Watch before reading, an unpopular opinion

As a kid who grew up in a time of adaptations, I frequently heard the saying, “You need to read the book before you can watch the movie.” My parents were never strict on this rule, but I did know some kids whose parents forbade them from watching any adaptation if they had not already read the book. 

As an avid reader, I understand why I was always encouraged to read the original source material before jumping into the adaptation since usually the content is adjusted to fit the format the movie or television show is going for. However, as someone who has watched the adaptations before reading the book and vice versa, I prefer watching the adaptation before reading the book. 

The reason behind my preference is because I think it not only elevates the books, which are usually better than the movies, but it also allows the movies to shine on their own and not be purely judged on the original source material. 

Adaptations are supposed to resemble the books they are based on, but many times changes have to be made either because the book is too long to include all the plot points or certain concepts would not transfer well into a visual setting. By excluding some plot points, the movies often get criticized and labeled as being “awful” because they did not strictly follow the original plot, which is an unfair standard to put on the adaptation. 

Books have fewer restrictions in portraying their content. Their length, events, and technology are completely up to the author; on the other hand, movies are restricted by budgets, production resources, and specified movie length. Movies, in general, have stricter rules that need to be followed, and so they are limited in their ability to portray a story. 

When it comes to watching the movies, if you go in without any prior expectations from the books, then you will be more likely to enjoy the movie itself instead of being disappointed that it did not follow your preconceptions. 

I have found that if I watch the movie first, I am able to better separate the adaptation from the book. I have the freedom to envision the characters and setting to fit my own preferences in books, so if I did not like certain aspects of the movie, then I can change it in my mind. This leaves me with more positive feelings about both the book and movie, for I can enjoy the movie since I did not have any prior expectations and I can be happy with the book since the book is not as limited in terms of interpretation.

However, when I read the book before watching the adaptation, I usually have more negative thoughts about the movie since I am comparing it to the book. Not only am I critiquing the actors’ performances based on my own interpretations of the characters, but I am comparing the setting and events to my own imagination as well. Subsequently, the adaptation suffers because it does not have the same flexibility as the book in terms of the portrayal of the story. 

While most people say that people should read the book before watching the movie, I think that this is a mistake if you want to enjoy the adaptations. The movies can influence how the audience feels about the plot, but it is not as influential as people’s own interpretations of the books.