Names Have Been Changed to Protect the...Movie?
I recently heard a curious tale. A friend of mine organized a kids' book club, with a twist. The kids would read a book, talk about it, then watch a movie based on that book and discuss the relationship between the two versions of the story. Everything was going swimmingly, until the day they read Lois Duncan's Hotel for Dogs.
As the kids discussed the book, they just weren't clicking with each other. One would describe a scene that really captured his interest, and others would stare at him in bafflement. Confusion grew, then irritation, then hostility. The book group was on the brink of meltdown when somebody cracked the code. Kids who took the book out of the library or ordered used copies were reading about a girl named Liz. Kids who bought the book new were reading about Andi. Same book, different names.
The culprit behind this switch-up was Hollywood. The book Hotel for Dogs was written in 1971. By 2009, when the movie came out, some of the names in the story didn't pass muster. That's a reasonable decision, on the face of it. The movie was set in the present, and name styles do change. Curiously, though, the changes don't seem to be about modernization. There are at least as many girls named Liz as Andi today, and Sadie is a positively trendy choice that got the boot. Meanwhile the name of the young male lead remained the far more outdated Bruce.
Stranger yet, the new names were adopted in the book of Hotel for Dogs -- not just the movie novelization, but the reprint of Duncan's 1971 novel. They went back and changed history.
The book group fiasco was just one side effect of this naming revisionism. As an Amazon reader noted, educational materials that had been built around the book, including popular testing software, were totally thrown off. And what about the book itself? How is the story affected by changing the author's name choices?
Perhaps it seems a little silly to fret about the artistic integrity of Hotel for Dogs, so let's push the question further. How about the naming equivalent of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies? Meet the Bennet sisters of Longbourn House: Leighton, Makenzie, Ainsleigh, Kendall and Braelyn. They'll need some beaus, of course. Let's call them nice-guy Bridger, imperious Slade, and squirrelly Kylen. Would you read that version of the book exactly the same way?
Hey, it could happen. We just need someone to make the movie version first.