Sunday, December 16, 2007

How Are Olive, The Other Reindeer, Rebecca, And Bella Related?

That's Bella from Twilight, by the way.

Are you thinking, Yeah, Gail, let's see you connect those three? I hope so. Because here goes.

A few days back, Megan made a comment here at Original Comment about reading Olive, the Other Reindeer to a class and having the kids tell her that the story was actually a "movie" on the Cartoon Network. They'd seen the cartoon, didn't know there was a book until Megan told them about it, and for them the "movie" was it.

This reminded me of an article I saw in which the author speculated that more people had seen the movie version of Rebecca than have read the book. I don't know if that's the case these days, but it may have been the case at the time the movie originally came out. And certainly the movie has cast a long shadow. It may very well influence the public perception of Rebecca just as the cartoon version of Olive, the Other Reindeer probably influences grade school aged kids' perception of that story.

I saw Rebecca just last week. (Eat your heart out Leila.) It's a very anemic version of the book with two major changes that undercut the story's power and one of its themes (power shifts within a marriage), and it played up romance in a big way. In an interview that took place at the time she played Mrs. Danvers in a television production of Rebecca, Diana Rigg said that the movie version was based on a play and not the original novel. She claimed Hitchcock couldn't get the rights to the book, only the play.

Whether it was the people responsible for the movie or the people responsible for the play, somebody wanted to make the central relationship romantic instead of, well, pretty tragic. Thus, to the general public, Rebecca is a romance.

This central relationship--an unequal one between an older, powerful man and a younger, powerless woman--is the same central relationship in Twilight, which has recently been the subject of another conversation at the child_lit listserv. (Though the Twilight books are generally well-received, we unrepentent child_lit feminists find ourselves a little shaken by them.) Bella in Twilight and the second Mrs. de Winter in Rebecca have no lives beyond their men, for whom they will do anything.

I think this is a very old-fashioned concept of romance. It seems very dated to me, and may be why none of us at The Big Read found Rebecca very romantic. Intense and twisted and satisfying to read, but not anyone's idea of romance.

And yet, so many young girls (and adult women) are falling for that old model of romance in Twilight.

So there you have it folks: Olive, the Other Reindeer leads to Rebecca leads to Bella. Ta-da!


Blogger Megan Germano said...

Well said and connected :)

9:39 PM  
Blogger Leila the Great said...


If I don't manage to see that movie before the end of the year, I'm going to be very sad indeed.

Bella's lack of Self didn't bother me until the second and third books -- I don't remember her being quite as bad in the first one, but I admit that I'm slightly afraid to re-read it.

6:09 PM  
Blogger gail said...

I found Rebecca on DVD at my local library. So it is available on DVD. (We were wondering about that at your site.)

I actually enjoyed Twilight. As Jen Robinson has said, there's an Elizabeth Bennett/Mr. Darcy vibe (sort of) in it that carries things along. I agree that it's with the second book and, particularly, the third that the relationship becomes strongly (and sometimes disturbingly) weak woman/strong man.

7:14 PM  
Blogger Leila the Great said...

Judging from the availability (and pricing) at Amazon, it looks to me like it was released on DVD at some point, but it's out of print at the moment, at least in the States.

My library has it on VHS, but I don't have a VCR -- I'm thinking about forcing it on everyone at my Dad's house on Christmas Eve. HE has a VCR.

9:39 AM  
Blogger Becky said...

I hadn't heard Diana Riggs' comments about the movie before. Hmmm.

I've always understood that producer David O. Selznick insisted that Hitchcock be as faithful as possible to the book, but, and in Hollywood at the time it was a big but, the Hays Code required a number of things, including -- important in "Rebecca" -- that no bad deed go unpunished.

What I've always found nifty is that to reinforce the connection between the 1940s film versions of
"Rebecca" and "Jane Eyre", Joan Fontaine was cast in the movie version of the latter four years later.

9:06 PM  
Blogger gail said...

The problem with the movie, as far as I'm concerned, is that in order to not punish bad deeds and make the story look like a romance they had to remove the most important bad deed in the book.

7:35 PM  
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