Once Bitten: How My Favorite Book Series Became The Ultimate TV Hate-Watch

I had an alternate title for this blog. It was “Why I may never sell movie or TV rights to anything I write, ever.” Ultimately, I decided that was a bit too finite. Under the right circumstances, I may still be persuaded. Not that this is anything close to a possibility at this point. But once upon a time, the possibility of a movie being made out of one of my books was a dream right up there with that publishing contract. So why am I suddenly so disillusioned?

Two things:

  1. The Canadian TV series adaptation of Kelley Armstrong’s Otherworld series, Bitten.
  2. The movie adaptation of Veronica Roth’s novel, Insurgent.

Anybody who has talked to me for five minutes knows that I’m a huge Kelley Armstrong fan as well as a fan of the first two Divergent installments (BOO, Allegiant…and not for the reasons you might suspect). But I’m not such a fan that I don’t understand that the original source material may not be perfect. And I’m not such a fan that I don’t understand that some things need to be changed when adapting a book for the screen.

For instance, when the TV Bitten kept a character who died in Book 1 alive, but killed off a character who is still alive a zillion books later in his stead, I understood. The other character was great, but didn’t do much for the story, while the early-death character actually had some untapped potential. Good on them! They found a way to prolong things and change things up for those of us who’d read the books enough times to recite them to still be surprised.

That, I have no problem with. My issue is the fact that blatant character aspects, things that actually make the story more interesting, are gone. My major example is my favorite character –  Jeremy Danvers, the werewolf alpha. Now, for the purposes of this argument, we aren’t even going to get into the fact that the character was white-washed – a once half-Japanese character, to which a great deal of mythology is attached, was changed into a white actor, and with that change, his very different heritage disappeared. That is a separate issue, one that deserves a blog of its own to address. What I’m talking about is the essence of his character. WHO THE MAN IS. Let’s compare the two for a moment.

Book Jeremy Traits

  • Quiet/Reserved
  • Shy and tricky, using overwhelming politeness to get his way
  • Buries his emotions – you can only read him if he lets you in
  • He makes the decisions for the Pack and takes full responsibility for the duties he hands out when violence comes into play. But usually, the actual violence is performed by his beta, his son, Clayton, who has a bit of a psychotic streak in him (this is explained because Clayton’s character experiences a hell of a change as well).
  • Is mostly non-violent. For example, when young, he makes a mistake that leads a doctor to spotting irregular blood test results for Clay, leading him to question what is wrong with the boy. Jeremy has to kill him to keep the secret, but he is tormented by the act and unable to sleep for days. He ends up teaching himself field medicine so he never has to risk the error again.
  • Exceptionally intelligent.
  • Hides a bitter streak. When main character, Elena, first returns home, it takes forever for him to treat her the way he used to. It takes him until almost until the end of Book 1 to get over it.

Television Jeremy Traits

  • Just as boisterous as any of the other wolves
  • Heavy handed leader who is rarely clever enough to manipulate a situation his way.
  • Easily readable – no sign of emotions simmering under the surface
  • Hands down brutal sentences to be carried out by his son, who protests vehemently
  • Welcomes Elena home with a grand smile and open arms.

This, my friends, is why I call this character Billy the Alpha. He doesn’t even resemble the original character who is far more complex than anything we find in the television series. And this literal character assassination is performed on several of the characters in the series. By this point, I watch hoping for some glimpse of the characters I loved and find none.

Insurgent’s move appears to be suffering from the same illness. I could be wrong. I haven’t seen the movie yet. However, there are several scenes in the previews alone that involve lead character, Tris, carrying a gun with what seems to be very little concern. In the novels, after she has to kill a friend in self-defense, Tris can’t fire a gun. Her hands shake, she panics whenever she carries one. The novel’s Tris seems so much more interesting than Rambo-Tris.

It isn’t just this. Fans of The Vampire Diaries, The Secret Circle, ANY of Stephen King’s novels, The Mortal Instruments, can tell you that, when most movie and television production companies get their hands on a book, they destroy it.

However, for every one of those, there is The Hunger Games, The Fault in Our Stars, Gone Girl, strong movie adaptations, that do not suffer from this issue. But they come by so rarely, it becomes extremely disconcerting every time you start hearing casting notices for one of your favorites.

So what do you think? What do you feel makes a good adaptation? What are some of the best adaptations you’ve ever seen? The worst? Who can write the screenplay for mine (I’m really just joking here)? Let me know in the comments below.

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2 thoughts on “Once Bitten: How My Favorite Book Series Became The Ultimate TV Hate-Watch

  1. I think it must be so hard to turn a book into a good movie–because it happens so rarely. I still haven’t forgiven the movie “My Sister’s Keeper.” I’m sorry, but when you change the ending of that book, YOU RUIN THE WHOLE THING. That ending was IMPORTANT. I refuse to even see that movie, even though I love the book. It’s just WRONG.

    Ahem. Sorry about that.

    I remember as a kid thinking that the movie version of Where the Red Fern Grows was good. Not as good as the book, but good.

    The first Narnia movie was decent, but the next two…meh.

    The Wizard of Oz changed a whole lot of stuff, but they made a really good movie in its own right. So clearly they knew what they were doing. They didn’t change so much that you didn’t recognize the characters or the story, but they made a really beautiful (and long-lasting) adaptation.

    I haven’t read the book for 101 Dalmatians, but my daughter did and she seems to think the movie did a pretty decent job.

    The Little Mermaid, on the other hand, is NOT a favorite adaptation of mine. I really don’t like the Disney version AT ALL. But that’s a whole other rant, and I won’t clog up your blog with that.

    I guess changing the ending to things really bugs me–at least when the ending is crucial to the story as a whole. Oz did change the ending a bit, but not in a way that harmed the story overly much.

    1. Yes! I agree with you. I do understand that an adaptation also needs to be able to stand on its own. I guess I feel like my particular issue is actually changing characters to make them more dull and less interesting than they are in the books. Or, like you said, changing the ending and, in line with that, the meaning of the books. It’s a huge pet peeve of mine.

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