William Shakespeare's Much Ado About Mean Girls by Ian Doescher
|William Shakespeare's Much Ado About Mean Girls by Ian Doescher|
|Reviewer: John Lloyd|
|Summary: Girls will find me Mean at my response to this book. And I still can't decide if it misfires or if it's my being the wrong target that is the problem, but part of me insists that shouldn't matter when the concept has always been so much fun before.|
|Buy? Maybe||Borrow? Maybe|
|Pages: 176||Date: April 2019|
|Publisher: Quirk Books|
|External links: Author's website|
A long time ago, in a galaxy far away, all the Star Wars films were crunched up against Shakespeare, and the marriage seemed a perfectly suitable one. So much so – so easily did the plots and characters converse in Shakespearean dialogue, and behave with Shakespearean stage directions – that the producers tried again, with Back to the Future no less. And that worked. But simultaneously they put a real test out. A film I can't even really remember seeing was transcribed into the original Elizabethan lingo. A cult following I had never followed whatsoever was given the brand new, yet oh so ancient, dressing. Here was the true challenge – would I manage to enjoy this, based on little foreknowledge? Oh damn those shiny gold stars for letting the game away…
I can't remember if I've ever seen Mean Girls. I knew the 'enemy' tribe (at first at least) was the Plastics, but was that really Mean Girls? Heathers? Something else whose name escapes me? These teen comedies have never floated my boat. A cast of thirty-somethings play teenagers who in my world would never be allowed to do what they do and drive to "school" (sic), but manage it because "school" is what the Americans need to call it until they're way past their late teens? Not the least of their problems is their use of insular slang ("fetch", in this instance) which is both proven to be completely stupid but believed by the makers to be completely loveable. How would such things translate into iambic pentameter?
Well, this is the book that really opened my eyes to this Shakespearisation of things. The answer is that yes, you really do need prior knowledge. Yes, you do need the original playing in the back of your mind, and you really do need to forgive the changes to our language. For this uses what I assume to be a snappy, wise-cracking, witty film script (and to repeat, it's only an assumption – I might have it in the back of my mind, but it meant nothing then as now), and crunches everything to the right meter. I was totally on board with C-3P0 and copious others coming across as perhaps voiced by the King's Men, but here, without the affinity of what came before, it felt lame. People talk of listening to "Girls of Spice" records, just because it fits the meter and it's wacky to do so.
Of the problems this book presented, several show me up as a poor critic, of this book if nothing else, but did suggest flaws. For one thing, the Mean Girls of the movie, we're told, were each matched up to represent and quote from one of the original Shakespeare women – women whom I've only met half of, either on stage or screen. But I defy anyone to reach the author's notes and have twigged that Cady's mother is supposed to be Cleopatra, or any of the many other allusions.
But I don't think this book really opens up the drama to the newbie as needed – I still believe other books would have worked had I not known the source, but this did not compel me to enjoy the narrative arc. If the truth be told, I think I know "Back to the Future" more from collecting the Panini stickers and reading novelisations than watching the film, which I believe I've only seen in bits here and there and never all the way through from beginning to end. I could read and enjoy that fully without being a fully genned-up geek.
So the Tina Fey side of proceedings here did not engage, the rewriting did not end in presenting something I fell to like, and to be honest I didn't really like the process of rewriting itself either. It was nice to see quotes such as when the 'mathlete' leader says they take arms against a sea of troubles, but the restriction of having each female character one of Old Bill's meant the freedom of this author, who clearly can quote the Bard til the cows come home, get milked, mooch around, get milked again and bugger off once more, was too tightly confined. For once the OuLiPo-styled restrictions don't help the joyous freedom hit the page.
So was the source just too girl-orientated, or was it a case of my ignorance and lack of love of the original that found ME wanting, or was this book just a misfire in this series? I honestly can't tell. I think many fans of Mean Girls the Original will consider my opinion a completely wrongly-dressed wrong'un. But for me, I am of the opinion both that this might not have been the best example of this kind of books, and that it does depend on prior knowledge to get this clever-clever joke.
I must still thank the publishers for my review copy.
William Shakespeare's The Phantom of Menace by Ian Doescher shows the master on firmer ground.
You can read more book reviews or buy William Shakespeare's Much Ado About Mean Girls by Ian Doescher at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy William Shakespeare's Much Ado About Mean Girls by Ian Doescher at Amazon.com.
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