Blood and Gore: Books Vs. Films

Let’s face it, guys: books can be violent.

It’s not like I’m opposed to a little blood in my books.  Anyone who reads this blog knows that it’s impossible for me to be as obsessed with The Hunger Games as I am and not be okay with violence.  But there is some seriously freaky stuff that goes on in the literary world, people.

For example, I was recently chatting with a friend about a mutually enjoyed series: the Gone series by Michael Grant.  I don’t know if I’ve mentioned Gone on here before, but the basics are this: A small California town is suddenly closed off from the outside world, and everyone at the age of fifteen and up disappears.  At this time it is discovered that some of the kids have superhuman powers, and at the same time there’s some freaky monsters and stuff springing up.  These books are basically a guts-fest from that point on, with power struggles and natural disasters and sadistic psychopaths and what-have-you.

The first four books. The next one isn't out yet.

These books made me appreciate adult authority a lot more.  The series still isn’t over, but I’ve seen enough to know that Grant does not hold back.  Kids kill kids left and right, and no descriptions are spared.

Don’t get me wrong; I enjoy the series.  I’m probably making it out to be a bit worse than it actually is, in fact.  But my point is it’s probably the most violent series I’m likely to ever read.  More disturbing is the fact that this series is written for teens.

I don’t think there is any real interest in making this series a movie just now, but I have come to the conclusion that it would be extremely difficult to do so.  It’s just really too over-the-top to be done while keeping it true to the story.

Which brings me to my main point: gore in books is not at all the same thing as gore in movies.  In books, we as the readers can edit our mental images any way we want.  We can choose to “see” as much or as little blood as we want when getting to a violent scene.  On the page, books like Gone can exist because the visual element is left to the imagination of the readers.

But when you adapt a book to film version, the blood is no longer in the viewer’s head.  It’s on the screen, in glorious hi-def and surround sound, for the world to see.  And this is scary to a lot of people.  It’s why people are wondering how The Hunger Games and Breaking Dawn can be kept PG-13.

The gore is no longer censored by your brain, tweaked for your peace of mind.  It’s dictated by a director who has no thoughts about your personal innocence or preferences.  No longer can readers pretend there isn’t as much violent content as the author intended.  What the director says, goes.  There’s no avoiding that.

That’s why movies are always so tricky to adapt faithfully.  An author can pretty much write whatever he or she wants, but a movie must be tailored to be appropriate for audiences.

For this reason, movies are, at least to me, much scarier or sadder or more intense than books are.  When it’s just words on a page and a little imagination, there is a certain amount of distancing that happens whenever something the reader doesn’t like happens.  The reader doesn’t have to actually see it.

There is no escaping images on the screen, or sounds from the speakers.  With movies, it feels a little more real to a viewer.  It’s a little more disconcerting, as if the person is actually there, in the scene.  Not that a reader doesn’t feel something real when reading the book, it’s just that I feel that everything is a lot more in-your-face when in the theater.

So I guess my point for today is that parents have a right to be careful when taking their child to a movie.  Even if they were okay with the book, there’s a major difference there.

Not to mention the fact that this is why directors change things in movies sometimes: it’s just not always appropriate for the audience.  And they are not going to make a YA novel into an R-rated movie.  It’s just not good for the target demographic.  So instead, they’re just extra-careful.

Happy reading!


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