It feels like people will do anything to get teens to read these days. We’ve seen an upsurge in book-based media recently, specifically through the CW network. Stories range from contemporary tales, such as “The Carrie Diaries,” to stories based on fairy tales, like “Beauty and the Beast.”
Because these stories have been on the rise, it’s hard to tell if they are being pumped in in a desperate attempt to get teens to read, or if the broadcasting companies — not just the CW — are running out of ideas to the point that they’re willing to take the plots from novels.
The answer most likely lies in a medium between the two: because of the rapidly-growing Young Adult novel, CW is simply playing to their interests and giving them what they want to see. This goes for the rise of book-based media as a whole.
It All Began With Vampires
This craze began with the rise of the vampire romance novel in the late 2000s. Book stores absolutely lined their shelves with them, and the masses clamored for new material. Enter the “Vampire Diaries,” a novel series by LJ Smith. To respond to the fad, the CW created a show based off the stories and marked it directly at teenagers. While the TV show long outlasted the vampire novel mania, the company wouldn’t have suggested it if teens didn’t already read the novels and show interest in them.
Comic Book Fanatics
We see a similar effect now with comic book-based TV shows. Recently, comic books have come back into pop culture as “cool.” The comic book shops haven’t been this popular in years, and while this is in part based on movie reboots and shows like “The Walking Dead,” it also has to do with comic book sales. Otherwise, television shows would see an upsurge in the mainstream superheroes without any mention of the others.
“Arrow” is a CW television series that follows the life of the Green Arrow, a vigilante character who uses a bow and arrow as his weapon. Before this show came out, “Arrow” didn’t get much press besides his comic books. There must have been some correlation between his popularity in print and his rise to the screen, otherwise there’s no way CW would have picked up such an obscure super hero.
An Increase in Readership
The Kaiser Family Foundation made a study of the time teenagers spend reading, and the number has risen five minutes than they used to in 1999. Reading has become a favored pastime among teenagers, specifically the fantasy genre, and most television shows based on books cater to the fact. The 2013 TV series “The 100” is based off a dystopian novel by Kass Morgan, a genre popular among young adults.
Some television-based shows are not based off as popular novels and again appear as a contradiction to the rule. The CW miniseries “Labyrinth,” following the story of two medieval women searching for the Holy Grail, is based off a novel perhaps not as well-known as its “Vampire Diaries” counterparts. Its airing, however, led to a rise in sales with many fans having read them after they saw the television show. CW worked carefully here by already choosing a “New York Times” bestseller with good press, making it easy for teen watchers to buy the books. The television series evoked teenagers to read it, proving that they already had an interest in reading before starting the series.
So which came first?
Chasing this subject around sometimes feels like the “chicken-and-the-egg” argument, with the answers surging back and forth from either side. The answer, however, is simple: because teen reading is on the rise, and because of distinct young adult genres like the dystopian and supernatural fiction, media companies like CW market to the craze and give watchers what they already like. For all the readers out there complaining that television has no original plots these days, perhaps it’s time to pick a poison: is it better to have original plots, or for teenagers to be reading?
What do you think — which came first, the reader or the televised version of the book?
Photo: The CW
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