Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe

by Fannie Flagg

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What are the major differences between the Fried Green Tomatoes novel and movie?

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While there are some similarities between the novel and the film, some major differences exist. The book contains a strong lesbian relationship between Idgie and Ruth while the movie's only allusion to this relationship is through inference. Additionally, in the movie, Frank's murder happens much sooner than in the novel.

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As is the case with many books and the movies they are based off, there are several differences between the novel, Fried Green Tomatoes, and its cinematic rendition. While there are some plot differences, a glaring divergence from the book that exists throughout the movie is the lack of a lesbian relationship between Ruth and Idgie that wonderfully and boldly exists in the novel. While the romantic love between the two women in the film may be obvious to those of us who are actually queer, the movie continues the tired story so often found in (particularly older) films of having to infer the queer relationship, to read between the lines, to emphatically exclaim that the relationship was obvious since the characters never explicitly profess romantic feelings and we are left to interpret the signs.

Other divergences from the novel include the timeline of Idgie and George being accused of murdering Frank. In the novel, Idgie and George are not accused for years after Frank's death, while in the film, the accusation occurs much sooner. In a softer ending for the film, Ninny leaves the nursing home to live with Evelyn, while in the book, Ninny dies and Evelyn hears of her death from a neighbor.

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The movie suffers from a couple of the main issues that befalls many films when they are adapted from books. One of the most obvious is the compression of timelines. Because it's not always feasible to explore great lengths of time in film adaptations (either because there's too much content or backstory that needs to be laid or the aging effects and makeup are too expensive, or another reason), they have compressed one of the main timelines into a more succinct story—particularly that of the murder of Frank. Idgie and George are considered innocent for many years in the book, but in the film, suspicion quickly turns on them so that the entire story of the prosecution and pursuit happens almost immediately.

Additionally, as a product of its time, the film is much less willing to explore or portray same sex relationships than the novel is. As such, the relationship between Ruth and Idgie, which is explicitly homosexual in the book, is only hinted at in the film. Once again, this is primarily a result of the viewpoints of the time period in which the movie was filmed.

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There are a few differences we can review between the book by Fannie Flagg and the movie. Mrs. Threadgoode (Ninny) leaves the nursing home and moves in with Evelyn at the end of the movie. In the book, Ninny passes away and Evelyn finds out through a neighbor.

In the movie, Idgie and Big George are suspects in the death of Frank right away. In the book, they are not accused of the murder until many years later. In the movie, Ruth is Buddy's girlfriend; however, in the book, Ruth doesn't come to live with the Threadgoode family until after Buddy is killed.

One of the most important differences between the book and the movie is the relationship between Ruth and Idgie. It is clear in the book that Ruth and Idgie are lovers, and the whole town of Whistle Stop knows it. In the movie, they appear to be "really close" friends. There was much controversy over this discrepancy in the movie, as it takes away from the book's theme of love, no matter the race or gender.

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One major difference between the book and the film is that while the novel explicitly presents the relationship between Idgie and Ruth as lesbian, the movie is more ambiguous. This initially drew criticism from gay and lesbian activists because they felt that director Jon Avnet had not clearly defined the relationship between the two women to make the content more acceptable to Hollywood standards of the 1990s. In spite of this controversy, the film went on to win a 1992 Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation Media Award. The following link takes you to an interesting review of the movie which also discusses its representation of sexuality

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