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Do television or film adaptations of literature and novels underestimate the intelligence or capacity for understanding of their viewers?

When it comes to film and and television adaptations of literature and novel mediums, it is largely understood that the omission of certain details or scenes is due to constrictions of budget or time. However, another method of adaptation has been the combination of certain characters, dialogues, and plot points/events to ‘ease’ the understanding of the adaptation under the guise of the aforementioned. For example, David Benioff and D.B. Weiss’s adaptation of A Song of Ice and Fire, made the choice of changing the names of certain characters so that the audience would not get confused by the extensive catalog of main characters. George R.R. Martin’s original purpose for including character’s of the same name or namesakes is because that is a quality of real-life. This is a small example, but I am interested in reading where other writers and readers can identify where a seemingly harmless change or omission of detail is actually a veiled attempt at maintaining an audience’s attention and therefore their wallet.

  • Interesting premise, though I feel like it might be just a tad cynical. To use your GoT example, the reasoning for changing Asha Greyjoy's name to Yara (due to the original's similarity to the completely different character of Osha), never seemed to me as being "because the audience isn't smart enough to tell these two characters apart," but rather out of media-specificity. On the page, one can clearly see the difference of the "A" and the "O" that might easily be missed when television viewers are relying only on auditory signifiers, with phonetic similarities potentially being harder to parse than ink-on-page. Also keep in mind that if the reader gets confused, they can temporarily stop reading and flip to the genealogy charts in the back of the book. Though most viewers can arguably pause the show to pull up a fan-wiki, film and television (and especially the commercial-less HBO) are principally designed to be consumed without interruption, which would have been the experience of anyone watching the series live as it premiered. I don't think the creators' awareness of these differences and their decision to edit accordingly really constitute insults to the audience's intelligence -- not to defend D&D, there's certainly more than enough BS in the later seasons to merit that label. It's also worth noting the inverse scenarios, wherein equally similar names (such as Bran and Bronn) and even identical ones (Robb Stark and Robert Baratheon or Jon Snow and Jon Arryn) made it into the show unaltered, suggesting that thought WAS put into which ones were deemed worth changing and which needed to be kept intact. The latter examples of the Robs and Jons are more meaningful than the rather arbitrary closeness of Asha and Osha (two characters who have nothing to do with each other and never interact), since it subtextually hints to the audience the degree of Ned Stark's reverence for his allies from the rebellion, via his decision to name his sons after them. I guess this is a long way of me saying that onomastics alone might not be substantial enough of a basis to justify to severity of your central claim. If I may propose a slightly more contentious counterexample: do we see Zack Snyder removing the alien vagina-squid from his 2009 film adaptation of Watchman as being motivated by fear that the audience wouldn't understand? I've seen valid arguments on both sides of this one, so let's discuss! – ProtoCanon 3 months ago
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  • I think they are just trying to accomplish something different, which often times means they have to "do away" with a lot in order to (essentially) stay within budget – JuanGomez 3 months ago
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