Why So Nitpicky?

Here’s a thing I never really understood about fans of books or TV shows…

Some of them get extremely nitpicky. Why? I’ve never really been a participant in a fandom–more of an observer. I read, I’ll watch videos, I look at websites and Tumblrs and I’ll read fan fiction, but I don’t take part in discussions.

That’s partly because I’m fickle; see the Men I’ve Google-Stalked tag for proof. Once upon a time, I was super into Lost. I got my college roommate watching it because I had to watch it when it was on (this is before DVRs). But after a few years, I wasn’t interested anymore. Still haven’t watched the last season.

From fmlawschool.tumblr.com

But I noticed the nitpicky element especially with Downton Abbey fans. I think it’s great when a group of people connect with something so strongly. What I don’t understand about the pecking to death of a film or TV show are the fans who write things like, “The creators are ruining the show!” or “That’s not the way it’s supposed to go!” or “But he would never do that!”

Huh? Are they your characters? Do you write the show? No? Then how do you know that’s not the way it’s supposed to go?

But Outlander fans are on another level of nitpicky. Since the show began airing in September, I realized that it was probably a story I’d enjoy, read the first book, watched the first half of the season, finished the other seven books, and am watching the second half of season one as it airs.

I understand that the books have been around for twenty-something years and there are long time fans who have had these characters and stories in their minds for that long. So I can see how it’s jarring to now see an image of that story and those characters and it doesn’t match what you’ve always imagined.

But that’s why it’s an adaptation.

The writers, producers, and actors cannot look into your mind and depict what you imagined. They cannot film the book verbatim–there are things that work in novels that do not work on television–and there are things that happen in the books that seriously stretch credulity, even for a story with heavy doses of fantasy. Claire and wolves, anyone? Scenes need to be shuffled around, characters need to be cut, and new things are added.

 I think they’ve done a really good job. I’ve liked the additions. If you’re watching the show determined to find something wrong with it, then you will. Relax, people. It’s a TV show.

You cannot compare the book and the show the whole time. And what with the nitpicky nature, I wonder if they’re enjoying the show at all.

“But that’s not what Jamie was thinking there!”

How would you know? Outlander the novel is narrated entirely by Claire.

“But he wouldn’t do that!” “That’s not how it happened in the book!” “Why are these writers creating new things when they have the novel?”

Perhaps because they’re writers and therefore creative and they want to create new scenes or flesh out certain parts that novel may not have elucidated. Perhaps because the production has a vision?

My favorite novel, Atonement, was filmed–and I didn’t like the way the movie did the ending. In the book, it builds up to the reveal. But the reveal is entirely internal and so, of course, they couldn’t film it that way.

I recently saw a video of George RR Martin, author of the Game of Thrones books, answering a fan’s questions–I think it was Comic Con. The fan asked if the book or the show was “the real story.” Which one should he regard as canon?

I liked Martin’s response.

The question of ‘so you can experience the story in its true form,’ it’s kind of a loaded one. I’ve said a couple of times in posts, the riddle ‘how many children does Scarlett O’Hara have?’ Scarlett O’Hara has three children in Margaret Mitchell’s novel. Scarlett O’Hara has one child in the classic movie of ‘Gone With the Wind.’ How many children does Scarlett O’Hara have? What’s the true story? Of course the true story is Scarlett O’Hara has no children because she never existed. She’s a fictional character and there are two wonderful, classic ways of telling the story.
The show is the show and the book is the book. Who did Robb Stark marry? Did he marry a noblewoman from Volantis named Talisa, who died at the Red Wedding? Or did he marry a woman named Jeyne Westerling who’s still alive and will be seen in the prologue of ‘Winds of Winter’? Is one true? Is one not true? Well, how many children did Scarlett O’Hara have?
For further reading: Diana Gabaldon’s post on adaptation

9 thoughts on “Why So Nitpicky?

  1. Ooh, I do love his response! That said, I've griped a great deal about Peeta in Hunger Games. That guys is a good actor, and he's doing a great job, but he doesn't look anything like Peeta in the book! And I could gripe about how Jennifer Lawrence is too healthy looking to play Katniss. But I'm not going to go online and gripe about it. Me and sister griped together. Lol! I gripe about Harry Potter some, too. Namely how all the actors playing the teachers were about 15+ years older than they should have been. I still love it, of course, but there is something fun about picking the movies apart. So, I do understand why fandoms are so crazy. We're all nerds at the end of the day. People who griped over Star Trek, I get it, but I'm like \”who cares\” so I know how you feel, too. Lol! Getting crazy over something is fun! But most of the time I like the changes. Sometimes the endings are different or boring crap is left out. There are even a couple of movie adaptions I like more!


  2. I can be an obsessive nerd–see Men I Have Google Stalked, the Downton Abbey tag, my nerdy fan fiction-reading habit. And I totally overanalyze and nitpick…but in private. In my head. Why? Because my interests (read: crushes) tend to change quickly. Nitpicking, to me, seems to be a negative thing, expressing negativity, and how is that supposed to be fun?


  3. Add video games to your list of \”places to find fandoms with obnoxious people who do nothing but nitpick\”. The level of entitlement is absolutely scary at times*, and I'm convinced that some people are just determined to be unhappy no matter what.This issue does tie into writing pretty well, though – don't like how something in someone else's universe turned out? Write what you wanted yourself!(*The original ending of Mass Effect 3 was pretty flawed, but nothing is worth not only sending death threats to the people who made it, but threatening their school-aged children. Yeah, that happened. *sighs and shakes head*)


  4. What?!! Death threats? Wtf?!I've had ideas based on things I've been into–I have two fanfics (one is unfinished) based on Downton Abbey. One of them is canon, because I thought that a decision a character made had to have had more of a simmer to it than what was presented on the show. But I do think some people just are never going to be happy with an adaptation because they're not the ones adapting it.


  5. To be fair, I do bet what you're saying. But I do think a fan of something can adequately judge whether any percieved personality change is reasonable based on what is known of the character on the show/movie or book they're watching. If I say such and such a character wouldn't do that, it boils down to the writer not having explained it right. I don't for example, expect a character who is emotionally controlled to break said control without reason.


  6. But characters can change based on who they're interacting with or what circumstances they're in and in those instances, I don't necessarily think a fan can see where that character might be headed. And what may feel like something out of character for a viewer might not seem that way for the writer. Let's be real: we all bring our own subjective baggage to a book, movie, TV show, or video game.


  7. Of course they can change based on what is going on and interactions, I completely agree. But the writer still has to explain it in such a way as it actually fits in with what the reader/viewer knows of the character. Some seem to think they can throw anything they want in with no explanation, and that's bad writing. As a reader/viewer I'm more than happy to accept canon personality and actions, when the writer cares enough to make sure they make sense.


  8. Oh, sure. I read a bit of fanfic, but maybe I just tend not to think about TV characters so much because I rarely feel like \”oh, that's out of character.\” I have that felt that way about book characters though.


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