Books, fiction, heroes

Peter vs Peter

Because sulkiness is so much more magnificent than nobility

And a hero without angst is like romance without kissing in the rain.

Don’t mistake me: I think William Moseley is an excellent actor. And I thoroughly enjoyed his performance in The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe. And taking Prince Caspian as a movie on its own merits, apart from the book, he played his role well.
But he just wasn’t – couldn’t possibly be – High King Peter the Magnificent. King Peter, who tells the unsure and humble Prince Caspian (I also quite like Ben Barnes, but oh! his Caspian was almost as poor a representation of the book’s character as Peter) first thing “We haven’t come to take your throne, you know, but to put you in it.” Who never questioned Aslan’s choice in sending them back to England, then bringing them to Narnia only for a short time. Who loved deeply, and was not ashamed of it; who mourned deeply and was equally unashamed. Who was noble, and just, and courageous, pretty much everything a traditional hero of medieval literature was supposed to be – just look at Malory’s King Arthur, and the knights of the Round Table, sometime.
And yes, I understand that all of those traits don’t translate well to a modern-day movie-going audience. Remember my old post on Hero and Everyman? It’s the Everyman most movies promote, not the Hero. Not anymore. People’s tastes have shifted. And that’s okay, for the most part, because Everyman is important, too – especially when, as Rockinlibrarian pointed out on that post, the Everyman does the heroic (SAM!).
But still. We could have done with less angst – or with angst over a different matter. Instead of the selfish “me me me why did Aslan send me back I was king I want to be king again why doesn’t anyone take me seriously wahhhh,” it could have been more along the lines of “what happened to Narnia why are these interlopers here what do you mean the beavers are extinct they were my friends Narnia is in my blood and it is hurting which makes me hurt and England is cold and unfriendly and I can’t find my footing.” And then, of course, he could have learned while in Narnia how to search beneath the surface to find the warmth and joy that still existed, and to decide to seek out the same in England, which is why he was suddenly fit to return to England for good, because Narnia had taught him what he needed to know.
You could even have worked in the tension between him and Caspian, if necessary – in that Peter has a hard time entrusting his land, his people (and trees, and Animals, and Others), to a descendent of those who silenced the land’s song to begin with, but in time sees that Caspian is different, and puts aside his prejudices to give the young prince a chance.
Instead, we got stereotypes. Oh, we got stereotypes. And a very, very 2000s outlook from a character who lived in the 1940s. Which, I think, is what my frustration boils down to – it’s all very well and good to have a relatable character, but when you start acting like those characters live in this era, but still set them in a former, you’ve started to skew history, and project your own way of thinking backward, and nothing infuriates me more than that.
(Well, okay, a few things do, but it’s on my top ten list.)
So frustrating. Because Peter, as written, is a marvelous Hero, one to look up to, one to strive toward. After all, that was the point of the chivalric tales in medieval days, wasn’t it? To give people an Ideal? And I think it’s a shame that they tore that away from Peter in the movie and turned him into a sullen, resentful, bitter, stupid teenage boy.
Oh well. At least we still got this out of the whole thing:
I know it’s a few years old now, but what did you think of the Prince Caspian movie? Does it bother you when movies change the inherent character of people in books? Do you think it is a mistake to impose today’s values and mindsets onto characters from past eras, to make them more relatable, or is that just a natural side effect of historical fiction (movie or book)? Do you mourn the lack of Ideal in today’s fiction?

18 thoughts on “Peter vs Peter”

  1. And a very, very 2000s outlook from a character who lived in the 1940s.YES. That's one of the issues I had with the film. The Pevensies in PC were just so… modern. Don't get me wrong, I did like that Susan had a bit of action, but Peter and Caspian were totally not themselves. Where was the noble High King and the awestruck Telmarine Prince who deferred to the true Kings of Narnia?(We shall not get into what I thought of Caspian, and his subsequent characterization in the VDT film.)Also, poor Edmund had barely any screen time in PC (though he was awesome when he was shown) and I loved his character even less in film!VDT.I think I wouldn't have minded so much had there really been a justifiable reason for why they adapted the movies the way they did. Especially with classics. People have grown up with these books and even though we all have our own visions in our heads of the authors' universes, generally they do have similarities. Why change something timeless just because it's more marketable now — it may not be in the future when people look back on it.

  2. Oh, angsty!Peter. I love the Narnia books waaaay more than the movies. I do remember going to see "Prince Caspian" with my friend/co-author, Faith, and once we realized there were hints of Caspian/Susan, we laughed ourselves silly and probably drove the other movie-goers crazy. But it was like…where are my characters? I mean, I could see from a movie-writer's stance why they did what they did in SOME things, but they don't have to destroy characterization to do it.Edmund was awesome, though. ;)

  3. I thought the first movie was great and true to the book, but you're right, as it goes on, the movies get progressively worse. It's a shame because all of the books are wonderful! The main problem I had with this one was that it was more battle than story. I just got bored.

  4. YAY SAM! Oh wait…I don't know, I've never cared much for Peter, period. He always struck me as a bit Too Much– one of those "He Thinks He's All That" even though HE didn't ACTUALLY think he was All That, because he was MADE to seem All That, I kind of hated him for it.But as for the Caspian movie, I'm ashamed to say, but, as that had never been one of my favorites of the books, I honestly remembered SO LITTLE of it that I couldn't tell you where the movie deviated anyway. More battles and an age difference, I think? Normally I do feel that CHARACTER is the most important thing a book adaption get right. When I look at book adaptions I loved vs ones I hated, it's almost always an issue about Character Portrayal that's the tipping point. I can deal with plot changes if they streamline the telling, I can deal with setting changes if it makes sense, but the CHARACTERS? They better be true to what I know in my head. But like I said, I never cared much for Peter. Even though his name's Peter and I've had a weird tendency to fall for fictional Peters my whole life(Even when they're Peetas instead), to the point where I named my Theoretical Perfect Man Peter as a teenager. It wasn't for Peter Pevensie.

  5. I couldn't agree more. Modern attitudes in historical settings drive me up the wall and have ruined many a film adaptation that otherwise might have been quite sturdy. I love the actors they cast, but loathe the directions they took them (with the exception of Edmund who is pitch-perfect). (and it hurteth not that they are all ferociously good-looking. yum yum.)BUT. yes. That was what ticked me off about the whole Susan/Caspian mess (they would never have acted like that even if they had crushes on each other, gosh!). it's also why, for one example, I prefer Kate Beckinsale's Emma to Gwyneth Paltrow's. Gyneth acts more modern and she sashays! She does! and it's why every time i watch a series where modern people are placed in historical settings (e.g. 1900's House, though that's the best example of the genre), they inevitably ruin the opportunity by bringing their modern attitudes and mores into the picture and making hash of everything./rant which could be much much longer!

  6. I am typing this with one finger but Yes YES YES!! I get why it was done and I understand why some prefer the film interpretation but I am not one of them. I only managed to see the film once all the way through. From the petulant fighting in the train station to every encounter with Caspian to the night raid to the Witch I disliked the film. Moreover I find the PC-heavy fic with all the accompanying angst very tedious. I think the angst of the films spawned the angst in the fan fic with all the WAH! I'm Not King! stories and yes it was those same characterizations and my own vociferous disagreement with them that launched my own fic. I "get" why fans like this characterizations. I love a lot of the look of PC (thank you WETA) but I do not like the film for the loss of that profound nobility in Peter.

  7. You already know I agree 150% and honestly I have nothing really intelligent to add; I think I got most of it out of my system with The Way of Kings anyway, but this discrepancy was definitely what spawned that fic. You have of course been more literary and less reactionary than I in your response, which I appreciate, and very much admire ;)

  8. Autumnia – Classics are, after all, classics for a reason – they, and the characters in them, transcend era. So while there may be some bits and pieces here and there that are dated, overall there is something in them that goes beyond any one period of time. And to ruthlessly wipe that out in favor of cheap entertainment NOW is, well, stupid. Put Lewis' Peter in almost any era, and he'd still be a Hero. Put Hollywood's Peter in a different era, and he'd be either the villain, the victim, or an annoying sideline character.Laura – oh yes, to destroy characters in order to make the movie sell better is so very, very frustrating.Kirsten – PC would definitely have benefited from a little less battle, and a little more Growing Up on the parts of all the characters, a little more Narnia and a little less Miraz.Rockinlibrarian – I remember calling my mother, sputtering in rage, over Keira Knightley's version of Elizabeth Bennet. "She's Elizabeth Swann in this, not Lizzie Bennet! She's a brat, not spirited and strong-willed! WHO CAST THIS PERSON SHE IS RUINING AUSTEN." I like my characters to be in-character, whether it is fantasy or classics or anything, yes please and thank you.Beautifulmonday – I must confess to a sneaking fondness for Paltrow's Emma. Probably just because of the overall tone of the movie. And Jeremy Northam. And I never really thought Kate Beckinsale fit the character well. I liked Romola Garai much better, even if she did over-emote EVERYTHING. But yes, as a general principle, I am with you all the way!Ruth – You already know I love you Peter, his MRF and stupidly noble sense of duty preventing him from doing what he's really good at, and everything about him. He is the way Peter OUGHT to have been back in England!Andrea – Thank you again for your kind words, and for all your recs. And this post is only this reasoned because it's been percolating for about a year, while I fumed enough to get the raw fury out of my system.

  9. I'm going to be the odd voice out and disagree completely and utterly. I thought the PC movie was a vast improvement on the book, as it gave all of the Pevensies a chance to be stretched beyond the fairy-tale stereotype and enter a truly 3-dimensional realm. Peter was entirely realistic to me, and I appreciated seeing that he did NOT quietly accept arbitrary dictates which were clearly not good for either Narnia or the four of them. His tension with Caspian was very well-played and exactly what a High King would do upon being challenged by a less experienced interloper and usurper. I do agree that the fandom has taken the angst ball and run with it well past the touchdown line and into entire other counties, but such is the nature of fandom (witness the metric ton of 'extra person on the Dawn Treader' and 'OC girl in Narnia' fics we get). Taking the movie as separate from the fandom, it was handled just right, and the castle raid is my hands-down favorite part (Peter's FACE when they retreat — break your heart every time!)

  10. I think that when anything is made that is even slightly historical, there is a temptation to build modern ideals into everyone. Indeed, one must, to a certain extent. I write historical fiction, and if I were to have the hero of my latest novel (set in 1449) as a racist, bigot, and sexist (which the majority of men in that era most likely were) it would never work.That said, I do think writers must be careful not to take their liberties too far. It's a delicate balance between empathy and realism.All of that said, I can't see as much needs to be changed from a novel written in the 40's. I just watched a movie made in 1940 last night and enjoyed it without anyone needing to be on the 2011 bandwagon.

  11. Actually (and I know I'm in the minority here), I rather liked Keira Knightley's Elizabeth Bennett. I did NOT care for the Darcy in that one– I thought he came across as too EMO– he was so obviously MOROSE in the scene where she's like "Look at that sourpuss" that I think it does make HER come ACROSS as more bratty, because ANYONE can SEE the guy is SAD. But he's not supposed to come across as sad there, he's supposed to come across as grouchy because he hates parties and all! I mean those of us who know the story know that he's had his share of heartache and all, but it's not SUPPOSED to be written all over his face, that's where the whole "Prejudice" part comes in! …but that whole movie was pretty emo, in general, really. …I just realize that's nearly exactly the same reason the Studio Ghibli adaption of Howl's Moving Castle didn't work for me, either. Take away the more annoying traits of the male lead in effort to make him more heroic or something and then make him all EMO, and then the whole interaction between him and the female lead SUFFERS!

  12. Lady Songsmith – Yay for dissenters! I, oddly enough, always like to read differing opinions from mine, because it always stretches how I view things. Where we would differ most strongly, I suspect, is that I tend to think that Aslan's choice to remove the Pevensies and allow the Telmarines to take over Narnia WAS best for all involved, even if it didn't look it at the time, because that was what it took for everything else to happen that needed to – eg, Caspian becoming king, and all the long line of good kings after him; and the Pevensies learning more how to love their own world. But that's just my take, based on my understanding of Lewis' theology, so I understand where you're coming from, and that's definitely legitimate, too.Olene – thank you for commenting! You're right, it is a delicate balance, especially when you are writing in an era that promotes ideals completely contrary to what most people today hold to be right and true. But, as you say, the 1940s aren't really that different, and the ideals held and practiced by Peter are pretty much timeless, so I so think the changes made to PC were completely unneeded.Lydia – it's always sad when a movie lets down our expectations, isn't it? Worse for me than Prince Caspian was Voyage of the Dawn Treader – I had such high hopes for that one, and just left feeling cheated. They left out every good part, and added in completely unnecessary nonsensical plot, and changed all the best dialogue bits. So frustrating!Rockinlibrarian – my biggest problem with Knightley's Lizzie was her relationship with her father. The way that she chided him to his face – well, it probably didn't mean much to most people, but to someone steeped in that era in history, there is NO WAY Elizabeth Bennet would ever do something that disrespectful. It was shockingly inappropriate for that character. Even Lydia wouldn't have spoken thusly!And yes, I hated that Mr Darcy too, for exactly the same reason you mentioned: he wasn't stuffy and arrogant, he was sad and tired, and anyone with half an eye could see that, so why was everyone so cruel to him?Not to mention giving Mrs Bennet a legitimate reason for her silliness took away all of her comic genius, and I kind of wanted to throttle both Jane and Bingley (though, to be fair, that happened even in the book occasionally, at least with Bingley). It was a pretty movie, though, with pretty music. I will give it that.

  13. The trouble is, those arguments are pretty well invalidated by Last Battle, which tells us that Narnia got 200-250 years of peace (maaaaybe as many as 300 if all Caspian's line are long-lived) before Aslan threw a hissy fit and destroyed the entire world AND killed off all the Pevensies. I don't see that 250 years in any way justifies 1300 years of chaos and genocide, nor does less than a decade of life in England explain the importance of being thrown out of Narnia.

  14. Funny, when reading The Last Battle, even as a kid, I always had the impression that Narnia ended more because its story was complete (as was the stories of the Friends, given their close connection with the land), than because Aslan was ticked off. Seeing as how they discovered the heart of Narnia was beyond, and all that they had loved about the mortal Narnia was merely a reflection of that, I always thought that made sense.And given that understanding, all that happened in Narnia and to the Pevensies was reasonable, because it was what was needed to fill the Story, to complete Narnia and their lives. Would Narnia have been the same land had it not been for the Telmarines, would the Pevensies have been the same people had it not been for their reign? Aslan did not do things arbitrarily or out of cruel whims, but was willing to inflict temporary hurt in order to shape his children into their best selves.BUT, this is one of those fascinating and frustrating discussions about authorial intent that can go round and round forever and never come to a conclusion, because we can't exactly ask CS Lewis what he meant by it! (And even if we could, I doubt he would answer – he was a tricky one, that Lewis, with layers upon layers hidden in all his stories, and he rarely gave anything away, preferring to let his readers seek out the knowledge for themselves.) Sometimes it is best just to agree to disagree!

  15. You had a much nicer reaction to the books than I did. Even as a small child (I think I was 7, when I first picked up Narnia?) I despised the Last Battle utterly for cutting off the stories before they were finished and freezing everyone into a parody of themselves. I haven't found it improves as an adult, either, and generally prefer to pretend Lewis only wrote six Narnia books. Definitely one we'll have to disagree on! :)

  16. I can understand that reaction, too – even with understanding the ending of Narnia, it always made me so sad, and I always tried to tell myself that if I didn't read The Last Battle along with the rest of the books – start the series but not finish it – then Narnia was still out there. It was only ended when I (re)read the final book.Oddly enough, though, I felt much more cheated by how Tolkein ended the LotR books than how Narnia ended …

  17. I love the movies. They're more of a recreation of the series, a relaunching. I liked the characters. They're fantastic. I actualy like the changes they made. The witch's wand is amazing.

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