(Warning: what you are about to read is almost entirely stream-of-consciousness with a bit of editing because I myself couldn’t follow my own train of thought at times. It jumps from topic to topic, idea to idea, but hey, at least you’ll get to experience a few minutes inside my head. Good luck and enjoy!)
I just read an article on Slate about Bridge to Terabithia. While the article itself was a decent read, it really got me thinking about some things. I read this book in 4th grade and it’s probably one of the few books that I do remember from that early in my school years. It was definitely one of my favorites from that time (probably because I was one of 4 kids in my class who got to read it…we were “advanced”) right along side A Wrinkle in Time. What struck a chord with me, however, was not the fact that the underlying themes of the story were far more complex than I remember understanding them as a 4th grader, but that one of my all-time favorite books is being reduced (yes, reduced) to a movie.
10 years after I read the book (and 30 years since it was published) it’s finally being made into a movie. While I love that such a quality book is being adapted to the big screen, I wonder how beneficial that really is. I suppose it’s the same for any book-to-film project, but I guess this particular book’s meaning to me is forcing me to question the decision, and the practice of turning books into movies in general. Granted, turning the book into a film will spread its reach, bring the book to new generations, and basically immortalize it, but at the same time it seems to me that adapting the book to film seems like it will take away from the imagination-stretching aspects of Bridge to Terabithia. Part of the wonder of the book is imagining just what Terabithia looks like. Picturing the old rope hanging over the water. Creating Jess and Leslie in your head. THAT is the magic of the story. The message is great, but even more importantly, I think, is its ability to exercise your imagination. With everything so graphic these days, I wonder if we’re doing some sort of disservice to the younger generations. They don’t have to imagine anymore, everything is spelled out right before their eyes in their video games and TV shows.
I suppose I’m just a little upset that kids today won’t have the opportunity to think for themselves what Terabithia, or ever Hogwarts, looks like. Most of the fun of reading a book is to be taken away to that place, to sail down the Mississipi with Huckleberry Finn, to walk through Diagon Alley with Hagrid, or to feel the presence of the “Dark Thing” in A Wrinkle In Time. Most of the best stories of my childhood (and the childhoods of generations before me) have been reduced to just a bunch of pixels dashing across a big screen. I think we’re setting ourselves up for a generation of people who aren’t able to imagine, be creative, or heck, even problem solve.
I remember being in 3rd grade and doing a report on Aretha Franklin and Duke Ellington. This was before the age of “Let me just Google it”. I did have a computer, but I’m pretty sure it was still a dot-matrix printer and well, Aretha doesn’t look very good in 8-bit. I remember my mom going to the High School library for me and finding pictures of Aretha and Duke in an encyclopedia or something. In order to put them on the same page of my report, I had to transfer the photos onto tracing paper, flip it, and then transfer it back to my report page. Now THAT is problem solving. As much as I absolutely LOVE technology, I do find myself questioning its ubiquity and its impact years from now. There are times where I wish I could just unplug completely – no email, no cell phone, no TV, just me and a book, or me and a piece of paper, but even those few hours of being disconnected would set me back even further in keeping up with the fast pace of life.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that while I love technology, I really hope it doesn’t take over EVERY aspect of life. Some things should just be left to the way they used to be. Although technology is making our lives easier, I sometimes miss the times when our lives were simpler.