Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Friday, September 26, 2008

Read the banned book and see the movie!

Tomorrow launches the beginning of Banned Books Week for 2008,where libraries and bookstores across the country endeavor to remind their fellow readers about the continuing need to fight censorship of literature.

To liven things up a little,I'm suggesting that folks use a fun new approach to getting those who are not interested in BBW to appreciate the concept of freedom to read a little bit more.

My concept is simple and suited to the video age we live in. Hold a Banned Books Week Film Festival,showcasing the many excellent movies that have been made from banned and/or challenged works over the decades. A easy way to set this up is to have some specially themed double features(shown to age appropriate audiences,of course) play on your DVD/VCR/whatever entertainment center you have in your home for reluctant friends and family to watch together to share and enjoy.

Here are a few ideas for double feature themes(all titles are available on video)to give you some film food for thought and inspiration:


Love stories are great crowd pleasers,plus with the winter months about to swoop down upon us,it gives folks more of a reason to snuggle together. With that in mind,Doctor Zhivago is the perfect choice here. Boris Pasternak's homage to the olden days of Russia was banned from that country for thirty years and finally came into print there in 1988.

The book received most of it's accolades overseas and was adapted into a film in 1968,directed by the legendary David Lean. It won a number of Oscars and is considered one of the all time great films of the 20th century. If you haven't read the book or seen the film(sorry to say I haven't done either yet,but still plan on doing so),this is a good excuse to go for it now:

While I didn't read David Guterson's Snow Falling On Cedars,I did get the chance to see a sneak preview of the 1998 film version starring Ethan Hawke and was rather bowled over by the stark emotional beauty of the story and characters.

Guterson's novel has been challenged in a few school districts,both in the US and Canada,no doubt for the interracial romance that is a strong segment of the spine of this story about a reporter confronting the ghosts of his past as he looks into murder trial of a Japanese American man who is married to the love of his life. The plot is set in 1954 but still has a lot of relevancy to today:


Most of the books that get banned and challenged are meant to be kept away from teenagers,fearing that a little knowledge may be a dangerous thing.

S.E. Hinton's novels have been in the cross hairs of these complaints for many years,not just because of themes of violence and usage of profanity in them but,in my opinion,due to the fact that young people actually like these books even if they're not assigned reading.

The Outsiders as a film got some mixed reviews but is a good way to introduce folks into Hinton's world,plus Steve Wonder's theme song,"Stay Gold" is lovely to listen to:

And for the ladies,we have Stephen King's Carrie,who deals with her outsider status by displaying her psychic abilities at the prom and literally bringing down the house.

King's novels have also been frequent targets of censorship campaigns aimed at high school libraries,with the likes of Christine,It and Cujo on the chopping block.

I chose Carrie,however,because it was the first one of Big Steve's teenager in trouble books and deals with a myriad of subjects that most folk would have die than talk about with their kids such as menstruation,abusive parents and the sometimes violent consequences of hazing:


For the slightly older teens and/or the college bound set,more controversial fare is best suited to encourage them to not only question society but the chosen forms of rebellion against it. Anthony Burgess's novel shocked British society with it's futuristic look at dealing with crime and punishment amongst the young and the coldly vicious.

The film version is just as shocking as the book and chillingly timely in it's viewpoint from a charming middle class bred sociopath who adores the ultraviolent:

Bret Easton Ellis's gory take on eighties greed,American Psycho,was already stirring up trouble even before it's publication and is still the eyebrow raiser today. The Mary Herron directed film was able to pare down some of the more gruesome details of the book to expose the bone of social satire that is still unsettling to
self appointed guardians of virtue and political correctness:


Getting grade school boys to develop a love of reading is a major goal for many parents and educators and one sure fire way to jump start that initiative is by showcasing some of the classics as forbidden fruit. Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist has garnered censure for over a century,due to the depiction of Fagin that caused parents in New York to register a complaint during the 1940s.

To make the book seem like less of a chore,a viewing of the beloved musical version,Oliver!,should do the trick:

Roald Dahl is another children's book author whose works are threatening to the
book banning crowd and also popular picks for film adaptations.

It's hard to find a book of his that hasn't both delighted readers and film goers,plus ruffle a number of feathers of the fuddy duddy flock who cite amongst a host of other reasons to keep the likes of Charlie and The Chocolate Factory,Matilda and The Witches out of classrooms,"lack of respect for adult authority."

Never mind the fact that only adults who abuse that authority are the ones being given the usually comically payback in these stories,this point is rather persistently made over and over again,reveling the real fear of the censors.

Anyway,I thought James and the Giant Peach would go along well with Oliver,since both are seen as bad examples of disadvantaged youth. Guess some people are afraid of young boys fleeing a bad home life by sailing off with talking insects on an over sized piece of fruit,they could start a gang or something:

Please feel free to suggest a few of your own double feature ideas and check out more info about Banned Books Weeks online. For those out there who still insist on regulating what other people want to read and watch,beware of your own methods of madness. They can turn around and bite you back when least expected:


Ladytink_534 said...

There is hardly anything guaranteed to make me madder than a banned book. Great idea with the banned movies though! I haven't seen Doctor Zhivago (or read the book) either but I'll make sure to nominate the book for my Books Into Movies group for November's group read. I've heard of Snow Falling on Cedars of course but it's another I have never read or watched before (even though I do like Ethan Hawke). I have seen a little of The Outsiders and I think I might have tried to read it once too but I don't really remember it.

I've read Carrie twice and seen the movie several times but I've never seen or read Clockwork Orange but I really don't want to lol. How did I miss American Psycho though.... that's what I want to know! Ooh! Oliver Twist was on my reading list this year (I've had it for years) but somehow managed to be pushed back again. I've seen James and the Giant Peach many, many times (in November I'll probably do a review on it for my Ladytink's Neverland blog) but I think I've only read it once and that was a really long time ago.

Thanks for the recommendations! I have a feeling I'll be very busy soon... Oh don't forget To Kill a Mockingbird and Fahrenheit 451!

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Arsen Kashkashian said...

My favorite banned book of all time is Lolita. You can do the double feature with just that one title. There's are two interesting movies based on it. The first directed by Stanley Kubrick is from 1962 and stars Shelly Winters, Peter Sellers and James Mason. The second from 1997 is underrated in my opinion. Jeremy Irons and Melanie Griffith star in the film directed by Adrian Lyne who also did Fatal Attraction.