How true do adaptations have to be to their beloved source material? Should stories change with the times or do we stay faithful to every aspect of a text? Dr Charlie Allbright, a lecturer in Media and Communications at Regent’s University London explores this all in his new book ‘Stephen King’s It: Culture and the Clown’.
Having long been a fan of King’s work and adaptation, Dr Allbright decided to pitch his idea four years ago when King’s 1986 novel ‘It’ was announced for the big screen.
Now, with Andy Muschietti’s adaptation of King’s original story in cinemas 27 years after the release of the miniseries, Allbright explains '"It” still matters now because the story isn’t really about a killer clown, but about the way the child heroes react to events in their lives.
‘Digital media has spread awareness of different identities and experiences and each adaptation of 'It' has been altered to reflect the time and culture in which it is set.’ Allbright’s book shows ‘what It tells us about ourselves, who we want to be and what we should guard against’.
The real story is about the group of children, explains Allbright, known as ‘the Losers’ who are of different identities but still contend with the violence of their world and ‘stuff that life throws at them’.
Dr Allbright’s own teaching looks at identity and representation in media, reflecting that ‘seeing your identity represented on screen is now absolutely core to so much media at the moment.’
This is particularly relevant to ‘IT Chapter Two’ - Allbright argues that ‘the killing of a gay man within the film and book was based on an actual case in the 1980s. However, in the book it was a smaller incident, and in the TV mini series (1990) it was not featured at all. King himself and the people adapting this film recognise the value of taking the same story and moving it slightly, so it reflects the culture.’
The book aims to be for King’s fans as well as those interested in the shifting sands of identity representation in culture, making academic theory accessible to all. It also contains the results of a world-first eye-tracking experiment that proves how King’s book physically encourages readers to empathise with the characters, understanding the differing natures of discrimination and community in the process.
Dr Allbright says his own work has been helped by his time working at Regent’s. ‘Working across media and cultural studies modules with a truly international cohort has enabled me to develop different approaches to learning and to question the assumptions we sometimes make within education.’
‘The book, therefore, changes in style depending on the chapters’ content in homage to King’s original, and examines the characters featuring a huge range of theories - from Laura Mulvey’s male gaze to Stuart Hall’s work on race, to provide a varied, stimulating and entertaining experience for the reader.’
Stephen King’s It: Culture and the Clown looks at King’s original book, the audiobook adaptations, the iconic miniseries (starring Tim Curry) and the recent films. It reflects Allbright’s interdisciplinary teaching in literary analysis and journalism, film and television studies, representation and diversity, mythology and religion, celebrity and fan cultures and the impact of technology on storytelling and is expected to be published at the end of 2019.