Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Genre -- to stay true or switch it up with adaptations?

With the popularity of remakes, reboots, and reinventions, I find myself considering the importance of genre to a story. Specifically, how much is genre an integral part to any given piece of work? Is this one of those fundamental elements that one can alter or would changing it skew the story so greatly, it would critically shift the entire premise and/or make-up of its internal structure?

Take for instance Romeo and Juliet. Baz Luhrmann’s film adaptation was great. It was quite faithful to the original while still finding its own way, offering a beautiful new interpretation. I guess what I’m asking is--what would happen if you made it a happy-ever-after? (I’d never dream of it, but you see my point.)

Isn’t tragedy intrinsic to the storytelling here? From the initial familial conflict, to the fall of Mercutio and Tybalt, through to the heart-breaking end for both Romeo & Juliet and the repercussions for the rest of the players all round; it seems to me that the genre is almost the foundation for the entire play.

Maybe it would work if you tried to switch up something like The Wizard of Oz into a black-comedy thriller framework... But then again, it would also mean a dramatic change in the intended readership as well...

Currently writing for a YA audience, my next question might not be so easy to answer. For argument’s sake, let’s say we agree it’s sacrilegious to give Romeo and Juliet their happy ending. Yet how should the final scenes be approached if you were to adapt it to a current day setting? I mean, ethically, should we be condoning/supporting/illustrating this kind of exit strategy? (Or overall violence in general for that matter, to people who aren’t really deserving so to speak.) I get that it’s already out there, that everyone’s read Romeo and Juliet, but by making it more accessible, more modern, more high school, does it change anything?

The same goes for any of the great tragedies--how does one tackle multiple deaths--specifically murder or suicide--in a contemporary (non horror) YA adaptation? What if it was for a Middle Grade manuscript? How much can you alter the tragic nature, without losing the essence of its beauty?

Of course, perhaps the easiest solution is just to stick with the comedies instead!

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