Most of us are already tired of 2021, but there is a silver lining: this is the year that the copyright for The Great Gatsby has expired, meaning that adapting F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel is now free game!
The Great Gatsby is a favorite of many English majors and book nerds (including myself) for good reason. The writing is absolutely stunning, it’s full of themes relatable to us today, like cynicism, unrequited longing, and the collapse of the American Dream, the characters are ones we all love to hate, and the dazzling party scenes are full of lavish description that make us wish we could travel back in time to the 1920s. The most notable adaptation is Baz Luhrman’s 2013 film, which captures the visual splendor and glitter of the big party scenes, but is otherwise empty. So far, no adaptation has gotten to the heart of the story, and most are not very creative.
In 2020, I devoured six different adaptations of Jane Austen’s Emma, and honestly, I never got tired of seeing that story told over and over again in different creative ways. I’m so excited to see that happen with The Great Gatsby. I did some daydreaming over the weekend and here are some creative adaptations that I would like to see:
A Broadway Musical
Anything can make a good Broadway musical, especially classic novels, as Les Miserables and Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812 have proven to us. However, since we already have a big, sprawling spectacle in the 2013 movie, I would love to see a stripped down, minimalist show, like Dear Evan Hansen, so we could really focus on the characters and their emotions. Can you imagine the power ballad duets between Gatsby and Daisy? You better believe that goes on my Broadway Spotify playlist (and on repeat… for days).
A Web Series
I am slightly obsessed with Hank Green’s Emma Approved and The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, and I think this format would be perfect for an interpretation that highlights Nick’s complete obsession and hero-worship of Gatsby. Nick would be the main character, a vlogger desperate to get more famous by befriending his idol and famous YouTube star, Jay Gatsby. This would also be a good social commentary on the American Dream, updating to 2020, where so many people dream of becoming famous via social media.
A Teen Drama
We know that if The Great Gatsby has anything, it has piles of drama, and drama is all you need to make a good teen show. I always wished they would make it an iconic teen comedy, like 10 Things I Hate About You. After watching Gossip Girl this spring, it almost feels like a Gatsby wannabe, although it takes itself a wee bit too seriously for that. I would love a TV show on the CW that combines these two approaches, with plenty of drama, but humor too. Give me all those frustrating, entitled, witty teenagers that I love to hate!
A PBS Miniseries
The best classic adaptations are always the BBC or PBS miniseries (sorry not sorry, Kiera Knightley), and Gatsby deserves one of its own! Since it’s probably too short to fill 4-6 hours on its own, I would love a period adaptation that goes back and forth between the characters’ present, and their past, where we can watch Daisy and Gatsby’s original relationship bloom and crumble in real time. We never get to see this backstory, and it might give us some sympathy for Daisy that Nick’s searing commentary never offers.
A YA Novel (obviously)
Since the beginning of 2021, many YA authors have been pitching their own ideas for Gatsby retellings, and my favorite so far comes from Eric Smith:
You can bet I will be fangirling over these adaptations for years to come, and I hope you will all join me!