Why would anyone make a movie out of a book which clearly hates its readers?
Why would the trailers suggest that it’s a feel-good fantasy flick, when in reality it’s a book about the sudden
suicide senseless accidental death of one of its protagonists?
Yes, my children, it’s time for another generation to be traumatized, betrayed, and thrown into deep suicidal or homicidal depression by Bridge to Terabithia. Now with more special effects to make you feel even worse!
You know, there are truly awful, and truly evil, authors out there who do not deserve one half the opprobrium and public humiliation which Katherine Paterson deserves for inflicting this book upon the defenseless tots of the world. Yes, all in all I think Philip Pullman is probably less damaging to young psyches when he literally kills God than is a writer who spits upon the very idea of having any contract with her readership, and feels no need to provide a rounded storyline instead of a slap in the face.
Now, mind you, it’s not the death of a protagonist that I object to. That happens. (Heck, I love anime and opera, not to mention Shakespeare.)
But it’s a sudden and senseless death, almost entirely unforeshadowed.
IIRC (which I may not, as I was trying hard not to beat the borrowed book against the wall or rip out any pages, and my first read was my last), the death was also blamed upon The Evils of Imagination and Role-Playing, as was almost all geek suicide back in the eighties. (Apparently The Evils of Getting Stuffed Into Lockers never caused suicidal thoughts in anyone, but a bit of pleasant musing, friendly socialization, and/or dice rolling did.) So the death of the protagonist is not the writer’s fault — it’s the fault of the other protagonist, and the reader, and any other rotten little kid who dares to have an imagination. (Never buy another fantasy book, kids, or we _real_ writers will kill a puppy!)
If anyone out there takes a child who does not know the story’s ending to see Bridge to Terabithia, he or she is a sadist. (If there is any child out there who, knowing the ending, actually wants to see the movie, he or she is a masochist or a very gothic Goth, but that’s your and the child’s problem.)
My true regret is that Dorothy Parker never lived to skewer Bridge to Terabithia with a mot juste. But surely she would agree that “this is not a novel to be tossed lightly aside. It should be thrown with great force.”
Into the sea. With the film reels (or DVD and player) wrapped around it to keep it from floating.
And a wooden stake piercing them through, just to make sure.
UPDATE: Okay, it seems that IIRC (if I recall correctly) was indeed the qualifier to use. I recalled incorrectly. (And so did other people who’ve discussed this book with me elsewhere.) I could’ve sworn that the implication was that she’d jumped/fallen into the river on purpose, driven by obsessive love of fantasy and excessive attachment to the absent friend. But apparently, this was one ingredient not included in the mix. I apologize.
I am not against surprises and twists. By no means. I watched Babylon 5 largely because I loved the surprises. But a twist should always make sense in retrospect, not seem even more senseless.
I still think that if you’re going to make a book all about dealing with death, you kill the person off in the first chapter or so. It works for mysteries, after all. You don’t write a story where the moral is, “Life stinks and bad things happen! Here, let me punish you for reading my book!”
Most kids have a firm grasp on the concept that bad things happen for absolutely no reason, that people and the world can’t be trusted. Childhood is all about random acts of violence and cruelty from your fellow child, and the law of gravity continually smacking you in the face. As a child, I read books to be reassured that there was in fact order beyond the chaos, and hope beyond the hatred.
While this book may in fact have been intended (consciously, anyway) to bring logos into children’s lives, it did so by subverting the basic logos of the writer’s contract with readers. It’s like advocating peace by running around slashing random throats to create a message in big blood letters — it’s wrong and it’s bad art.
It struck me even back then as a writer using her power over her defenseless young readers to work off her anger at the world (or her anger at her child being affected by senseless death, apparently). I resent being so used, and I resent the fact that this movie is being marketed with deliberate deception about its point. Thus this long post of condemnation. If sub-creation is one of the most important human tasks, then misuse of that power is one of the worst crimes humans can commit. I don’t think it’s silly to get worked up about that.
UPDATE: Can I get a witness? Yes! Kevin Carr at 7M Pictures says:
I was in fifth grade when I read the book “Bridge to Terabithia.” I figured that it had to be pretty decent. After all, it won the Newbery Award. (This was, of course, before I realized that the Newbery Award is the grade-school equivalent of the Oprah Book Club which librarians force on children out of guild or curriculum requirements.)
My mother read it first, and when I was finished, she asked me if I liked it. What resulted from me was a tirade of venom that continues to this day.
I loathed the book. I hated it with a passion. I cannot remember reading anything else in my youth that I hated more, and I read a lot when I was a kid.
I hated the book “Bridge to Terabithia” for the same reason that I fear many kids might hate the movie. I was, quite simply, misled. With a name like this, it sounded like high adventure. It sounded like another Narnia story. The trailers to the film are much the same.
A word of warning to everyone out there: “Bridge to Terabithia” is about as far as you can get from a Narnia movie…
Perhaps I would have liked the book better if I knew what I was getting myself into. Now, as an adult, I know that a modern story of high adventure would never win a Newbery. Case in point — the Harry Potter books….