Adaptations and Intrepretive Communities

Following Samuel’s example, my interest, at this early stage, is hidden references in adaptations. Commonly referred to as “easter eggs”, adaptations oftentimes will include small details that, while potentially irrelevant to the main conflict and thus unworthy of more elaboration, nonetheless exist as definitive connections to some smaller detail, moment, or object in the adaptation’s source material. Sometimes these easter eggs are so minute or fleeting that they go completely unnoticed and, indeed, are unrecognizable to viewers unfamiliar with the source work and all relative information surrounding it (the kind of cultural aura surrounding a work that can include the biography of the author, the time period of the source work, or even other adaptations of this source).

These easter eggs divide the audience into different hierarchies of interpretive communities, complete with varied and potentially alternate viewing experiences. How, and why, does this happen? An easy example comes from the recent influx of comic book superhero movies – films that are adapted from a long tradition of work by multiple authors across very different eras. Viewers well versed in the history of Batman will inevitably have a very different take on Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight” than viewers unfamiliar with the previous comics and films, as this film contains nigh-uncountable nods to moments in a variety of comics. I believe that ultimately, these small details DO have the potential to have a big influence on the narrative and how it is viewed/understood, as eagle-eyed viewers spot deeper references or make more connections that warrant re-viewings on the part of the uninitiated, or even familiarization with the source material after the fact.

For this course, I am interested in Ridley Scott’s film “Blade Runner” (which itself has multiple versions and edits). Originally adapted from PKD’s “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?”, the film actually takes its name from an entirely unrelated screenplay by William S. Burroughs, entitled “The Blade Runner: A Movie”, itself being adapted by the Beat writer from PDK contemporary Alan E. Nourse’s “The Bladerunner”. However, the two original source novels – while both existing under the banner of 70’s science fiction pulp – have no overt relation to each other that could easily explain the Scott film’s appropriate of the phrase for its title, of all things, so I would like to explore the unintentional or accidental connections that Ridley’s film has with its unrelated namesake, as an example of a kind of anti-easter egg, or mistaken reference that nonetheless creates potential space for new interpretation.

One thought on “Adaptations and Intrepretive Communities

  1. I love the idea of the anti-easter egg! What it highlights for me is the importance of paying attention, and also the really fascinating ways that different viewers’ individual perspectives can shape the way they read a text. It could be really interesting to do some survey work on that latter part, getting different people to outline how they read a (visual) text like Scott’s film, and then examining where (and maybe why) they diverge and converge.

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