ring vs. ringu/ books vs. movies

From: Scott Chase (ecphoric@hotmail.com)
Date: Sat 06 Sep 2003 - 23:11:12 GMT

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    OK, I'm hooked on the Ring myth, started by Koji Suzuki with his book _Ring_
    (as translated from Japanese). I think this story captures how an idea in a book can inspire a movie (the Japanese _Ringu_) and then jump overseas to inspire another movie (the American _The Ring_). The Suzuki book supplied the raw material for the Japanese movie which inspired the American movie. The core story is similar across all three works, but there are variations on the theme. Neither the Japanese book nor movie have anything to do with lighthouses nor horses dying on a beach, which were added in apprently for the American movie. The Japanese book and movie get into more detail on the life and psychic powers of the girl in the well, but there's still some variation here. The Japanese book is quite different from the American movie, where in the former a sanatorium doctor rapes the psychic girl and throws her in the well, where in the American movie it is her mother that throws her in the well, perhaps because of the girl's evil powers.

    In the book it is explained how the girl has abilities to make psychic imprints onto film and there's extrapolation from this ability to how she was able, even "dead" in a well, to coopt the TV set in the infamous cabin so her evil viral message could be copied on a VHS tape, which the subsequent victims watch before they are killed by a heart condition exactly seven days later to the second.

    This videotape is the ultimate viral message as it has an implied message
    "copy me or else". At the end of the book it seems that the main character survives merely because he has copied the video and shown it to others (his firend and unfortunately, by accident his wife and baby). This is like a chain letter with teeth. Apparently Suzuki has written a trilogy based on this theme, but I'm not sure if any of the books other than _Ring_ have been translated into English. It would be interesting to see how the trilogy plays out.

    The viral theme permeates throughout the book as the doctor who rapes the girl and throws her in the well is apparently the last smallpox victim in Japan. It is also hashed out by one of the main characters, the philosopher dude, that viruses may be escaped genes. He also intimates an idea of how ideas can take on lives of their own, thus becoming organisms. In the context of the book, this seems to have paranormal importance, but he animism inherent in this notion should not be lost on adherents of memetics.

    I'll have to review the Japanese movie again, as I'm having a memory block right now, after reading the book. Comparing the Japanese book and American movie, the former dwelled on images of a volcano which helped the main characters find the island where the well imprisoned the girl's corpse. In the American movie the images of the cursed video were of a lighthouse and dead horses on a beach, which helped the main character pinpoint the island where the well was. Maybe when they Americanized the story, they decided that island lighthouses were a better plot device than island volcanoes. What can capture the hearts of an American audience more than dead horses on a beach.

    I thought one of the more interesting parts of the book was the psychic girl's mom retrieving a Buddhist statue from the clutches of the sea, diving in the buff no doubt. Apparently post WWII occupation forces had thrown said statue into the sea in a policy of removing Buddhist icons from Japan's landscape. Has this piece of historical fiction any veracity? Were there instances of post WWII occupation forces removing or destroying icons of Buddhist significance? The statue "thanked" the woman by giving her powers, but not quite as strong as her evil vengeful daughter Sadako. The evil, vengeful girl in the American movie is named Samara.

    The outcome in the general Ring storyline hinges upon whether the main character decides to follow the "copy me" viral message of the tape which was psychically imprinted by the girl in the well beneath the cabin according to the book, which launched the eventual movies.

    Kinda makes me glad I've switched to DVD, though maybe the cabin could have been outfitted with a DVD recorder to bring it into the 21st century. I doubt the psychic girl in the well would cotton to McLuhan's claim that the medium is the message ;-)

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