I just finished watching House of Cards, and now I’m having this major stream of consciousness about the implications of Netflix on the ability to adapt books to the screen.
House of Cards is based on a British political thriller novel of the same name by Michael Dobbs, and the fact that it was based on a book really stayed with me as I watched—especially, of course, with Spacey’s (brilliant and terrifying) breaking of the fourth wall. A common complaint that readers always have about movies based on stories told in the first person is that we’re left without the main character’s inner monologue. I don’t know how many of Francis’s soliloquies into the camera are based on the prose in Dobbs’ book, but I thought that was a really fresh way to add another dimension to a main character who was originally a literary character.
But that’s only a small part of what I eventually started to realize. As I neared the end of the season, I noticed that the story arc really played out more like a long movie than a television show. I guessed that this season was based on one of Dobbs’ books in a series, and upon looking it up, I saw that I was right. And I watched the entire season in about 4 days, which is about the amount of time it would probably take me to read a book that I was really into.
And then of course my first thought was, gosh, can you imagine if Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter were made into a “show” instead of 3-hour movies? Can you imagine if we could have a 13-hour long Sorcerer’s Stone! I really think streaming television, specifically Netflix, is changing the playing field for how visual stories are told, because think about it: movies have always been constrained to how long someone can sit in a theatre, and television has always been constrained to a time allotment. But man, I really think that visual storytelling is going to be executed in a completely different format by the time I’m an old lady. I mean, think about it! You could have an iPad or a Kindle Fire or whatever flexible waterproof e-reader/screen/computer thing we’ll have in 50 years, and you could choose whether to read a story or to watch it. The story would be delivered in about the same amount of time, on the same device; you’d just have to choose whether you wanted the visuals delivered to you, or whether you want to imagine the story for yourself.
Okay, okay, you’re probably laughing at me now because you can already do that—you can watch television dramas and read books on your iPads already. But I’m just wondering how we’ll conceptualize books versus movies/television in the future, when the latter two don’t exist in the time-constrained formats that we’re currently used to.
(And then I started wondering if whether, when I’m old, there’ll be a remake of the Harry Potter movies, since there’s always remakes of everything, and that’s about when my mind started to melt.)