When is it okay to compete with the classics?

When is it okay to compete with the classics?

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An upcoming retelling of Jane Eyre seems to be at least badly advised. But why? Just because of our prejudices?

Four or five years ago, I read about a little Twitter riot about S. E. Hinton's YA classic The Outsiders. The story is about gang wars in a town in Oklahoma where "Greaser" fight "Socials" or "Socs". The protagonist Ponyboy Curtis is the youngest member of the Greasers, Johnny Cade is Ponyboy's best friend, and Dallas "Dally" Winston is a gang brother who refreshes his tough reputation on the streets of NYC. As in the West Side Story, violence escalates face to face until two children are dead.

Although The Outsiders was published in 1967 when S. E. Hinton was only 18, he has an active fan base that interacts with the author. Anger came when a fan asked if Johnny might have had romantic feelings for Dally. Hinton asked where this idea came from and the fan replied, "I just think it's cute."

S.E. Hinton: Ask someone in the 60s how “cute” it was to be gay. I have a lot of friends that I love and that I don't want to sleep with.

This led to hurt feelings and other fans. One asked belligerently: "Why should you reject young gay children who interpret your characters so that they feel safe? That is trash. "Hinton replied," Young gay children can identify with the book without saying that the characters are gay. I never tried to make anyone feel safe. "

This controversy came to my mind when I came across this harrowing announcement in the Publishers Weekly Children's Bookshelf newsletter.

Carolina Ortiz of HarperCollins acquired L. L. McKinney's Escaping Mr. Rochester, a reinterpretation of Charlotte Bronte's classic novel that asks what if the real villain of Jane Eyre was actually Mr. Rochester? In this strange romance, Jane Eyre and Bertha Mason – Mr. Rochester's wife, whom he has locked in for years, must save each other from Mr. Rochester's terrible machinations. Publication is planned for winter 2022; Victoria Marini of the Irene Goodman Literary Agency negotiated the global rights deal.

What if ???

What if Fern was more Wilbur than swine exploiter than savior (which makes him a pet of all things)? What if Long John Silver was a symbol of freedom and self-determination, in contrast to Jim Hawkin's boring morality? What if Judas Iscariot was actually the hero of the story and not the bad guy?

Once a novel has been published or a film has been published, the creator waives most of the rights to the content. Text is copyrighted and action to a certain extent (although it is very difficult to prove that an action was "stolen"). Characters can be won. Fans who have deep spiritual connections to history can imagine their characters in further adventures and even let their imaginations run wild on fan fiction websites. This may be a problem for the author, but is obviously not illegal and may even be fine.

But is it okay to manipulate classic works, especially in the manner suggested by Escaping Mr. Rochester? Fictional "updates" are a staple, as in the many modern versions of Pride and Prejudice. A "gender-specific, feminist retelling of The Great Gatsby in the near future" is planned for next spring. Fairy tales are routinely freshened up and eradicated in new costumes, like Matt Phelan's graphic novel version of Snow White (which we liked).

It's one thing to update a traditional story or imagine a classic story with characters that mimic the originals and become themselves. For example: Lizzie Bennett, a low-income scholarship holder in Prom and prejudice, shares some traits with Elizabeth Bennett and her romance with Will Darcy follows the same tortuous path, but because the story takes place in a modern setting, she is herself.

But it's another thing to kidnap a story for the purpose of a contemporary agenda. The premise of escaping Mr. Rochester reminds me of pirates boarding a sailing ship that takes care of its own affairs, whirls up the colors, and copes with the innocent passengers. And who are these passengers?

Jane Eyre, the simple little governess, has integrity – not only in the sense of moral sincerity, but also in the sense of full realization. Despite her difficult past and uncertain future, she made a conscious decision about how she would live her life. We see where she comes from and how she uses her experience with Edward Rochester (and the often overlooked St. John Rivers) to gain character.

Mr. Rochester has serious shortcomings: pride, rigor, and a cruel trace. But over time we also see where he comes from and we agree with his redemption. Bertha Mason may have been dominated by men all her life, and insanity is her way of behaving. But the woman has her own problems and a complete background that we are not familiar with. It could be that she is weak in character as well as exploited. How many women. And men.

Taking into account the fact that I haven't read it – because it's a year and a half after its release – the escape from Mr. Rochester sounds more like an upelling than an update: it grabs the original by the collar and trembles until it wakes up . The scenario reduces all main characters to contemporary stereotypes in order to ballast a contemporary narrative. It will no longer bother Jane Eyres' continued relevance than Tiger Lily Peter shook up.

But it seems to me a low blow or worse: a cheap trick.

Also with Redeemed Reader:

  • Look at our thoughts Jane Eyre from a few years ago in response to the latest film version.
  • And although it's okay to tell fairy tales again, it's less so Invasion of fairyland.

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