Hulu Teases A Shared Universe from Stephen King
Hulu has released a cryptic teaser for its upcoming J.J. Abrams and Stephen King series, Castle Rock. According to The Hollywood Reporter, this will be an anthology series, with each season following a different set of characters in the Castle Rock, Maine setting.
Castle Rock, Maine appears in a number of King’s novels, either used as the primary setting (Cujo, Needful Things) or mentioned in passing (It, Pet Sematary, Under the Dome). Along with Derry and Jerusalem’s Lot, it forms the trio of fictional Maine towns that are King’s favorite settings.
The teaser doesn’t give away much, instead reminding the viewers of memorable moments and characters from previous adaptations of King’s works, including Salem’s Lot, The Shawshank Redemption, Misery, It, and The Shining. All of the featured works take place in or around those three towns, with the exception of The Shining. (However, Castle Rock does appear in the sequel to The Shining, Doctor Sleep.) The series will reportedly draw on characters from King’s short stories and novels, so it’s likely that the novels featured here will provide at least some of that source material.
King’s stories have inspired some massively influential films, and he was creating a “shared universe” since before Kevin Feige first put on business formal, so it’s not surprising that Hulu was interested in his wider work. Cynically, this series looks like it will give Hulu both its own shared universe and its answer to Netflix’s Stranger Things. Corporate dreams do come true!
Still, as a New England native, I love the idea of an anthology show set in our creepy, cold climes. King knows and depicts Maine really well, and the setting is the only recurring character, so I’m hopeful that the series will have a strong sense of place. (Bonus points: there is almost no way for Abrams to justify a lens flare in a middle-of-nowhere Maine.) In addition, one of Abrams’ skills as a filmmaker is imitating the style of ’80s sci-fi movies, so I’m also pretty enthusiastic about how he’ll film this thing.
However, the source material worries me a bit. King’s short stories can bring out the worst of his problematic tendencies: Magical Negroes, women who are punished for their power or sexuality, and bland or cliched secondary characters. Part of this is the nature of the form: short stories are shorter, and they often revolve on a ‘turn’ of some sort near the end. This gives King, who loves himself a long narrative, less time to develop characters, and it can lead him to seek easy surprises for the turn. Now, I’m not trying to blame short fiction; for other writers, the short story clearly brings out masterful work. But for King, I think the form works against his talents and highlights his issues.
With a season to draw out their storylines and characters, I hope the creative team will revise or tone down the problematic elements in the stories they choose to adapt. I also hope they won’t use the real-life whiteness of Maine as a state to try and justify an all-white cast. Not today, Hulu. Not today.
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