Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Discussion: A Reinterpretation of Literature

As I have just begun a class that combines the studies of literature and film, I have been thinking a lot about the relationship between the two, and how we as a modern society, keep reinterpreting the literature of the past and what it says about our changing values and ideals.

It seems to me that a common trend in film lately is to revisit ancient myths and texts (for the most part, British texts), and reinvent the hero, making him a hyper-masculine, no-nonsense, violent sort of person.

Take, for example, Robin Hood.  In this clip from the 1922 film adaptation, we see Robin Hood as a gentle, light-hearted soul who has less of a desire to injure those he fights against than he does to have fun with them.

Now, look at this trailer for the 1991 film adaptation, starring Uma Thurmann.  We are starting to see a little more of the violence that we will see later on, but the primary focus of this representation of Robin Hood seems to be his love for the beautiful Maid Marian more than anything else.

Then, in 1999, we see more and more of the violent, macho ideal in the adaptation starring Kevin Costner. He's starting to get a little dirtier, his foes are starting to seem more evil, and there's more action depicted.

And finally, in an adaptation coming out this year, 2010, we see the most marked difference:

I mean, the background music alone says it all.  Robin Hood, who started out as a jolly outlaw who seemed to resist the establishment for fun, has transformed into a bloody-faced, rock-and-roll, hard-A.

Is it just me, or do we keep seeing this over and over again in the movies of the time?  How James Bond has transformed from the lean, gentlemanly Pierce Brosnan to the rough and tough Daniel Craig?

How King Arthur has transformed from a beneficent, sensitive King to a take-no-crap-from-anyone vagabond?

How Sherlock Holmes went from nerdy, hyper-logical detective to bloodied up wrestler?

Have you noticed these patterns?  I know this post deals primarily with film, but the influence of literature can be seen not only in novels but in arguably all aspects of society, especially other art and media forms.  In your opinion, do these reinterpretations of the literature stay true to the essence of the original texts?  What does this trend, in your eyes, reveal about our changing society?