the cover dark and ominous like a monster book, and illustrated like a monster book. Hmmmm, must be about monsters. . .

Instead, I found the story to be a well written allegory that explores the contradictory nature of grief.

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"The Gift of Fear" by Gavin de Becker [Review]

"The Gift of Fear" by Gavin de Becker [Review]

It seems trite to say, “This book changed my life.” But The Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker changed the way I think about how to protect myself and my kids from abuse and violence--which changed the way I view the world, and how I act in it. I have no hesitation recommending this as a Must Read for every woman, and every man who is concerned about the women in his life.

In The Gift of Fear, de Becker has explored the patterns of violence and given us tools to predict possible danger

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What is a high concept story?

What is a high concept story?

Some genres almost require a high concept premise, like fantasy, science fiction, and thrillers. Agents and publishers want to see more than a unique premise - they want it to grab interest with just a brief description, sometimes known as the 'hook' or ‘elevator pitch’.

Stories do not need to be high concept to be entertaining or engaging--take Jane Austen’s novels, for instance. Her stories are about as far from high concept as you can get, but they are excellent stories with a big cultural impact. 

QUIZ: see if you recognize these high concept stories:

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Do I Dare Disturb the Universe by Madeleine L'Engle [Review]

Do I Dare Disturb the Universe by Madeleine L'Engle [Review]

When I saw the ebook Do I Dare Disturb the Universe by Madeleine L'Engle on Amazon.com, I had to have it.  It contains the text of a speech Madeleine L'Engle gave about different types of censorship and the responsibility of writers of children's literature to ask good questions and be faithful to the truth of things.

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Analyzing literature from a Christian perspective

Analyzing literature from a Christian perspective

As Christians who endeavor to apply biblical principles to every facet of life, I think we sometimes err greatly when it comes to choosing literature on page and screen for our children:

  1. We view every instance of sinful behavior as an objectionable element and dismiss the entire story on that basis.
  2. We Christianize the characters, themes, and plot lines to “redeem” the story, regardless of authorial intent.
  3. We assume “classic literature” means “wholesome literature.”
  4. We leave teaching literature to the “experts.”

None of these approaches are accurate or useful. They represent faulty methods of literary criticism—permissivism, exclusivism, pragmatism, naïveté, and the postmodernist tendency to declare everything relative. Worst of all, they represent a lost opportunity to parent.

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Books About Books and Reading

Books About Books and Reading

Some of my friends occasionally make fun of me when I read books about books and reading. Folks get a strange look on their face when they see you immersed in How to Read a Book by Mortimer J. Adler, as if perhaps Allen Funt is lurking nearby.

However, if you want to add richness and depth to your reading life, as well as your child's, books about books and reading are a great place to gather ideas and insight.

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"Wither" by Lauren DeStefano [PG Review]

"Wither" by Lauren DeStefano [PG Review]

Many fictional dystopian societies are rooted in science-gone-wrong, and genetic manipulation tops the list of ways that science tries and fails to perfect humanity. In Wither, the results are a world in which the life span of males is 25 and only 20 for women.  Desperate attempts to preserve the future of the human race include males of the first generation taking multiple young brides to bear children until an antidote can be found.

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"Where She Went" by Gayle Forman [PG Review]

"Where She Went" by Gayle Forman [PG Review]

Although Where She Went is the sequel to If I Stay, it worked just fine on its own for me, since the story line of the first book was explained through flashbacks. If I Stay is told from Mia's point of view, while Where She Went continues the story from Adam's perspective.

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"Abandon" by Meg Cabot [PG Review]

"Abandon" by Meg Cabot [PG Review]

Abandonment is a common theme in YA literature.  Story after story revolves around a protagonist who is orphaned in some way; either by the literal death of their parents, or the lack of parental care or involvement in their lives.

Synopsis of Abandon

Pierce Oliveria is 'orphaned' by her neglectful parents. They are completely preoccupied with their own pursuits. They can't even come together to help her cope with the repercussions of being revived after she drowns in her father's swimming pool. And they certainly aren't able to deal with who or what has followed her back to earth from the Underworld.

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"Tempest" by Julie Cross [PG Review]

"Tempest" by Julie Cross [PG Review]

I've never met a time travel story I didn't like. There is something about being able to change the past or see the future that is intriguing, and the possible mechanisms for time travel are fun to contemplate.

As with any time travel story, you must suspend disbelief on page 1. Explaining the theoretical  'science' behind it, or the reason why there are not multiple paradoxes or an immediate meltdown of the universe would take more pages than any publisher is willing to print, and the reader would be bored to death. Except maybe for me, because I love hard science fiction and I don't care how many pages of geek I have to read. But I digress. . .

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"All Good Children" by Catherine Austen [PG Review]

"All Good Children" by Catherine Austen [PG Review]

In a world that doesn't seem too far removed from our own, Max, along with his mother and little sister, deal with class warfare, infertility, genetic screening and manipulation, the aftermath of a flu epidemic, and behavior modification with pharmaceuticals.

Not too shabby for a novel of only 300 pages. All Good Children could have easily become a 'kitchen sink' story, but these issues are related and woven together effectively, so I didn't feel bombarded with a mish-mash of controversial topics.

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"Ashes" by Ilsa J. Bick [PG Review]

"Ashes" by Ilsa J. Bick [PG Review]

Alex goes camping alone to say goodbye to her dead parents by spreading their ashes, and to try to deal with her personal demons. But an electromagnetic pulse (the Zap) changes the world as we know it, by suddenly destroying all electronic devices, and reprogramming humanity into 1) crazed zombies 2) survivors, some with new abilities 3) millions of just plain dead people.

Alex eventually meets up with others, and life is reduced to the trials of day-to-day survival and trying to figure out who is still human, who wants to tear your throat out, and who has other twisted plans for those who have survived. 

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