Sometimes I watch the movie/TV show first

Posted December 17, 2014 by Debby in Columns / 13 Comments

Among us hardcore readers, I know there is a bit of a stigma against people who watch the movie or TV show first. Well, I’m gonna just say it: sometimes I do. And I don’t feel like there’s anything wrong with that – and I wish the judgment would stop.

Why watch first?!

Pride and PrejudiceI’ve confessed before that I wasn’t a big reader growing up. Reading was just difficult for me. I got bored and distracted really easily. Even now that I do read more, classics and adult books can be really hard for me to get into – and so, watching a movie or TV series first helps. I’ll gladly admit that there would be no way in hell that I could have read Pride and Prejudice if I didn’t have the movie version almost memorized. Not to say that I don’t like the book – I love the book – but the language was just too difficult to get through when I didn’t understand the subtleties and underlying emotions. Knowing where the story was heading helped me through some tougher/slower passages as well because I knew I needed to get to that beautiful end.

The_Fellowship_Of_The_RingThe same goes for The Lord of the Rings. I absolutely adore those movies. They will always be among my favorites and I rewatch them at least once a year in a marathon weekend. But I tried reading the books a couple of times as a kid, and they were just too tough for me. The language, the slow pace, the extensive descriptions, it was not very encouraging. I still haven’t read The Hobbit in spite of now being a more experienced reader and having watched the first two movies. I did want to read it first originally, but I’ve been putting it off for no good reason. And you know what? I honestly give no fucks. Watching the movies first is absolutely okay.

Game of ThronesWatching first can also keep me from being overwhelmed. I’m thinking of A Song of Ice and Fire in this case. That series is a massive undertaking, and at least by watching Game of Thrones first, I know that it’s worth it. I know that there are a ton of elements that I LOVE, that the plot and world building are intense and beautiful… and I know the characters. So many POV characters – it’s hard enough to keep them straight in the TV show, but if I hadn’t been introduced to them there, I would have absolutely lost it in reading the books. I would never have gotten through these books if the TV show didn’t exist.

The Lightning ThiefIt can also keep me from being disappointed by every book-to-movie adaptation ever. A lot of people have told me that they always want to read the book first because then they can imagine the story and characters on their own – they don’t have someone else’s interpretation or vision imposed on them. And that’s fine! Sure! But, as we have seen over the years, not all book-to-movie adaptations are good. I do realize that by reading the book first, I’m setting myself up for a disappointment if then the movie contradicts the world that I imagined. If you’ve read the book first, you could easily get distracted at every point of the movie – “They changed this!” “Huh, why does he look like that?” “That’s not how that happened!” – which could ruin the movie-going experience. I have a risky admission – I actually watched The Lightning Thief before I read the book… and I enjoyed it. Now I’m not going to say it’s a good adaptation, because having read the book, I know better. But the movie got me to put the book on my to-read list and I think we all know what kind of fangirl explosion that led to. My experience with that story just got better and better as I moved on to the books.

Movies are much more accessible than books.

The stories are condensed, the important parts are highlighted, and things that may be difficult to imagine are portrayed in a way that’s much easier to understand. It’s a visual experience, which one could argue can be more immersive for people who have trouble getting into books. Issues such as writing styles or characters’ POV voices are no longer obstacles to conquer, and you can just sit back and enjoy the adventure. It’s also a great way to quickly experience a story if you’re not sure it’s really something for you.

The Hunger GamesI don’t believe that either watching the movie or reading the book first is the right way to do things. But I can understand why someone would watch it first. Reading is not as easy for everyone, and a movie or TV show can actually be a good starting point – inspiring people who ordinarily wouldn’t pick up a book to break out of their comfort zones. I know tons of people who read The Hunger Games after watching the movie, and that’s GREAT. They were intrigued by the depth of Katniss’s character that was subtle on screen but very thorough in the book and loved all the extra details. Does that make them any less legit fans? I don’t think so.

I also feel like if you place this restriction on yourself – you have to read the book before you can go see the movie – you’re possibly missing out on or delaying experiencing a wonderful story. I have some colleagues who still insist they can’t watch The Hunger Games because they haven’t read the book yet. It’s been almost three years now. When are you going to get around to it then?? Good intentions are great and all, but you are missing out.

What about you?

Do you faithfully always read the book before you see the movie/TV show?

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13 responses to “Sometimes I watch the movie/TV show first

  1. I actually prefer to watch the show/movie first! If the movie/show is something I’ve already read, I make sure it’s at least been a few months before I can watch it. I hate having my own vision get in the way of what I was meant to watch. I have a terrible memory so luckily a few months is also long enough for me to forget endings and major plot points!
    I just love to be surprised by what I’m about to see. I can’t even imagine knowing about some of the huge Game of Thrones events ahead of time. I was absolutely shocked and I love it that way. I guess the way I look at it, you can only see the movie/show for the first time once, and if you read the source material later on, you can still get more out of it since there’s way more room for detail in a book. Of course then I look at the book and think “oh I’ve already seen the movie, let’s read a shiny new book instead!” Basically there is no right way!

  2. I feel exactly the same about Percy Jackson – I watched the film first much earlier than read the books and really enjoyed the film, but when I watched Sea of Monsters after I’d read the book, it definitely wasn’t a good experience, so I do think that sometimes book-to-movie adaptations are not good. I do enjoy watching just as much as reading and I think you gain a different joy out of it, but a fan is a fan, and there’s nothing wrong with how you enter a fandom, just as long as you enjoy being there.
    Amanda @ Book Badger recently posted Top Ten Tuesday #24 – Books Read In 2014 & Authors Read in 2014My Profile

  3. I do like to read the book first and then watch the movie, but it’s only really a necessity for me if I’m planning on reviewing the movie. There are times where I’ve watched the movie/TV show first because I didn’t know that it was a book first, like I did with Dexter, The Godfather, and Howl’s Moving Castle, and then I might go back to the book later to see how different it is. Although when I watched American Psycho before reading the book, it was mainly because I knew the kind of reputation the book has and got nervous about it. But there are very few instances where I’ll refuse to watch the adaptation because I haven’t read the book, because if I was that desperate to watch it, I’d pick up the book straight away! You’re right, there is no right or wrong way to do it; if someone wants to watch it first, that’s what they want to do and doesn’t make them any less of a fan.

  4. I can’t read Lord of the rings for some reason. I love the movies to pieces and watch them every year too, but I can’t get through the first book.. I managed to struggle through The hobbit and decided that his writing-style just doesn’t work for me.

    I also saw Game of thrones before I started in the books. I must admit I like a lot of things in the TV show more than in the books. It’s so funny that you wanted to read the books after seeing The lightening thief, seeing I had exactly the opposite reaction of ‘I will never ever read the series. What a terrible movie.’ Haha.

    I don’t think there is anything wrong with seeing the movie before reading the book or the other way around. Everybody should do whatever they want. I switch it up. Sometimes there are movies I refuse to see before I’ve read the book, just because I know I don’t want to read it after the movie :p
    Mel@thedailyprophecy recently posted 5th Annual End of Year Book Survey – 2014 EditionMy Profile

  5. I quite often watch the movie/show first if I want to love both of them. In 90% of cases, the book is better. So if you read the book first, you’ll ADORE the book, then you’ll watch the movie/show and be a bit disappointed. But if you do it the other way around, you’ll probably quite enjoy the movie/show, then love the book as well. No disappointment!

    In some cases though, I like the movie/show a lot better than the book. For me those are:

    * Lord of the Rings. I kind of hate the books. They’re so stiff, boring, and emotionless (imo).
    * Game of Thrones. Kind of the same case. I thought the books were just sooooo dull but I adore the TV show!
    Ashley recently posted DNF Review: Love and Other Theories by Alexis BassMy Profile

    • That’s so true! Though I love books, I realize if there’s an adaptation coming, your knowledge/obsession from having read it already can just set you up for disappointment. It’s safer to watch the movie/show first! I just feel like there’s always so much pressure that that’s not the “right” way. Oh well.

  6. I usually dislike seeing the movie/TV series first, but it mainly has to do with me enjoying TV less than I do books – and I would definitely never judge anyone for having a different preference!

    I agree when it comes to classics, though. They’re much easier to get through if you know the story beforehand!
    Katie recently posted Friday ReadsMy Profile

  7. I think the prejudice against watching movies before reading the book is uncalled for. So, okay, you MIGHT enjoy the book less because you know certain plot points in advance. But they might also have changed certain plot points before the movie, added other surprises, added or removed characters. So unless they stayed 100% true to the book, there’s always going to be a difference.

    You may not be interested in reading the book. I saw Lord of the Rings way before I read the books. Same for Pride & Prejudice, which I DNFed last month. The movie with Keira Knightley was quite lovely, but I couldn’t get through the book. Classics and I don’t mix well. Doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy the movie. 🙂
    Inge @ Bookshelf Reflections recently posted The Grinch’s Christmas Giveaway: Day 20My Profile

  8. I don’t really think too much about this issue honestly. People says the books are better than the movies. And in the case of Harry Potter, that’s spot on. Those books are amaaaaazing. The movies cut out so much and the acting in the first movies are kind of terrible. But I still have HP movie marathons. But then there is the Lord of the Rings. I’ve seen those movies sooo many times. They are among my favorites. But, I am NOT a fan of the books. I’m not a fan of Tolkien’s style of writing. His world building is rich, but I like character-driven stories, and those books seem so emotionless like Ashley says. I probably would not have bothered with the movies if I had tried to read the books first.

    Plus, how many people have picked up a book because they watched a movie first? That’s why I bothered reading the Lord of the Rings in the first place! I don’t think we should ever judge people for watching movies before reading books. You never know– it could be a gateway of sorts!
    Jackie recently posted Weekend Review: Books[tube] & TeaMy Profile

  9. Definitely a different perspective on this that I hadn’t thought of before! Maybe I should have that approach with some classics too. The language in Jane Austen books is difficult for me sometimes so watching movies first just to get a feel for the plot would be really helpful. Great post!
    Lauren at Bookmark Lit recently posted Top Ten Tuesdays #22: ResolutionsMy Profile

    • Thanks! I hope this strategy helps you experience some of those beautiful stories 🙂 Audiobooks have also super helped me to get through Austen – another tip!

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