A Cow Ain’t a Woodchuck

Recently, on vacation, I think, I was participating in a conversation regarding the topic of “worst job in the world.”  I have generally maintained that being employed as a person who cleans port-a-potties must be a pretty (you know I’m going to say it) $hitty situation.  Because I’ve never been in a port-a-potty what smelled of wildflowers, had mosaic tiled floors, and involved “customers” who were sensitive and caring about the placement of any or all of their bodily excretions.  Alarmingly, there are no sacred nor forbidden areas in a port-a-potty, everything is up for grabs when it comes to the Art of Decorating With Poo/Pee/I don’t even want to know.

Anyway.

After having watched some episodes of the television series, “Under the Dome,” I have decided that the worst job I, personally, could ever have, would be that of turning a book into a movie or a television series.  Now, one would think this could be exciting and inventive; translating award-winning and brilliantly written books into something for the prefer-to-watch-rather-than-read crowd must have its challenges and exciting moments.  And, while sometimes I appreciate that license has to be taken at times (“okay, this is the part in the book where the main character is in a coma for 40 weeks, we gotta speed this up… we only got an hour to work with, people!”), most times, I find myself a little pissed on behalf of the author.

I’m quite sure that Stephen King has no need for earthlings like myself to be outraged on his behalf, and I’m guessing that he must have a (surely) creative way to numb his personal feelings when television/movie experts are completely screwing with meaningful (And I mean, meaningful.  How I love thee, Stephen King.) details during re-writing and production.  I have not discovered this talent, and I suppose, until I’ve been offered millions to produce some novel that I haven’t yet written, I likely never will.

I’ve discussed before that, in my experience, Mr. King is able to get down to the personal level when it comes to catastrophe/weird crap.  It’s the regular folk who, too, are affected, and it brings his stories closer in a delightful and often deeper way than if he had just written, “and so, the White House and DC were obliterated in three seconds.”

Anyway, back to the job of helping the public (are we really that dumb?  do we really need that much “#POW!#@!!” in everything we see?) to appreciate the bigness of things that happen in “Under the Dome”, when in fact, and here’s the real story here, it’s the smallness of things in this story which pack the mental punch.  Is the general viewing public unable to grasp subtle?  Is it really that impossible to translate subtle onto the screen?

Now, there are countless, and I mean COUNTLESS things I could say about how things are progressing in the television version of Chester’s Mill, but my first comment involves the first minutes of the first episode; you know, when the Dome comes down.

First, I’ll say that they did a fantastic job of showing the Dome “hitting” home.  I made a rhyme there.  I think it was probably necessary to show the line in the dirt, though I think the earthquake effect before hand was wrong.  But, not a big deal.

However.  (And this probably says something about Mr. King that I remember such details) I had a great sense of foreboding when I saw that they used a cow sliced cleanly in half rather than the image of a lowly woodchuck who was fat and old and bumbling and foraging, and enjoying the sun on his back, suffering the same fate, when the Dome descended.

I get it.  A woodchuck is small, and not visually stunning.

But.

Humanity is small, and not visually stunning.

And that’s how, in my humble opinion, Mr. King makes it personal.  That, and the fact that, while we be small, we are quite significant, in the whole scheme of things.  Quite.

We are significant to ourselves, our pets, our families, our friends, and sometimes, that causes a ripple effect:  in our small town, then in neighboring towns, then neighboring states, and then, whether we’re interesting or not, sometimes in another of Stephen’s books/worlds.

I realize that it must be a gargantuan task to attempt to translate onto the screen the bounty of smallness prevalent in Mr. King’s novels into something that moves us or makes us understand better the gravity of certain situations.  But sometimes, a woodchuck should stay a woodchuck.

And characters should be able to keep their wives who play significant roles in the outcome of the story.  And other characters shouldn’t be married.  And other characters shouldn’t be murderers or “collection agents”, at all.  And other characters do not seem as crazy when they haven’t committed a murder in the first 25 minutes/ don’t have a brain tumor*/don’t keeps their murder victim/s in a pantry.  And other characters should be younger.  And certain other characters who were never related before should remain unrelated.  Mainly because one of them is supposed to be dead within the first 25 minutes, but, who am I.

Anyway, that’s just the tip of the iceberg, and I haven’t even gotten into the further creative re-writing that happens past the first episode.

I honestly do try to “forget” that I’ve read the books that these things are based upon.  I admit that I can tolerate The Game of Thrones because, watching it on the screen, it saves me the time that I spent skimming through countless annoying chapters.  Perhaps a pre-requisite for these re-writing jobs is that you must absolutely hate everything you read.  I guess then, it might be rather fun.  ”I hated that guy and had to read about him for eight chapters.  Let’s cut him out.”

Overall, though, it’s a job that qualifies as “worst in the world” in my personal book (heh), and I suspect that the people holding these positions are fortunate that book lovers are not generally known as the overly violent or vengeful sort of crowd.

Will I keep watching?  Perhaps.  But my annoyance reached alarming levels with the viewing of the episode where the “kids” discover the “Dome Generator.”  I haven’t watched past that one, yet, I’m not sure I can handle what happens next.

So, if you haven’t read the book, by all means, enjoy the show.  It’s probably interesting enough to be worth it.  If you have, please link hands with me now, and join me in singing a dirge for the original one thousand and seventy two pages of pure poetry that has been turned into muck.

This one’s for you, Mr. Woodchuck.

*p.s.  I’m not up to date in my watching, so perhaps a tumor has been implanted into the brain of one or more of the characters in the “story.”  If so, I apologize for the spoiler.*

Leave a Reply