Est. read time: 11 min. (Est. read time sponsored by AEH Logistics Group)
Hello Sternal Journalists,
Thanks for those of you who shared appreciation over last week’s interview with All Girls writer, Emily Layden. I’m going to try to do a long-form interview every month, so if you have ideas for people you’d like to read me in conversation with, do share!
This week, shorter and lighter: we all know how I feel about adaptations. If you don’t here’s an excerpt of Sternal Journal Classic, “How (and why) I got way too (LEGALLY) high to enjoy Greta Gerwig’s Little Women.”
Basically, I think adaptations should maybe be illegal (or at least government regulated) because: if an adaptation is great, shouldn’t that mean the source text was great and if I really want to appreciate the adaptation, I should go read that first? And if it’s bad, that it shouldn’t have been made at all?
Like, what’s the point of an adaptation other than a money grab? I know Greta Gerwig’s Little Women was a legit homage to something she loved, but because there were already “six other movies, seven plays (not counting musicals), three musicals(!), seven television events (not counting musicals), one television musical(!!), and two animes! TWO ANIMES(!!!)!," aren’t chances pretty high that her homage was going to detract from the text she was homaging?
But if you think my opinions about adaptations are boneheaded, wait until you hear what I think about spin-offs. I just finished, like many people, watching the Super Bowl. I’m not a huge fan of the sports as you may know from my ever-forthcoming Podcast Not About Sports, but I sat through it all this year and obviously saw commercials as well.
And so what I saw a billion times was CBS’ Clarice, a prequel spin-off of Silence of the Lambs that appears to now involve a bunch of real lambs (it’s about damb time!) and a cover of John Denver’s “Country Roads, Take Me Home” sung by a hot ghost.
Here, we have a show spun off of a movie based on a book. Let’s put the book aside for now. Doesn’t the existence of the show, good or not, now change (even incrementally) the meaning of the movie? When you’re making a movie or any creative thing really, you make very specific decisions about (among many other things) what should be text and what should be subtext.
At the very least, this prequel about Clarice now suddenly makes much of what was subtext in Silence of the Lambs very much text. It’s not a huge problem obviously, way bigger ones in the world, but I think it’s something that is not considered as often or as intentionally as it should be when people, to put it as grossly as possible, expand on IP.
That is all a classically long Sternal Journal way of saying I am being very thoughtful and intentional when I say what I’m about to say. Two weeks ago, Deadline reported "‘Harry Potter TV Series Eyed at HBO Max.” Everybody was pretty quickly like “nono nono we’re just talking about it it’s not a thing yet.” But it got everyone else talking about what a live-action Harry Potter spin-off should be.
And while we’ve acknowledged that I think Harry Potter should not have a spin-off (I even dislike the movies so much that I think Crimes of Grindelwald is the second or third best Harry Potter movie), as a Harry Potter fan, I feel it is my duty to steer anyone involved in the right direction. So here are…
7 Great Ideas for Harry Potter Spin-Offs
Dementors: International. When Kingsley Shacklebolt removes the Dementors from Azkaban, these soulless beings are finally able to scratch the wanderlust itch and look for home bases in Scandinavia and Southeast Asia. It’s just House Hunters: International, but with Dementors. They don’t technically talk, but they’ll occasionally whisper questions like, “a a r e e t h e r r r e m a a n n n y s o u l s a b o u t?” and “d o e s t h i s k i t c h e n n o o k g e e t m u c h s u n?”
Selena + Hagrid. If you’re gonna do a spin-off, why not do a tie-in with an existing HBO Max property? Instead of video chatting with a different chef every week as she does in Selena + Chef, Selena Gomez, the most boring interesting person in the world, video chats with Rubeus Hagrid, regularly disgraced groundskeeper and Care of Magical Creatures professor, as he sends her a different unruly beast every week. You’ll guffaw at Selena’s grandfather PawPaw as he yells things like “Gotdamn, why is there a Hippogriff in the fwy-yay?” You’ll shake your head and chuckle when Aragog bites off Raquelle’s hand and Liz just puts it on TikTok. But most of all, you’ll learn that food really does bring us together.
Professor Binns’ History of Magic. This one is actually also a really good idea. Professor Binns is one of the low-key funniest characters in the books. He’s a boring teacher who just fell asleep and died one day, and then kept teaching because he had nothing else to do. He’s not in the movies, presumably because he is so boring and somebody thought, “Billion dollar franchise, let’s not chance it.” BUT in a time when nobody can sleep without a podcast or think without a tv on in the background, Professor Binns’ History of Magic would just be boring History of Magic lectures you could fall asleep or fold laundry to. It’s like the Christmas log channel, but more magical and you have to pay an actor.
Dobby: R U M S P R I N G A. Exactly what it sounds like.
Pomfrey & Hooch. The name sells it. Rolanda Hooch and Poppy Pomfrey, Hogwarts’ flying instructor and nurse respectively, were both really there to do their jobs and not as trigger-happy on fighting a whole goddamn wizarding war as, say, McGonagall and Dumbledore. They talk shit in the staff lounge and occasionally get blackout drunk at the Leaky Cauldron before going to Ollivander’s to pretend they’re going to buy wands they can’t afford.
“What about cell phones?” J.K. Rowling gets locked into a room until she explains why, really, nobody would want phones even for the games? For google? Last I checked (and I have), there’s no spell to look up aggregated reviews for the three closest coffee shops to you right now.
The Lovegoods. Okay, this one is actually a good idea. Luna is a weirdo. Her dad Xenophilius is also. You’re rooting for them because Luna’s mom died in a magic accident when she was a kid. He runs a suuuuper alt weekly called The Quibbler which gets into a lot of fringe and conspiracy theory type stuff, including the persistent claim of existence of mythical creature the Crumple-Horned Snorkack.
During the books, Luna believes everything her dad tells her, even though almost nobody else does. But after the books (and this is canon), she becomes a naturalist and searches for the Snorkack for years, deciding eventually that her dad must be wrong about some things. That’s season 1, baby! Lots to unpack there! We’ve got media, we’ve got family members reconciling the growing difference in their beliefs with their love, we’ve got science and nature! It’s all so current! It’s a great idea, but I hate myself for knowing that!
But again, none of those should be made. But again again if you had to make a Harry Potter show, it should be one of them. I’m pulling for Dobby: RUMSPRINGA.
Anyway, that’s all for this week. Some recs!
(Podcast) The Test Kitchen. Reply All is at it again with a four-part series from producer Sruthi Pinnamaneni about the reckoning over the toxic and racist workplace environment at Bon Appetit Magazine. It’s great reporting and urgent storytelling, and Sruthi makes a very specific choice in the way the story is told that blew my mind a little and feels like something everyone reporting stories like this will be doing soon. May write more about it in the future, but for now you’ll have to listen to find out!
(Movie) The Forty-Year-Old Version. It’s on Netflix and it’s great.
(Movie) The Verdict. Literally watched it because of Paul Newman’s salad dressing leading to the realization I hadn’t seen a Paul Newman movie. Plenty dated at moments, but I liked it a lot and thought it had a way more accurate, honest depiction of addiction than Queen’s Gambit, which I will continue to slowly build my case against.
(Television) Hilda. Charming, hygge-as-hell cartoon on Netflix. I’m sure it’s good for kids, but I very much enjoy it as an adult.
(Podcast) Julian’s Extemporaneous Experiment. I recorded five exactly-ten-minute sections of my drive from Maryland to Connecticut a couple weeks ago. Releasing it as something. Episode one is out now.
Alrighty then, friends. Until next week, much love!