Reconciling literature and adaptations
While I’m the first to admit I can be a bit snobby when it comes to adaptations of books into media, books involving zombies and vampires are the ones that drive me the most demented when made. The less said about World War Z, the better, but when it comes to I am Legend, I do feel that people are going to encounter the movie (which was a perfectly adequate action flick) and miss out on some of the best storytelling in subtle, chilling horror that actually kinda talks about a mental health state many of us could probably sympathise with. (spoiler alert – if you’re on a mandantory lockdown/stay order due to CoronaVirus (Sars-CoV-19), you may want to save reading the book until later.)
Does it matter if literature is true to the source material?
Honestly? I think many people would say no. Me. I’ve got a thing about Linguistics, and accuracy and all sorts.
However, if you look over the superficial changes (and some casting and not so superficial ones, but I’m not talking about that in this post) to the characters and some of the situations, and well, some of the stuff that actually happens (in the book, the zombie/vampires are intelligent, Frank’s immunity sorta has a kind of explanation etc.) the basic core of the important tropes in the storyline – what makes us human, survival, mental health…all of it, you kinda get that in the book and in the movie.
And while there are tonnes of faults in I am Legend’s movie adaptation, there are some bright spots too.
Mental health in fiction
In any kind of fiction, is important – and that’s why the superficial and not so superficial differences of I am Legend aren’t as important to me as the realistic depiction of the various different mental health issues that are honestly addressed in the book and movie. Which is why the whole thing needs trigger warnings of all kinds – from the suicidal behaviour of Frank to the fact that he sets up mannequins all over the place so he doesn’t feel alone. What he does to save the woman and child he comes across, all of it. But it shows a tonne of issues that we rarely see addressed in fiction – there’s some of it in World War Z, but in the older books, there’s less of this nuance, I think. And it’s missing, I feel, from books now. So, when talking about I am Legend, I think about everything from how the story was modernized, to how difficult it is to adequately address mental health in novels, and other places, and how we need more of that, and most of all, is that the world needs to look at what we’d do if something happened.
So I guess it is kinda important now.
What do you think?