I am not going to sit here and preach that you should always read the book before watching the film or TV adaptation. Personally I like to develop my own mental image of characters and locations in a book before seeing how a film maker has chosen to portray them. I find if I read the book after the film I cannot help but picture things as they appeared in the film. This preference is a bit of a double edged sword however, I have found that my enjoyment of an otherwise good film can be negatively impacted if it deviates too far from my impression of the source material.
I must stress this is not a hard and fast rule that I stick to, there are some instances where I am only casually interested in the film, not enough to dedicate the time to the book or where I simply cannot get into the book. A prime example of this being Game of Thrones, whilst I enjoy the TV show for the fantasy soap opera it is, I simply do not get along with George R. R. Martins style of writing and find the books a chore to read.
This brings me to the actual point of this entry, a book I recently read in the down time between flights during my recently holiday debacle and how it partly inspired me to start this blog. The book is Ernest Cline’s “Ready Player One”. I chose to read this after a number of people whose taste in fiction I trust spoke well of it and after seeing the, frankly ridiculous, trailer for the film which launches next week. I expected a light-hearted romp full of geeky references (something for which I am an absolute sucker for). In many ways that is exactly what I got but there was also something mildly depressing about it which I could not quite put my finger on. I am not going to tell you how this book will change your life (it won’t!) or wax lyrical about its hidden depths. If anything it could have made far more of its underlying themes. It did however make me question the manner in which we chose to portray ourselves online. We can chose to be anyone we want to be, some people may make up an entirely fictional persona but many of us chose to portray a version of ourselves we aspire to be where we have total control over what others see of us. I sit within a generation that did not grow up with the internet as a factor in our everyday lives and even once “going online” did become the norm the internet was still developing into the tool it has become today and few of us had any notion of the fact we could one day live out entire alternate lives online (God I feel old writing like that). What really resonated with me was how much of ourselves we chose to omit from our online personas, whilst reading the book I experienced first hand the often awkward experience that can occur when our digital and analogue lives. I have a friend who I met online and whilst I have met them a few times in person it has always been planned well in advance and as such I (and I suspect they) have been able to plan what we wanted to talk about and do together, there has never really been any spontaneity in our interactions. I don’t mind this as in truth I have always been somewhat intimidated by and envious of this persons talent and ability to effortlessly cool (not that she is aware of this ability which is what make her so damn cool). A few days ago I actually saw this person from a distance and could not bring myself to go over and speak to her. She appeared to be going about her daily routine on her way to work, dressed smartly and emitting the air of confidence of somebody doing something they do every day. I on the other hand was at the tail end of what was at that point a 28 hour journey, having not slept or showered and only consumed a single cup of coffee in that time. I platonically love this person, we regularly text and chat online about the many things we have in common and talking to her is often a highlight of my day. Usually in any other circumstance I would jump at the chance to spend more time (however brief) in her presence but seeing her in her everyday professional persona made me realise how little I actually know about her and question whether ignorance is bliss and ask do I really want to know about the stuff she doesn’t share with me? Of course I didn’t want her to see me in my sleep deprived scruffy state either having previously taken great care to present myself as somebody I hope she would be proud to call a friend and now seeing myself as somebody the polar opposite of her offline persona. I don’t think she spotted me (if she did she had the same instinct I did to turn the other direction). I have not told her about this blog (yet) but if she ever reads this I hope she takes no offence and understands my reasons for avoiding her. For the record we did have a pleasant and totally unrelated text conversation a couple of hours later.
But to refocus on my initial point regarding online personas, does any of what we chose to include or leave out really matter? We are still living in a world that remembers life before the internet. In the future portrayed in Ready Player One peoples online personas are accepted with the same, if not greater, degree of legitimacy as their offline selves. Soon people won’t remember a life without the internet and whilst that comes with certain dangers it also allows us the opportunity to create a world in which people do not have to be defined or restricted based on the level (or lack) of privilege they are born into. In part that is why I created this blog for myself. Whilst I acknowledge I am far more privileged than many that doesn’t mean the real world always allows me to present myself as I always want to. I am not looking to deceive anyone reading this about who I am, I merely see it as a way to explore ideas and parts of my own persona that I have struggled to fit into areas my offline life, be it professionally, academically or socially.
To quote a passage from RP1: “We’d connected on a purely mental level. I understood her, trusted her, and loved her as a dear friend. None of that had changed, or could be changed by anything as inconsequential as her gender, or skin color, or sexual orientation.”
I feel like I have started to ramble at this point but I hope that this post, along with my previous two entries, helps anybody who may stumble across this page understands the motivations and intentions behind me starting this blog. Over the next few days and weeks I intend to start populating the page with a bit more interesting, and less narcissistic, subject matter. For now here is the trailer for the upcoming film for which the book started this whole train of thought