I must admit, PopWatchers, I broke one of the cardinal sins of the great moviegoing experiences. (And no, I don’t mean passing up on getting Sno Caps at the concession stand, because I definitely did that.) Nay, I saw the movie before reading the book. In fact, I intentionally skipped out on reading said book (for the record, it’s The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo) as I wanted to go into the movie without having unreasonably high expectations that could be shattered. (Case in point: I’m going into Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close with the knowledge that I’ll be let down in one way or another thanks to my admiration of Jonathan Safran Foer’s near-perfect 2005 novel. You’d think I’d have learned my lesson with The Lovely Bones debacle of 2009.)
Of course, by making this conscious decision, I’ve inevitably missed out on the excitement that comes along with reliving the story or picking up on the subtle details that only the book’s fervent readers would notice. Despite it being an wildly popular series, I knew next to nothing going in to The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (sort of a nice thing, really, in this spoiler-happy pop culture world we live in), aside from the fact that it was directed by David Fincher and featured a score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. But would I feel the same connection to Lisbeth Salander as the hardcore devotees of Stieg Larsson‘s best-sellers? Would I miss out on having the same thrill of the line-up-at-midnight-because-I-simply-cannot-wait anticipation? (That said, I will be in exactly that position come March 23 when The Hunger Games hits theaters.)
Not reading the book before the movie certainly comes with a certain stigma, but if anything, it propels those who have passed over the books entirely to read them thanks to the movie. I lost track of how many people I saw reading The Help on the subway this summer, many of whom, I’m assuming, simply had to read the book after having seen the film. Same goes for essentials like The Godfather and To Kill a Mockingbird: is it even possible to watch those classics without having read those books, let alone even try to compare them?
While my viewing of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo will undoubtedly be different from those who devoured the series, who’s to say who had the all-around better experience? My virgin eyes might be more appreciative of what the movie is, as opposed to the devoted reader who might only see what the film is not. That’s where I want you to sound off, PopWatchers. Do you always read the books before seeing the movie? (If only to be the first to sigh, “The book was better!”) Or do you prefer to go in with a clean slate, and if you enjoy the film, read the book after? Share in the comments section below.