I sat on my couch on the fourth of October and flipped through the channels on my television. I caught a glimpse of Emily Blunt grabbing a blonde by the back of her head and dragging her onto the floor. The title, The Girl on the Train, flashed at the end and I was in bewilderment. “That’s a movie now?” I thought to myself. The movie was released to theaters on the eighth. I picked up the novel, which had been sitting on my bookshelf for some time, and opened the cover, ready to finally read what everyone was about to see on the big screen. I could not have the world tell me the plot and ending before I could figure it out myself; I had to finish it before the movie release. Why was I motivated soon after that preview to read the book rather than when I first purchased that book eight months prior? The answer was always sitting there on my bookshelf, but the media pushed me towards it and spoke clearer to me in that thirty-second preview.
A generation raised on a technological dominion is controlling the tug of war between paper books and Kindles, but recently, a pawn on the chessboard has pushed both forms of reading into a new limelight. Movies have issued all of us a timeline—this is how long you have until the movie comes out and this is how long the book has actually been published. This reverse psychology is a ploy to make us think a book is popular only because it’s a movie—the only publicity coming from media strung advertisement. We think to ourselves: I must buy this book to find out what everyone is talking about; I must avoid that fear-of-missing-out feeling. Film may act as a stepping-stone, bridging the gap between readers and nonreaders , but are we too lazy to take the time to discover new literature on our own, or do we solely crave the literary satisfaction of the media telling us what’s worth reading?
After a movie has been released, there is a sudden high demand for the novel it has depicted. The Hollywood Reporter states that there were 36.5 million copies of the bestselling trilogy of The Hunger Games sold (in print) after the movie premiered, a 55 percent jump from the 23.5 million copies in print before the first film’s release in 2012. The fact that novel sales have spiked is always good news; having people to talk to about the literary components engulfing our favorite characters is always great. However, it is not the love for literature that has driven these people to the store, it was the media.
Between hash tags, blog posts and status updates, the world has a constant injection of cultural phenomenon. It is physically impossible to ignore the announcements of which movie will be the “most anticipated of two thousand and whatever” and if that movie was “based on the best selling novel by so and so.” The amount of pull I had towards that dust-littered book because of a televised movie preview and the constant chatter about it on social media was incredible. The power of social reformation had done exactly what I tried fighting, forcing me to read merely because it was what everyone else was reading. Where did my individuality go? When did I give up the gift of choice and conform to the media’s marketing tactic? The thought of being controlled by Big Brother-like paranoia gnawed at me and I vowed to read because I wanted to, not to keep up with the Joneses.
Bottom line: Don’t let the media make you a puppet. Read for the literary sake of reading. Read the book and then see the movie, or vice versa. Don’t let the media trick you into thinking that a book’s merit is solely based on its Rotten Tomatoes score. A simple mentality and love for literature will only determine which novels you deem fit for reading, not the media, and certainly not Hollywood.