Opinion: The great movie tie-in



Mark Oprea

Mark Oprea

Mark Oprea is a sophomore integrated life sciences major and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].

The dark, telling eyes floating above crimson lips lie ethereally against a purple night sky. Yellow city lights explode in the background, and the sound of the Jazz Age emits faintly from between its pages. The iconic cover of “The Great Gatsby” is instantly recognizable even by those who have never heard of Nick Carraway or Daisy Buchanan.

On May 10, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s seminal work hits the big screen again, fit for 2013. Leonardo DiCaprio’s inviting grin replaces that of Francis Cugat’s unforgettable original artwork on the book’s cover.

Avid book readers, like myself and others, may shudder at the Hollywood makeover of classic novels. We tend to refuse even the slightest glance at Isabelle Allen on Victor Hugo’s classic or sneer at “127 Hours” star James Franco on the cover of Aron Ralston’s autobiography. Others may just shrug their shoulders, saying, “a book’s a book.”

I’ll admit, they are right. The books flaunting the tagline “Now Based on a Major Motion Picture” only attract more readers to the same words that lie behind the classic covers. Upon announcement of the new DiCaprio-lathered copy, book sales for both editions soared tremendously. Last Thursday, Fitzgerald’s 1925 novel climbed up to the top-selling spot on Amazon, replacing last year’s lascivious best-seller, “Fifty Shades of Grey.” The symbolic novel of your great-grandmother’s generation is predicted to sell around half a million copies this year — more than it sold in the first five years of its publication combined.

Then again, we are talking about an undisputed masterpiece of literature — a novel that defined an entire decade. Why should publishers re-image a beloved work of art other than just for financial means?

“It’s a no-brainer,” said Marcella Edwards, senior commissioning editor at Penguin Classics. “You’d be crazy not to do it.”

Tying movies in with the books they are based off of not only expands publishers’ profit margins, but also becomes more readable to the light reader.

“There is an approachability the film taps into,” Edwards said. “It’s reaching a new market inasmuch as it becomes less classic, less difficult.”

Yet by overtly associating a book with a motion picture, another possibility opens up. The radiant film shot of Keira Knightley on the cover of Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice” may impact the reader’s own imaginative creation of the character Elizabeth Bennett. Instead of using one’s one creativity, characters such as Bennett and Gatsby are already painted for the reader on the front of the novel. How thoughtful of the publishers for doing so.

Literary snobs and avid book collectors, however, are aware that they do not have to associate with the “new reader.” A book, to reluctantly state the age-old phrase, shall not be judged by its cover. Even though movie adaptations of classic novels like “The Great Gatsby” may encounter a Hollywood rebranding, staunch literary devotees must remain calm, as the timelessness of these classics is simply being upheld.

Even Charles Scribner himself, the man whom we owe for revitalizing the original “Gatsby” cover in 1979, admits his admiration for the new movie tie-in.

“I confess to liking the Leonardo DiCaprio cover,” he said modestly.

I, however, dare to disagree.

Contact Mark Oprea at [email protected].