The Trouble with Coraline

CoralineI really wanted to write this post a few weeks ago, but during that time I went through selling my home and moving abruptly to a new apartment, so it wasn't in the cards. But I want to have this discussion with everyone here, and I've finally got a little time to do it. It's been a few weeks since I've seen the movie, so I may forget some details. Please note that this post will contain spoilers! of both the book and movie, so if you're waiting to read or see either, you might want to avoid this post.

So. Coraline.

For those of you that know my tastes, and most of you longtime Shakers do, this movie is right up my alley. Gaiman, Selick, stop-motion animation, creepy children's stories, French & Saunders... the elements are all there. Add to that the 3D element (I adore movies in 3D, even the red/blue glasses ones; I think all movies should be in 3D!) and you've got a movie that will have me breaking my legs running to get to the theater. I am a huge fan of the book, and I was incredibly excited for this film.

As is often the case with book-to-film adaptations, there are elements of the story that are added or changed in order to suit running time, flesh out elements, etc. Sometimes they're added for no apparent reason (or ridiculous reasons), and they can ruin the film for fans of the book; sometimes they're actually beneficial and fans of the originals appreciate them (Recent discussions over Watchmen are a good example of this). Anyway, when I'm a big fan of a book, I tend to get leery about any major changes to the source material, and there was a pretty big addition to Coraline that I wasn't sure about.

Wybie, a young boy that didn't appear in the book, was a new character added to the film, in a rather major role. I can only assume the reasons for the character addition; it wouldn't surprise me if he was added to:

1. Give boys in the audience "someone to relate to," since we all know boys can never relate to the experiences of girls, ahem.

2. To perhaps break up the episodic feel of the book. This can come across as fine in a book, even comforting, and most classic children's literature is built around repetition and ritual. In a film, however, the same "meet someone in the real world, meet their counterpart in the other world" back-and-forth probably wouldn't work as well.

3. Henry Selick wanted to show another example of how cruel the Other Mother can be with children, even the ones she creates.

Anyway, he was there, and much to my surprise, I really enjoyed the addition of the character. I liked seeing Coraline go from complete frustration and annoyance with Wybie to fast friendship; I loved how deliciously creepy the movie became when we saw exactly what the Other Mother will do with her creations that defy her. Here was a major change from the book that I rather enjoyed.

Until the ending.

In the book, Coraline, hunted by the Other Mother's disembodied hand, formulates a plan. She knows the hand is after the key, and she knows she's being followed. Although she hasn't played with her dolls in a long while, she knows the hand doesn't know that, and sets up a tea party in the woods with the tablecloth covering a deep well in the ground. She sets the key in the center, and the hand, leaping upon it, is carried deep into the well, where Coraline traps it.

In the movie? The boy saves her.

Coraline, in the film, isn't aware of the hand stalking her. She doesn't formulate a plan. She's simply stalked by the hand into the woods, where it eventually attacks her. Yes, she fights back, but eventually, it's the boy that smashes the hand with a rock.

I was blindsided. I love Coraline; as someone that has studied children's literature, I love strong female characters that are able to overcome any obstacle themselves without waiting for Prince Charming and his damn white horse. The whole point of the book is that Coraline is able to rescue herself, the ghost children, and her parents, and even puts an end to the Other Mother's last attempt at escape with her tea-party trap, relying on nothing but her own intelligence and ingenuity. Wybie saving Coraline from the Other Mother's hand completely robbed her of her bravery, her cleverness, and the satisfaction of a "journey's end." Why the hell go through all of that if what she really needed was a boy with a big rock?

Now, I could kind of see why this happened, as far as Wybie is concerned. Hampered by a low self-esteem and a bit of a cowardly streak, he's a character that obviously needs some sort of event to not only "make him brave," but to show him his worth as a person.

But this movie is called Coraline, not Wybie.

Why can't the girl be the "strong one?" Why can't she save him from the Other Mother? Why the hell does the boy always have to be the one that grows, changes and matures?

Without Coraline's full journey, without her triumph over the Other Mother, she becomes less of a heroine, and more of a rather spoiled little girl who just learns to appreciate her parents a little bit more.

That's not good enough for Coraline.

I really, really, really adored this movie, and I was pretty upset that this change nearly ruined it for me. I'd love to hear your thoughts on this.

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