Readings: Does the TV show/movie ruin the book?

I recently begun reading A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin after having watched the HBO TV show of the same name. I’m sure the topic of movie vs book has been written many times before, but I think this is the first time that it has really affected me. I watched the entire series (that is, up until the most recent season) before reading the book. I now find that every character that is mentioned, I am thinking about the actor or actress that plays that character in the movie. If there is a smaller character mentioned, for instance, Grenn at Castle Black, my mind automatically shifts to dig through my memory – who was the person who played Grenn?? (Chances are, I won’t be able to conjure a face for these minor characters…)

I’m still trying to come to terms with myself whether I like this subtle distraction or not. What would be different if I read the book first (like I did for Harry Potter)? Creating my own faces of the characters, for one. Engineering my own King’s Landing and the surrounding lands, for another. I can bet you that “my” Wall will look drastically different. Probably something more like the Great Wall of China surrounded by white fluffy snow.

I think time has the biggest influence over how creative I, as a reader, can get while reading the book for the first time. I was pretty invested in the TV show (being a fan since Season 1), so it is difficult for me to shake off the scenarios that have been predefined for me. But perhaps if I only watched the first season when it came out in 2011 and I just began to read the first book now, 3 years later, I probably won’t have such a clear memory of the lay of the land. I would have more freedom to be as wild and off-script as my mind desires. Basically, I think I am trying to reconstruct the episode while reading the book. Kind of don’t like this constraint. Maybe I’ll get past it.

In the reverse scenario, where I read the book first and then watched the movie, for example, the Harry Potter series, the Hunger Game series, and The Kite Runner, there generally is enough of a time gap for me to forget the minute details. It’s okay that the Cornucopia in The Hunger Games is SO not what I imagined in my head. (I thought of the seasonal and friendly cornucopia for Thanksgiving!) I have a slight monologue with myself in my head for a brief second, and then I refocus to what’s showing on the big screen. It usually doesn’t bother me that much. The only exception I can think of was when they changed the director in the third installment of Harry Potter (and the Prisoner of Azkaban) and the entire third movie was filmed in such a dreary and grey and horror-movie style that I completely DISLIKED it. I did not get this feeling while reading the book as a kid, so why am I forced to get into this someone-is-about-to-die mindset as a teen? It made not sense to me, and that particular HP movie was my least favorite.

In the end, I like the idea of having more free reign of my own imagination when reading a book for the first time or watching a movie/TV show for the first time. If I was ever to be so interested to read the original version of the ___, I would like a heck of a lot of time to space out the details so I don’t get so wrapped up in – “HEY! That’s not how it was in the book!”

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