Chances are you’ve probably heard of Normal People, a book that garnered immense popularity through Tik Tok and it’s Hulu/BBC adaptation. Normal People follows the complicated relationship between Marianne Sheridan and Connell Waldron as they traverse different obstacles from secondary school to college. To be completely honest, I wasn’t a huge fan of the book. The author’s writing style was a bit strange and Marianne seemed to only have confidence when confined in a relationship. I honestly thought the Hulu adaptation of the book was decent overall; the storytelling and cinematography are great from a viewer’s perspective and all of the characters really came to life, but there are a few key things I noticed when watching:
- Marriane’s family life was much more abusive than what was depicted in the show.
Marianne’s family dynamic is a key part of the book and TV show, but the abuse she suffered in the book was not reflected the same way in the show. In the book, Marianne stated how her father used to hit her and her mother. Although the show hinted at Marianne not having the best relationship with her father, it never mentioned the abuse that she really faced. Alan also terrorized Marianne far more in the book; her discomfort and fear of her family was a key part of her character and internal conflicts. However, I think the show did a good job of depicting her mother, Denise. They accurately portrayed her as cold and distant, and she seemed to be uninvolved with Marianne’s life.
- The casting was not it for some characters.
Lukas is the creepy photographer who Marianne has sexual relations with in Sweden. In the book he is described as “Scandinavian looking” with hair so blonde it looks white. With such a description given, you’d think the casting directors would be accurate in their depiction of this character right? Wrong. Instead, for this unpleasant role they casted a black actor for Lukas. He plays the dominating role as he and Marianne engage in BDSM, thus falling into the aggressive black man dominating a white woman trope. In addition, they casted a Vietnamese-French actress as Helen, Connell’s girlfriend who is studying medicine. Helen is one of the only side characters whose career path is explicitly mentioned, yet her race was never mentioned in the book. These are just a few of the discriminatory casting decisions.
- There is no importance of the social class aspect in the show.
Connell comes from a working class background; Connell’s mother was employed by the Sheridan’s as their cleaner. Marianne on the other hand is an upper-class girl living in a big mansion. Throughout the book we get indications of how Connell’s background affected his life and prospect of higher education. There are just a couple lines thrown in the show about the differences in Marianne and Connell’s financial status, but these conversations were almost irrelevant to their relationship. There were many missed opportunities to highlight real world issues about class divide and how that could affect relationships.
- Marianne’s friendships seemed to have no effect on her in the show.
All of Marianne’s friendships and relationships excluding Connell reflect her lack of self worth and internal struggles. This was very apparent when reading the book, but the show didn’t flesh out her friends as much. One specific character that had a deeper, complex relationship with Marianne was Peggy. In the book Peggy seemed like a controlling pessimist. She even made jabs about Connell’s class background and overall was a terrible friend to Marianne. Although in the show Peggy made a comment defending Marianne’s rude boyfriend Jamie, it didn’t show how the friendship impacted Marianne. In the book we find out that they end their friendship and she realizes she never liked Peggy and just liked the attention—a comment that I think is important to the realization of her self-worth.