Recently the BBC took the liberty of reinterpreting Charles Dickens' “Great Expectations” by inserting extraneous and dark visuals and words not found in the original text. Why? For entertainment purposes? For shock-profit? To gratify the ever-darkening and twisted shadows of the modern mind? To overtly push a social or political agenda?
The reinterpretation of an original work (fiction and non-fiction) is not something new, yet it is increasingly being utilized in media in a way that misrepresents the original work; much like re-writing history to give support to a conspiracy theory. Sometimes the reinterpreted scenario plays out like this, “What would XYZ look like in today’s world?” The premise is interesting, but the reality is nonsense – we cannot view the past in light of the present. What was, was, and it was according to the context of their times; not ours.
Over the years many beloved authors and their characters have been reinterpreted; of whom Shakespeare, has provided ample fodder. (We should note that Shakespeare also used ancient works as inspiration for his plays). For example:
2014 “Cymbeline” (portrayed with bent cops and biker gangs)
2002 “A Midsummers Night Rave” (based on “A Midsummers Night Dream”)
2000 “Hamlet” (portrayed as a modern-day film student)
1999 “Ten Things I Hate About You” (based on “Taming of the Shrew”)
1996 “Romeo + Juliet” (postmodern rival gangs)
1991 “My Own Private Idaho” (very loosely based on “Henry IV”)
Not all adaptations of the Bard are poor quality, even when “modernized,” but there are certainly plenty that are much worse than the original.
In television, the fodder for reinterpretation is less expensive to produce, making the trade in agenda-driven influence much easier. Take for example, our beloved Father Brown, the character created by G.K. Chesterton and adapted by BBC One for television. Set in the 1950s and not the original 1920s-30s, the (re)writers take liberty to insert modern ethics and morals into what Mr. Chesterton would never have implied or alluded to.
The Mysteries of Father Brown, written between 1910-1932, are a collection of 53 fictional stories that revolve around the priest-sometime-detective of the same name. Chesterton, who was a Catholic convert (from the Church of England), was quite literally hijacked by BBC One’s televised series “Father Brown,” to promote (reinforce?) the modern psycho-sexual agenda. Labeling the series as “loosely based” is a poor qualifier for the changes that were made to the beloved stories Chesterton wrote; and yes, I will say it, I assume they made changes Chesterton would never have approved.
The television series, set in the 1950s English countryside, contains the main element of a whodunit mystery. Of the characters, there is, of course, Father Brown, the affable and seemingly befuddled parish priest, his side-kick Mrs. McCarthy (not an original of Chesterton), and a cast of regular characters. Most of the time I have no issue with the main story, which may or may not reflect an original, but I do take issue with the non-Chesterton side-story that runs parallel to the main.
Father Brown solves mysteries, and in the short story context there is only time to do just that. But when a story is elongated to fit a timeslot, for example, a story of murder also includes the addition of a parallel tale, this is where problems arise. Now, the addition of a parallel story is not atypical in adaptations for screen or television; they are added often to enhance the flavor of the story or fatten it up to fit a 45 to 120-minute production. That is understandable from a business aspect, yet in this enhancing and fattening process errors abound. Sometimes the error is annoying fluff, like the insertion of a tale that has no bearing on the main story. At other times, however, and this is BBC One’s mea culpa, the parallel tale is agenda driven.
For example, one episode has a murder to be solved, with a side-story about a recurring character committing adultery portrayed in a sympathetic way. Other episodes introduce same-sex love not only with empathy, but as something that “should have been” but was not considered normal in 1950s England, let alone the 1920s-30s. BBC One decided to manipulate Chesterton’s work by injecting self-indulgence where it never existed. Chesterton’s pudgy little priest and his murder mysteries are fine just as they were originally conceived.
This type of “reinterpretation” is a classic case of good being used to promote evil, and Sacred Scripture has something to say about that.
Isaiah: 5:20 Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; Who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!
So what do these artistic moguls of unoriginality have in store for us next? Perhaps Charles Shultz’s beloved Peppermint Patty will be portrayed as an anarchist in a love triangle with Sally and Schroeder. Heaven forbid.
Britain’s are connoisseurs of drama, mystery, and comedy and have gifted the world with an ample supply of original material. From Shakespeare to Dickens, and Christie to Doyle, these men and women wrote within the context of their era, for better or worse, to entertain and not so much promote an agenda as reflect their times. Yet in the case of the BBC One and Father Brown, the stories are skewed toward influencing modern social mores, something we call propaganda.
Final thoughts on grotesque literary reinterpretation: To BBC One, and all those like you, who work for profit or in the name of the profane, why don’t you create your own “beloved” characters who are already defiled according to your concepts of morality and stop hijacking original material - particularly the Christian - to promote your programming?