I recently read an interview with David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, the writer/producers of HBO’s upcoming A Game of Thrones series, in which they discuss fan reactions to their adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s epic A Song of Ice and Fire series. They acknowledge that, even with all the time a series provides compared to a movie, various aspects of the books had to be cut or simplified, but they say this:
How do you handle the intense fan reactions online to every decision you make?
DB: I try to not get too much into it. You have to man up and do what you think is right for the series. No matter how good it turns out to be, someone’s going to complain about something. But by and large fans have been very supportive and enthusiastic.
DBW: When we do dip in and see what people are saying, it’s been gratifying. There tends to be a snarky negative quality usually to these things, but with this there has been an overwhelming amount of support.
DB: Because the books are so big and detailed and intelligent, the fans tend to be intelligent.
The producers are basically saying that the fans of the series understand the nature of adaptation, that things won’t be included and characters might look different and that there’s no such thing as a perfectly faithful adaptation. I’ve found this to be the case with A Game of Thrones. I’m a HUGE fan of the series, and have been following the news closely since the series was announced, and the fan reaction has seemed extremely supportive to me. Even when fans disagree with certain decisions (the casting of Mark Addy as King Robert turned some heads, for example), the disagreement is often followed with a disclaimer that this disagreement is only the poster’s humble opinion, the decision may very well work out, and they are still super jazzed for the show.
Benioff and Weiss attribute this generally positive response to the intelligence of their fans (which, as a fan, is rather flattering really), and I think they make an interesting point. A Song of Ice and Fire is fantasy, but it’s grown up fantasy… it’s extremely long and involved. You don’t have to be intelligent to read big, thousand-plus page books, but chances are that if you can keep the massive cast of characters (and their ever-changing machinations and motivations) straight, you’ve got a bit of brainpower. And if you’re smart enough to follow everything in the book, those smarts might translate to a decent understanding of how adaptations work.
These comments made me think of the upcoming adaptation of another series I like, The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins. Gary Ross is set to direct the first film, with Jennifer Lawrence starring as Katniss Everdeen. And everyone is just PISSED. At EVERYTHING. I’ve been following the news, and every announcement is met with epic derision and outrage in the comments sections. I know comments sections are hardly a bastion of rationality, but the reactions have struck me as really over the top, as if every announcement was accompanied by Gary Ross driving to each fan’s home and punching them in the face.
SIDENOTE: I’m not super enthusiastic about any of the casting either, but not in a threatening a revolution sort of way.
Now, the fans of The Hunger Games trilogy tend to skew younger. They’re books for teens, though they’ve got a significant young adult following. Lengthwise, the entire trilogy is shorter than a single book in Martin’s series. Hell, they’re even shorter than the Twilight books. I’m not at all suggesting that people who dig The Hunger Games are dumb… I really liked The Hunger Games!! But as a group, I would think they’re certainly less mature than those who like A Song of Ice and Fire, and reading/keeping track of the trilogy would require much less brainpower. So is there a correlation between intelligence and the fan response?
This brings me to Wonder Woman. Comic book fans are well known for their unenthusiastic reactions to adaptations. Frankly, outrage seems to be our default setting. A while ago, when every adaptation totally sucked, this response may have been warranted, but the annoyed tone continues even with the recent rash of quality adaptations. This is especially true with David E. Kelley’s Wonder Woman TV show, which has been generally decried from the get-go. I used to think that, despite our penchant for outrage, our sceptical reaction was justified on account of the script sounds pretty bad and the costume initially looked cheap and shiny (it now looks slightly less cheap and shiny). BUT maybe we’re just being unintelligent!!
Where do comic book fans fit in the Song of Ice and Fire/Hunger Games spectrum? Well comics are short, so that’s more HG, but continuity is complicated and detailed, so that’s more SIF. Comics have traditionally been kid’s fare, which puts us on the HG side, though we all know that adults buy far more comics than kids, which takes us back to SIF. We’re easily annoyed, like HG fans, but we’ll all watch the show anyway, sort of like SIF fans. I guess we’re some sort of bizarre amalgam that’s no so much in the middle of the spectrum as a combination of both extremes. So we’re not intelligent or unintelligent… we’re just weird. I can live with weird.