Seems appropriate, doesn’t it? “The Stand” by Stephen King is a re-read, but I don’t remember any of it other than “virus kills the world” and the feeling of “Wow! That was epic!” I read it back in high school (31 years ago), so don’t hold it against me that I can’t remember the book. Statute of limitations, man!
Why didn’t I go get the book when our pandemic started 18 months ago, when someone mentioned that the whole thing seemed like the plot of a Stephen King novel? I guess I had other things to worry about and a long list of other books to read. Besides, I don’t think I really needed the imagination boost at the time.
So why pick it up now? Because the universe has brought it to me in the strangest of ways. A few weeks ago, we were looking for a new show to watch in the evenings and a friend recommended “Yellowstone.” For some reason, we thought it was on Paramount + and started the subscription, found that it wasn’t, but other interesting shows were, so we kept it. Then there was The Stand. I said, “Oh shit! I loved that book in high school. Don’t remember what it was about much other that virus kills the world.” We binged watched it and loved it.
I told my brother about it over the phone, and he said the 90’s one was WAY better, that he hated Whoopi Goldberg, but watched some of it anyway and it sucked. I thought, “If this one sucked and I liked it, I’m going to LOVE the old one!” Crazy thing but, I didn’t. I thought it was terrible. Maybe it’s a case of “the first one version you see of something is the one you love”?
Watching the old version, I thought, “I should read the book and see what’s different.” I ordered “The Stand – The Complete and Uncut Edition” used on Thriftbooks and I dove in as soon as it arrived. I don’t know what it is about Stephen King books, but I completely lose track of time when I’m reading them. The trouble is that I don’t read very fast, more like the pace of reading aloud in my head, and this 1164 page will take me well over 38 hours to read (there goes my book count on Goodreads). I’m a few chapters in and the difference is fascinating.
The first thing I noticed about the ’94 version of the movie, other than the old “made for tv” miniseries feeling, was that everyone in that movie was white. No surprise really because everyone in the book was white (so far). I’ve only gotten into the book as far as I got into the ’94 miniseries, Larry Underwood goes to his mom in New York and Nick Andros is at the jail with the guys that beat him up.
We started talking about this immediately, given the social climate of our own time. The new movie has a “multicultural” cast and not in a bad way. What’s a bad way? When you notice it. You know the difference. There’s a feel you get when the cast is just a little TOO diverse, you know. I can’t put my finger on that just yet.
The talk we had was over why the cast would be so different. I think it has less to do with racism and a lot more to do with marketing. The ’94 version was on live TV at certain time of day. It was made for the widest market at that timeslot, middle class white people watching tv for an hour or so after dinner and before bed. You want to identify with what you’re watching on tv. You want the characters and situations to reflect your version of the world. The producers want you to watch because they get paid by advertisers for your eyeballs. Makes sense.
Today things are different. Anyone of any social class can be watching at any time, so now they want to make shows that reflect a more diverse population so that more of us will watch it. It’s not nefarious, it’s marketing. I found the pronounced difference fascinating.
I don’t know yet which movie version follows the book more closely. So far, they both seem fairly accurate. The Stand was written in 1978 and set in the early 90’s, so the ’94 version may have been more accurate because of that. The 2020 version would have to be made more modern to make it feel like our time and not some past event.
Here’s something crazy I learned while doing a little research about the new movie. The had just finished the major filming in March 2020. Geez! Can you imagine? I just finished making a movie about a manmade virus that escapes and kills the world…switches on the news…oh shit…