It Ends With Us: Issues Surrounding Adaptations
By Maisie Clarke, Yashika M. and Hayley Cadel
The announcement of the film adaptation of Colleen Hoover’s It Ends With Us is currently sweeping the popular culture world, with the announcement causing quite a bit of excitement amongst her fans. With Blake Lively and Jusin Balodni starring as the leads, the news of the release is already garnering a huge amount of interest online. Given the popularity of both Lively and Baldoni, it’s likely that a new audience, as well as those who are already familiar with Hoover’s books, will emerge.
“CoHo,” as she is often referred to, has been embraced as the ultimate coming-of-age writer and the “Queen of Booktok.” However, despite many Gen-Z readers considering the book to be “literal gold,” there is an increasing debate online about whether It Ends With Us is problematic in its portrayal of domestic violence. Through this article, we will discuss this in more depth, exploring how the upcoming film release fits into the wider conversation of adapting content deemed by some to be problematic.
It is undeniable that Colleen Hoover has been a phenomenon in the literary universe for a long time. With her books Verity, Reminders of Him, Heart Bones and It Ends With Us, to name a few, Hoover has become one of the big names in the romantic fiction genre encouraging people who had never considered reading as a hobby to pick up her books. It’s interesting to explore why her work been so successful. Is it the themes she chooses to portray or her simplistic writing style that is accessible to the masses? The majority of her books are known to strike a chord with readers’ hearts, whilst also exploring deep emotional issues within the characters’ lives. It Ends With Us is particularly renowned because of this – it conveys the story of a young woman who is a victim of domestic violence. Some reviewers have praised the story and its intent to raise awareness of this issue, within a medium so mass market as romantic fiction.
Despite some avid fans making this argument, It Ends With Us has been the focus of much criticism due to what some readers see as the promotion, romanticisation and endorsement of an abusive relationship. Hoover’s main audience are young women who are likely to be entering their first romantic relationship – arguably, then, her supposed romanticisation of an abusive relationship is an issue. The narrative voice within the book does not criticise the abuse described – instead, the main female character frequently excuses the abusive behaviour of her partner. Although this is likely a realistic account of someone being abused, who may not want to risk endangering themselves further by confronting their abuser, this story also presents a darkly distorted image of love to impressionable and young female audience who may not be able to discern any potentially nuanced representation intended. Journalist Jeanette McKellar suggests that Hoover presents her female characters as passive objects who only find their agency in the men who “choose” them. It has also been implied that this further prevents Hoover’s readers from understanding what a heathy and respectful relationship entails.
Despite criticisms, the book has remained incredibly popular. With the accessible writing style and the popularity of Hoover’s other works, many fans are reluctant to let go of the book’s fame. Thus, it is unsurprising that Sony Pictures wants to adapt It Ends With Us. This sparks a conversation about whether and how controversial books should be adapted into films. Whilst it is understandable that filmmakers want to stay as true to the book they are adapting, this can lead to viewers being subject to unnecessarily triggering content on the big screen. It’s a complex issue; with such an engaged fanbase, you can understand Sony Pictures’ decision to adapt It Ends With Us. It’s unlikely that the corporation would want to shift too far away from the original plot in fear of alienating this core group of fans.
Whilst it difficult to gage how a film will be received, it would be interesting to gain insight into how filmmakers and authors focus on sensitivity throughout the adaptation process. Creators must be mindful of how they depict events and the messages they are giving to their audiences. Adaptations of books like It Ends With Us should be treated with care and consideration. It’s true that such romanticised abusive relationships should not be promoted to young audiences but with growing popularity and an upcoming film adaptation, we can only hope that the conversation around this topic benefits from such a wide and vast focus.