Why Is Film More Popular?

I haven't seen it yet, but I want to. SO BAD. Seems like everyone's been talking about Inception, and I am SO going to see it as soon as the husband can find some free time to take me.

But its sudden (and unexpected?) popularity surprised me this weekend as I saw countless tweets and reviews about it. It got me thinking last night--why are movies always so much more popular than books, especially when it comes to sci fi and dystopia and other "weird" subjects?

Of course the obvious answer is simply that movies are always more popular than the book, or that movies make a book popular. Typically, that's true. But I'm talking about the genre more than anything. There's a bit of a stigma when it comes to speculative fiction in general. I remember in college, I went to a large bookstore with some of my college friends. They went to the literary section--I still remember that one of my friends picked up The Hours. I drifted over to the "Fantasy and Science Fiction" section...and they looked at me as if I'd drifted towards the "How to Dismember Puppies and Drown Kittens" section.

As an English teacher, I can't tell you the number of people who would come to me for book recommendations, expecting Shakespeare or at the very least Twain. When I started going on about the latest Scott Westerfeld or the Orson Scott Card "classics," eyes would pop and people would back away.

And yet those very same literary snobs lined up to see the latest Star Trek and Inception and Pandora. How many of them would have read The Road without Oprah's stamp of approval and the later movie deal? Think of the difference between the popular super-hero films (Iron Man, Batman Begins) and the unpopularity of someone over the age of eight buying a comic book. How many people are ignorant of The Hunger Games now...but will "love it" when the movie comes out later?

I am honestly stumped, League Minions (can I call you minions? It just sounds so classy). Why is speculative fiction so very very popular in film form, but often sneered at in book form? Or am I the only one who sees this trend?


Anonymous said...

Great post. I wonder if it's because they can learn the whole store in a couple hours and not several hours of reading?

I used to be one of those types of people before I got into reading. It was just easier. . .

Interesting question here.

Jeffrey Beesler said...

Flashy explosions are easier to see with actual eyes than with the mind's eye. Hollywood does a dazzling job in the special effects department.

Anonymous said...

Good question. I think films are *easier* for the audience to take in. Less commitment. And someone (usually the geeks like us) make a big fuss about how awesome the movie is going to be -- well it's a movie. Hollywood likes it. It must be okay.

Bittersweet Fountain said...

Great question!

(I saw Inception. It was awesome. I do love Christopher Nolan films.)

I've wondered about this myself, especially in Lost's wake. A lot of my friends who "hate science fiction and fantasy" loved Lost. I tried to point out several times that it was SF/F. They thought I was crazy. It came on ABC - not the "Syfy" channel, so in their mind it was mainstream.

As a classic SF/F nerd, I really can't understand this mindset. But if we could discover the reasons behind it, I think it would solve all the problems behind marketing SF/F books.

Melody said...

That's a good point! I never thought.

Perhaps it's because a lot of the people who would enjoy sci-fi literature aren't people who really enjoy reading?

There's also fewer big movies than books. Less time constraint.

Anonymous said...

William Gibson gave his tick of approval to the movie... So I can't wait to see it.

I think it's a pretty simple question really.

Books don't advertise! The Movie industry spends heaps of money advertising and promoting it's movies. There are Movie trailers on TV not book trailers. There are movie posters in the railway station, not book posters. When you go to a movie you sit through 20 minutes of previews for other books, when you open a book you don't spend the first 20 minutes reading about other books.

That's why with things like Twilight the movies caused an increase in the popularity of the books. The movies are 'out there' and make people aware of the books.

Sandra Ulbrich Almazan said...

I agree with Jeffrey that a lot of it has to do with special effects in movies--and perhaps people's perceptions. I don't think most blockbuster movies specifically label themselves as SF; they just present the ads to highlight the special effects. When people think of SF books, on the other hand, probably think it's either too hard to read or too "out there."

Angie said...

I think the market (or demographics) for books and movies is simply different--genre-wise. I don't read, for instance, political thrillers, but I'll gladly watch Syriana or Blood Diamond.

And some people will go to see a movie like Inception despite the fact they don't like SF or fantasy because they like Leonardo DiCaprio and/or Christopher Nolan.

Matthew Rush said...

Personally I love these kind of stories, whether in print, on film, or in comics - or even video games, but I will admit that if I get caught reading these kinds of books by co-workers or mere acquaintances, awkward moments do ensue.

Jemi Fraser said...

I've always been the only one in my family and in my group of friends who likes any form of science fiction. They all think I'm a little odd. :)

They just don't know what they're missing!

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

You may call me minion any time you like, dear. :)

This paradox frustrates me too! I think part of it is definitely the "ease" of movies: All the glory of SF served up in a nice 2 hour package, easy on the brainwork. But I think it is mostly just that people don't read anymore.

(#of people that see movies)>>(#of people that read books)

A lot of people will admit to not reading. Who will admit to not watching movies? Even people who eschew TV will still go see the big screen.

Julia Karr said...

Good stuff to think about Beth. I agree with doctorcrankenstein that there is not enough advertising of books. Wouldn't it be awesome to see big posters about new books on the sides of buses? And, Bittersweet is right, too. SF is not the most popular genre in the bookstore!

We'll just have to change that! :D

Anonymous said...

I'd definitely love to see more promotion of books! Other than reviews in newspapers, magazines I don't think I have seen a book advertised anywhere. I think there might have been a Bryce Courtney add on TV when I was younger but I could be imagining things.

Admittedly I buy the vast majority of my books at book exchanges and second hand stores, as a result I don't get to see a lot of the new books, like the ones you guys talk about here. Which is unfortunate, but such is the life of a poor student.

Tif said...

I'm going to be honest . . . I used to be one of those who snubbed! Then, I decided to expand my horizons and picked up Ender's Game and my life and reading styles changed from that day forward!! Science fiction and fantasy I believe often really exercises your imagination, makes you move outside of your comfort zone. Not everyone enjoys this expansion unless like movies, the work is done for you! And sadly, creativity has decreased (as was mentioned earlier on this very blog)! :(