One of my all-time favorite books is becoming a movie and I am more than a little excited.
I will admit, it has been a very long time since I have read The Giver. I first picked up the book in seventh grade and distinctly remember my librarian telling me it was a depiction of a utopia… for those of you that don’t know, the book clearly depicts a dystopian society that our main characters eventually attempt to destroy. To be fair, the way the novel is written there is an attempt to hide the fact that the society is dystopian at first, so maybe my librarian just didn’t want to give me spoilers—but this is definitely not a perfect society. Whatever the case, The Giver is an amazing story about a boy named Jonas who lives in a society where pain and strife have been eliminated by converting everything to “Sameness”. Jonas, at twelve years old, is selected to be the Receiver of Memory; his job will be to store the memories of a time before everything was converted to sameness in case those memories are ever needed. Jonas slowly starts to realize that that the only reason people in his home are happy is because they don’t know what a better life they could have. By converting everything to Sameness they have lost the ability to love, to have deep meaningful experiences, and even to see color. Jonas and the former Receiver, known as the Giver, eventually hatch a plot to return the memories from before Sameness to the people in his community.
I adore this book and the trailer makes it look like the movie may just live up to the book’s reputation. I have a few critiques, though. One is that this movie is in color. That may be a surprise, as movies being in color today is pretty much the standard, but in the book everything is in black and white because the elders have eliminated color to avoid differences. This movie really should be in black and white until Jonas starts to receive more memories and starts seeing color. For example, he starts to notice that one of his friends has red hair even though everything is in black and white. Now that he knows what red hair looks like, he can tell that’s the color her hair would be. It could just be that the producers just didn’t trust that people would go see a black and white film, which is why the trailer is in color, because I have noticed all the movie posters are in black and white with just one tiny stripe in color. I certainly hope the movie is in black and white. If it isn’t, the story certainly won’t have the same impact.
My only other critique is that while more female characters seem to have been added to the story and will maybe play a larger role than they did in the books, no people of color were added to the movie. However, this might actually be a good thing. In The Giver, any difference between people is eliminated. Even gender has largely been eliminated (though certain feminine stereotypes still seem to exist in the book). Even in a black and white society, you can tell if someone has darker skin than you, and we know that the rules against difference are so strict that Jonas’s father actually kills one of a pair of twin babies, because having twins is different, and having two people who look the same could be “confusing” for others. Because of this race has been eliminated. Any different skin tones were removed when they converted to Sameness (though in the same way that there are still some feminine stereotypes in the books, some more culturally different names survived). So it might makes sense if everyone in the community is white or at least white-passing, but I hope they at least address this in the context of the movie. Furthermore, there should be people of color shown in the memories that Jonas receives before the Sameness. I will be really upset and disappointed if people of color are not included in those memories.
The reason I find race, or really any differences between people (gender, sexuality, etc.), so important, is because it seems like ignoring differences in favor of seeing everyone as the same is a popular opinion today. More than once we have heard from our commenters on this blog that we should ignore someone’s race, gender, sexuality, etc, because everyone is “equal” so those things shouldn’t matter. But the problem is, when we remove those differences we also remove what makes us unique, and usually removing or ignoring those differences is detrimental to minorities. Which we are given a prime example of when Jonas’s father kills one of the twins. The Giver is a book that offers many critiques and warnings for our own society today. If the movie stays true to the book, then it should be an excellent watch.