Who says Hollywood book adaptations have to be bad? Here are 7 feminist stories begging to be on the big screen.
The Song of the Lioness Quartet by Tamora Pierce
Alanna: The First Adventure was written in 1983, and features an unapologetically “tomboy” main character, Alanna. She spends most of the book disguised as a boy named Alan in order to learn how to fence, ride horses, and reap all the benefits that only come from being a boy in this world. As Alanna grows through the books, the themes of gender identity and societal expectations become more complex. Budding feminists who can’t make it through four books of fantasy would benefit from a grand-scale fantasy epic adaptation that doesn’t skimp of the action.
The Golden Compass by Phillip Pullman
Pullman’s trilogy His Dark Materials, saw a 2007 tragic adaptation of the novel Northern Lights, renamed The Golden Compass. The Golden Compass’ source material is complex, and praises’ its readers. With several parallel universes, overt criticism and parodies of the Christian religion with a young woman protagonist who is unafraid to question authority, Lyra Belacqua is the young feminist lead who’s hero’s journey is rescuing her male friend. A proper re-write and no studio interference can see His Dark Materials into a “quadrilogy” or even a mini-series that keeps all the grandeur and theology of the source material.
The Xenogenesis Series by Octavia Butler
Octavia Butler novels have two things according to the internet: a devoted following and controversy. Butler’s Xenogenesis Series is a trilogy which I dare (yet necessarily) paraphrase as a story about a post-apocalyptic human race reconstructing Earth with an alien race. A cornerstone in the Afrofuturism genre, Butler’s work is important for not only POC representation in the sci-fi genre, but in literature as a whole. Xenogenesis is heavy, poignant, and now being adapted for television. The controversy? The Xenogenesis Series was published in 1987, why exactly did adapt-happy Hollywood pass over this gem? The same reasons #OscarsSoWhiteTheSequel exists. There is a lot riding on this adaptation.
Drowning Girl by Caitlin R. Kiernan
All feminist characters don’t have to be heroes. In my opinion, real and deeply flawed characters with redeeming qualities are much more feminist because they’re much more human, and way less pandering. That is why this head trip of a novel needs to have already been a film. If you are a follower of Kiernan’s blog, you’ll see that her three novels are already optioned and are in pre-production, however, options aren’t promises. Drowning Girl can be a beautifully shot and well-adapted telling of the story of India Phelps with her unreliable narration which explores mental health as well as sexuality.
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
Dystopian Sci-Fi sees a good film adaptation every decade or so, all the way back to the 70’s where Richard Fleischer successfully adapts Harry Harrison’s novel Make Room! Make Room! Into Soylent Green. The Handmaid’s Tale is a sad exception to that list. Volker Schlöndorff’s 1990 adaptation stripped the novel of its pensive and brooded narration and switched it out to a general, and very dated take on a very important feminist narrative. The story is about Kate, who lives in the not-too-distant dystopian United States. Kate is captured trying to flee the country and is forced into becoming a Handmaid, a subhuman class that provides fertile women to the wives of their high ranking officials so that they may have children. Atwood’s well-paced narrative tells the story in first person and skillfully weaves in many themes such as the government and religion controlling women’s bodies into a controlled and detailed world. In another author’s hands, this could be way too expositional and on-the-nose, but Atwood achieves all of this with poetic restraint.
The Salt Fish Girl by Larissa Lai
If you’re a fan of the Little Mermaid and Asian representation in the media, then you want The Salt Fish Girl to be a film. This sci-fi fantasy novel about Nu Wa, a woman shapeshifter/time traveler/demi-god. Nu Wa has some antiquated narration, and there is a good chance the entire film, rooted in ancient mythology, can be misinterpreted by those unable to separate figurative from literal. However, the visuals alone would be enough to produce a grand adaptation, not to mention, a great opportunity for character actors of color.
Escape by Carolyn Jessop
Polygamy continues to be a controversial topic, which means it’s also seen its share of film adaptations. There are many documentaries about Polygamist families, including two popular television shows. Escape is the memoir of Carol Jessop, a former wife to FLDS member Merill Jessop, a man 32 years her senior who already had three other wives. The memoir was being optioned as a film back in 2010, with Katherine Heigl attached to the project. Despite your stance on Polygamy, Monogamy, or marriage in general, after reading this memoir, you can’t deny the trauma that Jessop went through. Jessop was forced into marriage by her father in order to get her permission to go off to college, where her husband decided her major. Escape is a heartbreaking memoir that begs to be adapted into a film, viewed from the feminist perspective.