This has been swirling around in my head for a while, and I currently have a stretch of time free and uninterrupted (in theory) to try to sort out some opinions.
The Lady of Shalott [of Tennyson’s poem] was of an indeterminate age and might once have been plain before the rigours of artistic interpretation got working on her. This was the annoying side of the Feedback Loops; irrespective of how she had once looked or even wanted to look, she was now a pre-Raphaelite beauty with long flaxen tresses, flowing white gowns and a silver forehead band. She wasn’t the only one to be physically morphed by Reader Expectation. Miss Havisham was now elderly whether she liked it or not, and Sherlock Holmes wore a deerstalker and smoked a ridiculously large pipe. The problem wasn’t just confined to the classics. Harry Potter was seriously pissed off that he’d have to spend the rest of his life looking like Daniel Radcliffe.
I suppose that’s a good place to start. Harry Potter will forever be Daniel Radcliffe. Hermione Granger will be Emma Watson. Ron Weasley will be Rupert Grint. And so on and so forth.
(The providence of that picture is unknown, but for sure it is not an original piece by 9Gag.)
Until movie adaptations are made, the reader has to use their imagination. I read the Harry Potter novels, and looked at the cover illustrations, and the descriptions within the books, and an amalgamation of memories pasted themselves together, and the characters formed where unique to me. No one else shares my past and my memories, and so the characters are unique to me. The same thing happens with Lord of the Rings, The Fault In Our Stars, Twilight even; every reader had a mental picture of the story, and they were more actively involved, because their imagination was providing part of the story.
And now? Frodo Baggins is Elijah Wood. Gandalf is Sir Ian Mackellen. The Fault In Our Stars have the same actors as Divergent (another book adaptation), and the story melt together a little once you’re aware of that! Even Kirsten Stewart and Robert Pattison have filled the admittedly empty spaces that were Bella and Edward Cullen. (Interestingly, the character of Bella was deliberately left as blank as possible to allow the teenage female reader to more easily insert herself into the role.)
To me, this is something of a sad thing. Books are more of an interactive medium than a film. With a film, you are most definite a passive participant–the pacing is set for you, the characters are [i]shown[/i] to you, there is nothing that can be done by the viewer to alter the story. Sure, there is plenty that can be done afterwards with analysis, finding nuances, connections, dissecting meaning, intention, but the viewer is not a participant in the story. With a book? You can be Katniss Everdeen. You can be Scout Finch. You can shape the characters in your mind, because the author is giving the outline of the action, and you, the reader, are filling in the details with your memories and imagination.