To quote one of my favorite authors: “It is a truth universally acknowledged that when it comes to quality, the book is better than the movie.”
Alright, this is not exactly how Jane Austen originally wrote her famous opening line to “Pride and Prejudice,” but I feel sure she would’ve agreed with me.
It seems like this has always been a debated topic. Since we first started transferring the written word to film, people have argued and expounded on which version is better. Did the actors truly capture the voice of the character? Did the director really have to eliminate that scene? Why the heck did they pronounce his name like that?
It feels a little snobby to announce that the book is always better than the movie — all I need to complete the image is a fedora to wear or mustache to twirl in a patronizing way — but it’s also a majority opinion.
The news website Vocativ recently cross-analyzed Goodreads and IMDb to discover that 74 percent of the time when comparing books to their movie counterparts, the book wins. Although this isn’t 100 percent, it is pretty telling, especially when one considers the sheer volume of both books and movies that are released each year.
For the sake of comparison, let’s look at “Pride and Prejudice,” which has been adapted into films (of all kinds) more than 13 times!
Some of these are better than others, and nobody seems impressed with the most recent version, “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies,” which is currently flopping like a detached zombie hand at the box office.
Other versions are more appreciated, competing not only with the book, but with other adaptations for the claim to be the definitive rendition of the story. Readers who swooned over Mr. Darcy on paper get to choose a real-life romantic interest from the line-up: Would you pick haughty, steamy Colin Firth from the 1995 BBC Miniseries, or is the awkwardly beautiful Matthew MacFayden from the 2005 remake more your style?
It makes me wonder what Austen herself might think of the adaptations. Many authors who’ve seen their books translated to the silver screen end up very unhappy with the results.
After the first “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” movie, Roald Dahl refused to let producers near the book’s sequel, “Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator,” in his lifetime.
“Mary Poppins,” although one of my favorite childhood Disney flicks, was hated by its author, P.L. Travers. The story of her disapproval and subsequent feud with Disney became a movie called “Saving Mr. Banks” — which seems a little sad.
Perhaps it’s the sheer volume of movie adaptations and revisions out there that makes people return to the book as the tried and true favorite. The book holds the author’s original voice, intent and delivery, something that can never be copied by a movie, no matter how enticing the cinematography (I’m looking at you, “The Revenant.”)
Maybe you saw “Avatar: The Last Airbender” and decided you loved it, although you are probably the only one. It’s possible that after the fifth Harry Potter movie, you decided to boycott the rest because of the way they butchered the Ministry of Magic scene.
Whichever side of this ouroboros-esque debate you stand, the only thing that ultimately matters is one’s own relationship to a story; we must accept that how we each feel about a character or a plotline can and will never be perfectly replicated.
But this could be a blessing in disguise. In a world where there’s a fresh new Mr. Darcy hitting the box office every year, it makes me happy to know that my version of Austen’s hottest, most society-defying love interest will always be only my own.
Sally Greider is a UF English and public relations junior. Her column usually appears on Wednesdays.