Two Princesses: Movie Dejah Thoris vs. Book Dejah Thoris

I was extremely impressed by John Carter. They apparently went with doing an update or reboot instead of a faithful adaptation. (This is a good thing, as the book is very much a product of the time it was written in.) I really liked the way they handled the main plot elements of A Princess of Mars, and I liked the expansion that was done on Dejah Thoris. In the book, Dejah has some fairly strong moments and has a lot of interesting character traits. Unfortunately, she still very much fits in the trope of “fair maid in need of rescue,” and the writer has her up on a pedestal most of the time. She is a story book princess and while she does a lot of dramatic and brave things, it is usually a set up for the hero to do something heroic to win her over. The movie version acts more like a “real” princess; someone with a political background and an expectation that if she says something she will be listened to and obeyed. When she does dramatic or brave things, it is a set up to show that she is brave, and then the hero does something. 

Book Dejah

  • Is considerably more naïve than Movie Princess.
  • Immediately believes that John Carter is from another world on John’s say so.
  •  Apparently knows a great deal about Earth because it is clearly visible in the sky. (I am highly dubious about this, even if in the book the Barsoom folks have technology that enables them to view Earth.)
  • Was apparently part of some variety of scientific surveying mission despite being extremely non-scientific.
  • She does not actually appear for several chapters even though the novel is named for her.
  • When she does turn up she is definitely in need of rescue.
  • Despite instantly believing John and claiming to know a great deal about Earth, she assumes John is equally knowledgeable about Barsoom. (Spoiler: No, no he isn’t.) She becomes aggravated at John because he does not respond when she signals him for help. (The noive!) Sadly, he had not recognized the sign and therefore, did not respond.
  • Gets up on her high horse and yells at the Tharks for being brutal savages. I think that the writer was trying to show what a good and noble person she is. The writer is not successful. She is at least brave if not actually very smart.
  • She is nakies except for jewelry. This is almost never shown in the earlier artwork.

Movie Dejah

  • The first time we see her, she is pacing nervously back and forth as she tries to remember a speech she is going to make about her Invention. She is a scientist and a total geek.
  • Initially believes that John Carter is bags of crazy, but believes his crazy is something she can use.
  • Dejah’s reason for being angry with John is an observable character trait that she finds baffling and upsetting. His refusal to follow a cause is something she does not understand and she argues with him about it instead of being aloof and contemptuous about it.
  • Turns up on the run from a marriage she absolutely does not want because she does not like or trust the dude proposing.
  •  Is quite able to take care of herself. Movie! John Carter proves to be very open minded about women being able to beat the snot out of men! (She is still taken prisoner, but it’s obvious that she can kick ass and take names.)
  •  Is politically savvy but something of an idealist! She attempts to make an alliance with the Tharks but the Tharks do not give a damn about Red Martian politics and are Very Much Not Impressed.
  • She knows nothing about Earth.

Once again, I have to say that I prefer the movie version of Dejah to the book version. There was a greater opportunity for character interaction and the interplay between John and Dejah in the movie was more immediate and interesting to me than the interactions in the book. In the book, Dejah is very much up on a pedestal. She does not interact with John as a partner or a potential partner the way she does in the movie. (While the theme of “rescue the girl” is very much the same in both the book and the movie, Dejah is shown to be an active character instead of a passive one.)


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Filed under a princess of mars, book, movies, science fiction

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