How Hollywood “Sexed Up” Wide Sargasso Sea
Hollywood has never been shy about embellishing and/or totally changing the meaning of a novel to make the story sell to a film audience.
Stanley Kubrick was a master at this. He changed the ending of A Clockwork Orange, and in Lolita he seemed to make Humbert the victim of Dolores’ seduction, instead of a sexual predator obsessed with a 13-year-old girl.
When I did a Google search for a cover of Wide Sargasso Sea to display on my blog, I found two things—as is the case with most novels that become movies. I found a variety of cover images of the novel—exactly what I was looking for—but I also found all sorts of movie posters and images from the film.
What struck me about these posters is how misrepresentative they are of the story—at least the book version. Wide Sargasso Sea is not a romance. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.
Maybe there’s one or two scenes of a sexual nature, but that’s it. And they aren’t much to speak of. I hardly remember them.
But by looking at the movie posters, you would think Wide Sargasso Sea was some kind of romance novel fit for a Fabio cover or an Antonio Banderas starring role. It’s just silly.
Don’t believe me? Let’s take a look at a few of the novel’s covers versus a few of the movie posters.
We’ll start with the book.
A woman in some sort of Caribbean jungle. Okay. Nothing much here.
This one’s a little more abstract. But, again, it has a “natureish” feel to it, and it also includes some of the islanders.
This one’s a little more suggestive, possibly, but nothing drastic. I’m assuming this is Bertha, possibly on her wedding day? Unusual art.
Okay, again, a few of the islanders from Dominica on the cover. Nothing to see here.
But, now, take it away Hollywood! Here are some of the movie posters:
I’m not sure that I even remember a scene that would match this visual.
This is the mildest image I could find. Nothing outlandish here, but it still seems to play up the almost non-existing romantic side of the novel.
Similar to the first movie image, with the addition of a defiant-looking Antoinnette.
This just makes me laugh. Is this a soft porn movie starring Antonio Banderas? What’s up with the sepia-toned cheesiness? This honestly looks like something a 9th grader put together in Photoshop–and this is supposed to depict one of the most significant novels of the 20th Century? Please, child.
Am I missing something here? Are these movie posters just way over the top?
I guess that’s to be expected…but I would think Jean Rhys was turning over in her grave when the movie came out.