The Nature of Adaptation: Form v. Content

Hulu added the second season of Fargo to instant streaming recently, and my wife and I devoured it this past weekend. One episode in, and we were hooked. Fargo is an even blend of style, mystery, action, and dark Midwestern humor. It’s a show that uses style, editing, and composition to fully submerge its audience into the emotions of the sequence, rather than hanging its hat on a melodramatic narrative structure.

When we finished, I felt the need to immediately blurt out, “This is one of the best comic book adaptations I’ve ever seen.” This sounded silly and confusing in that Fargo isn’t adapted from a comic book. It carries the name of a popular Coen Brothers movie and crafts crime stories in the style and tone of the film. There were no comic books to be found on the set of the film, and none of the iconic characters from the world of comics even graced the background.

But that’s what makes this adaptation interesting. While Marvel and DC continue to make films using their popular licensed characters, the second season of Fargo is more of a comic book adaptation than either of the “cinematic universes” that the aforementioned companies are dumping into movie theaters.

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Why I Don’t Trust Broadcast News


I was twelve years old when the world was supposed to end. They called it “Y2K,” and due to a potential computer glitch, expert analysts predicted massive blackouts, food shortages, and riots. The 21st Century was to be wholly different than the 20th Century, and the news advertisements leading up to this brave new world only intensified analysts’ fears. Chilling music underscored spooky graphics. Unanswerable philosophical questions scrolled across the screen as a cold, calculating voice told us when and where to tune in for an update. Was it true? Were we all going to die?

If the television was correct, my calm suburban upbringing would descend into George Miller-inspired levels of post apocalyptia on New Years’ Day. Entire neighborhoods would fall to a siege of less fortunate souls who would do anything for canned vegetables. These desperate people could kill, and if by some stroke of luck we weren’t invaded by the mobs, the icy chill of winter would freeze us to death.

It was a no-win scenario, and we, the viewers, were frightened into a corner, clinging tenaciously together as our boob tubes beat us over our heads with a combination of petrifying sermons and empowering sales pitches. In the final days before New Years’, our collective mortification swelling to a crescendo, there were a few lucky opportunists making bank, selling to the masses tools, gear, and survival equipment they would never need.

Anyone who lost a wallet during these final hours would call these opportunists “predators.” The newshounds who fed us our infotainment night after night called them “sponsors.”

It was on a cold January morning I realized I had been had. I woke up to find my home clean, well-kept, and perfectly normal. The television worked. My video games worked. My neighbors’ television sets and video games worked. And all our collective parents were their happy selves. None of the adults on my block had to go to work, and so they spent the first few hours of post apocalyptia sleeping in.

And the news?

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