I think it is a good idea to remain true to an author's original idea. At the same time, one must remember that Irving was just re-hashing an old legend he had heard from some one else. Irving was working to scare people a bit, using an accepted cultural context. For instance, his constant description of the barely legal Katrina as "blooming" probably wouldn't go over as well with today's PC readers. Can you say "Lolita"? Mr. Irving was just a dirty old man day dreaming of his neighbor's young daughter.
But artists working in popular media are always just finding ways to tap in to what their audience wants to see. Take Shakespeare. He certainly took artistic license with all of his historical works. And the story of Romeo and Juliet goes way back in Italy.
These days, people are questioning their basic beliefs about the world more and more (See: The X-Files). Science is all around us, and in the general "question authority" tradition of America, people have begun turning from the scientists and towards New Age gurus and their "natural" ways. Homeopathy has been proven time and again to be no more than just "wishing will make it so". Proven by science, that is. But it is the personal accounts of "what homeopathy has done for me" that convinces people, not the boring, abstract words of a science journal. This tendancy to invest more in testimonies that can be personally related to is a scientific fact of human behavior. Again, science.
Why not question this science that has been letting us down with such disasters as nuclear scares and "putting a man on the moon but not being able to... (insert medicinal or societal ill here)"? This science that even "proves" that seeing is not believing. Science is questioning my basic idea of what is real; science is bad! Of course people feel the need to trust more in the unseen and the unknown. It may not have proven itself yet, but it certainly hasn't caused any major problems like global warming.
So, Sleepy Hollow? It has been changed to work with the late '90's. If the end of this century has proven nothing else, it is that there are no straight answers, only grey blurriness coming from all sides (See: recent Clinton scandal, and theories about Area 51/Roswell & JFK assassination). Therefore, the men in white hats versus the men in black hats no longer works. Now it is science versus the spirit world/supernatural, etc.
Ichabod (representing science) must be an outsider, as he challenges the traditional, homespun beliefs of the Sleepy Hollow community. The conflict of a love triangle (between Crane, Katrina & Brom) has never been a great source of conflict when you have a headless horseman running around. The new Sleepy Hollow provides the conflict of rational science against the assertions of a small, closely-knit village.
Ichabod is the modern audience, hoping that he can convince all of us that a deadly apparition could not possibly exist. If ghosts do exist, so do every other spook that science can't quite explain. If Ichabod is wrong, we are left in a world without the comforting explanations of science to rely upon. Again, The X-Files.
While watching the trailer with an audience at the theatre, a reaction is stirred when the words "A Tim Burton Film" appear on screen. Although I have always gone to movies just because they look cool, I know that many will see anything with Burton's name attached to it. For good reason. If, say, Joel Schumacher were making his own version of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, I don't think there would be much to persuade me to even download the trailer, let alone spend so much time and effort on a site dedicated to it or pay for a ticket. Even with Johnny Depp.
It is referred to as "artistic license" for a reason. I have heard art defined as an original act ("I poked a badger with a spoon," says Eddie Izzard). The Blair Witch Project is an artful horror movie not because it is an indie that is usually shown in "arthouse" theatres. It has done something new and innovative with the horror film medium.
Tim Burton is well-known for making subjects his own. That innovation sets Burton films apart from other creepy, funny, or gothic works, and thank God someone is doing something new. As much as the old Batman TV show is now cherished as a classic piece of 1960's culture, there is no way that it would even make it on to UPN today. Burton did his Batman movies his way, and the mark he made can still be seen in the ever popular Warner Brothers cartoons.
Washington Irving just took some interesting sounding names off of a few gravestones and mixed in a local myth to make some money off of the popular medium of short stories. Don't worry, I'm pretty sure Tim isn't working for the Ministry of Truth. The classic short story is still readily available to whomever wants to read it.
and, like, it's only BASED ON Irving's short story! so there! : P'
Was that enough for you? I hope so, 'cause I have to get back to work!
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