Media Franchises, Brand Identity and Fidelity Reconsidering the book-to-film debate in the Brand Context

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Katerina Marazi
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Deborah Cartmell and Imelda Whelehan have noted that fidelity may now reside in the fringes of Adaptation Studies, “but it dominates popular reviews and fan sites alike’” (qtd. in Brooker 45). I believe that this is true to a certain extent; Adaptation Studies may realize the fallacy of fidelity – that it does not pose as the end in itself anymore – but it continues to appear in academic publications all the same. What is more, mediumspecificity discourses fall back on fidelity as well. Robert Stam emphasizes that the notion of fidelity “gains its persuasive power from our sense that (a) some adaptations are indeed better than others, and (b) some adaptations fail to ‘realize’ or substantiate what we most appreciated in the source novels” (14). It appears that if fidelity is still an issue it is due to this notion of persuasive power whereby value is attached to a particular meaning, or range of meanings, which if accepted by the audience awards both creator and product with value. Unlike cultural studies which, according to Stam, are “less interested in establishing vertical hierarchies of value than in exploring ‘horizontal’ relations between neighboring media,” thus rendering adaptation forms as part of a flattened out and newly egalitarian spectrum of cultural productions” in essence deeming them just another text, the very treatment of an intellectual property as a brand or franchise entails the notion of value and vertical hierarchies. Hence, this paper adopts a cultural perspective when examining Adaptation and more specifically the book-to-film debate by considering the context of production and more so the trend of branding intellectual properties. It argues that mainstream media franchise culture seeks the branded treatment at both the horizontal and vertical level of its intellectual properties including adaptations. Therefore, the branding of entertainment appears to take precedence over the notion of fidelity where the idea of faithfulness and loyalty is established between concrete extended and abstract core identity and fidelity prompts a dialogue of meaning-making and power play.
Marazi, K., (2019). Media Franchise, Brand Identity and Fidelity: Reconsidering the book-to-film debate in the Brand Context. The ESSE Messenger [online]. 28(2), 32-53. Available from: