Maybe I feel this way because I’m over 40 and not down with what makes the younger generation tick, but I just don’t get the appeal of the retellings craze of the last decade or so. Fairytales, folktales, and myths adapt themselves well to a wide variety of settings, since the stories are so universal and frequently found across multiple diverse cultures. Shakespeare’s plays have also been well-adapted to different eras and settings; e.g., Akira Kurosawa’s Ran (King Lear) and Throne of Blood (MacBeth), the original West Side Story (Romeo and Juliet), 10 Things I Hate About You (The Taming of the Shrew).
But now we have a whole industry of writers point-blank retelling and “rebooting” not just fairytales, folktales, and plays, but novels written by other people. I roll my eyes so hard when a 35-year-old woman who’s going on 16 squees, “ZOMG, give me all the Pride and Prejudice retellings!” or “A modern-day Anne of Green Gables in Philadelphia? YES YES YES!” I hate to stereotype my own sex, but I only see women fawning over and writing these books.
Here’s a groundbreaking idea: If you like the general concept of a book, just make your own original story with a similar premise. Don’t steal someone else’s hard work and just change a few details. E.g., you can easily craft a good story about four sisters coming of age in any era and city, and give them whatever ethnic or religious background you’d like. You don’t need to name them Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy and do a close play-by-play of the events in Little Women! I guarantee people will love your book if you write that story well instead of lazily copying Louisa May Alcott’s classic story.
I absolutely hated Anne with an E, because it forces 21st century views onto late 19th century characters. So many of these old novels simply don’t work with modern settings because the characters and storylines are the product of the era they were created in. Values, expectations, duties, education, politics, religion, beliefs, etc., were entirely different. E.g., I hate when an old film or book ends with a happy couple being forced to break up and marry other people for the sake of duty, but most people in the past accepted that as something they just had to do and couldn’t fight against, no matter how heartbreaking it was.
One of the recent graphic novel adaptations of Little Women features a freaking pronoun circle in Jo’s eighth grade journalism club. The one time I was at an event where this creepy woke ritual was forced on us, I felt so dirty and trapped for going along with it. I felt like snapping, “Do I look like a man or someone of indeterminate sex to you?” Louisa May Alcott would whirl in her grave if she knew someone did that to her characters!
So many of these retellings shoehorn in wokeness, like they think they’re “correcting” “problematic” aspects of the original. Like it or not, most books written 100+ years ago aren’t populated by Rainbow Tribes. People lived what they knew, which meant not associating with different socioeconomic classes, religions, or ethnicities, unless they were servants. Gays and lesbians were deep in the closet. Even white people tended to live in their own ethnic enclaves; e.g., Irish, German, Norwegian, Italian, Greek, Polish, Scottish. It wasn’t until the rise of postwar suburbia that all these boxes and walls started to fade away.
Guess what, if you write a story about four sisters named Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy in a multiracial stepfamily in Queens in 2005 with the dad serving in Iraq, make Jo a lesbian, and have the sisters look at porn on the Internet, that’s NOT Little Women. That’s a story of your own creation with the flimsiest of relations. And did I mention this woke graphic novel has a Jewish landlord depicted in a very antisemitic way?