Philip Pullman’s “His Dark Materials” trilogy is soon to kick off its celluloid debut. The adaptation of the first book will be released worldwide under the title “The Golden Compass”; the name the novel carried in North America, as opposed to its original branding, “The Northern Lights”.
This, unusually, doesn’t irk me too much. I cringe more at the fact that it’s a slap in the face for the author. Titles of literary works are carefully chosen by those that pen them and money-grabbing marketing types changing them on the grounds that someone somewhere may not know what said title indicates strikes me as, well; dumb.
As I said, though; this particular case doesn’t get the bile flowing. Both titles are relevant to the story, though only one carries a sense of cold mystery. The other has all the subtlety of a bludgeon painted bright yellow with 8 shrieking ferrets bound to it.
It does, however, give me licence to scream, bitch and point accusingly at a case from the past:
The first Harry Potter book.
Its title on fair Blighty was “The Philosopher’s Stone”, but on release in the US it was renamed “The Sorcerer’s Stone” because the American publishers didn’t think the readers would know what a philosopher was.
I find that move somewhat alarming as the publishers in question are called “Scholastic”.
What kind of company going under THAT moniker takes away an opportunity to pose a question? An opportunity to get a child to look something up? To learn?
Or, easier still; give them a reason to read the bloody book! The answer’s inside!!
Now, I’ve spoken with them, joked with them and engaged them in highly intelligent conversation, so I can say with authority that the Americans aren’t thick, as the rest of the world oft suggests. Wider, on the occasion, but not thick.
Their media organisations and distributers, however, seem convinced that the general population of the US is made up of barely conscious Neanderthals and so, treat them as such.
That an upcoming film is being released WORLDWIDE as “The Golden Compass” is a sign that this train of thought is spreading: the opinion that the public are dumb. Give them something bright and shiny to look at and they’ll be happy.
But I’m not. And if I’m not I’ll wager that others aren’t either.
We LIKE subtlety. We LIKE to work things out over the course of the book/film/TV Series/game. We LIKE it when things don’t become clear until the very end.
All of that can be undermined by a change in a name.
Some may think that it’s an overreaction to get into a twist over a title change, but it’s not the CHANGE that’s the ultimate problem. The problem is the talentless, unimaginative, exploitative people that are RESPONSIBLE for the change, and that they have the power to do so at the drop of a hat.
I’m worried what will become of the creative endeavour if they’re allowed to continue dumbing things down. If you give a person reason use their brain, they become smarter. But if you treat someone like a moron they eventually think they are one.
And what will become of us then?