Have you ever read a classic book and thought, “Wow, this story is pret-ty melodramatic. And it deals with so many social issues. This seems familiar”? That’s probably because a lot of well-known, highly praised literature has plots very similar to those of the cheesy Lifetime movies we know and love. Let’s face it, the greatest writers in history were just paving the way for storytellers of the future, and as with any art form, things unravel like a particularly messy game of telephone. Once you get to 2013 the tender poetry of Romeo & Juliet becomes whatever Escape from Polygamy was (read: amazing).
What we have here is a list of classic books whose plots could easily be translated into a modern Lifetime movie with the right cheap-looking wigs and just the right amount of crazy eyes. As an English major it would be blasphemy for me to say that these books aren’t of the highest caliber. But what I will say is that clearly we should start making Lifetime movies part of the typical literature curriculum in schools. It’s only logical.
1. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
Plot: In 17th century Boston, Hester Prynne has a child through an extramarital affair and is punished by her townspeople.
Lifetime’s Twist: It would be like Easy A, another take on this classic novel, except without Emma Stone or fun. Maybe it would be set in a modern-day church where the entire congregation tries to get a cheatin’ lady kicked out, even though her husband is obviously abusive and she’s just a bird who wants to fly free. Oh, also did I mention that her lover is the preacher? TWIST.
New Title: Secret Sins
2. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
Plot: Literature professor Humbert Humbert has an infatuation with his 12-year-old step-daughter Dolores Haze, with whom he embarks on an affair.
Lifetime’s Twist: Humbert Humbert would be a female high school teacher who seduces her teenage stepson. We’ll keep the name Humbert Humbert, because that’s just delightful. She becomes embroiled in a feud with another woman vying for the stepson’s affections, and as usual it turns murderous.
New Title: Dirty Teacher (Why mess with a good thing?)
3. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Plot: Jane takes a job as a governess and falls in love with Mr. Rochester, the master of the house. But strange things start to happen, and it turns out Rochester is hiding a dark secret.
Lifetime’s Twist: You really don’t have to do much with this besides modernize it and make Jane a nanny. A suspicious nanny, of course.
New Title: A Nanny’s Suspicion
4. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Plot: Anna Karenina is a married aristocrat who falls in love with a wealthy count and feels the pressure and judgment of the society around her before the novel’s tragic ending.
Lifetime’s Twist: I’m sure Lifetime can find some obscure story halfway similar to this one and say it’s “inspired by true events.” Like a small-town politician’s wife having an affair with the guy who owns the biggest fast food restaurant in the county. Something like that.
New Title: Betrayal: The Whatshername Story
5. Lord of the Flies by William Golding
Plot: A group of young boys get stranded on a desert island and set up their own miniature government with a violent outcome.
Lifetime’s Twist: Does this not sound like high school? Cliques and hierarchies, kids behaving like savages to each other. Change it to a bunch of teenage girls and have it be a message about bullying.
New Title: Stranded at 17
6. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Plot: Lawyer Atticus Finch defends a black man on trial for rape while teaching his children Scout and Jem life lessons and overall being one of the greatest characters in literature ever.
Lifetime’s Twist: Lifetime loves a good courtroom drama, especially when the case it covers is different from the rest. Atticus would have to be a lady lawyer to properly fit into the “bitches get stuff done” category of film. And also because there are never any fathers in these movies. Obviously the fact that she’s a single mother will factor in.
New Title: A Mother’s Dilemma
7. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Plot: Millionaire Jay Gatsby is reunited with the love of his life, Daisy Buchanan, and plenty of jealousy and tragedy ensues.
Lifetime’s Twist: So much melodrama. So little time. Lifetime would cast these characters as former high school sweethearts who start engaging in a cyber-affair that turns deadly.
New Title: Deadly Cyber-Affair
8. Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
Plot: 17-year-old (!) Catherine Morland visits estate Northanger Abbey, where suspicious things start to happen as the master of the estate, General Tilney, seems more and more tyrannical. But is it all in her head?
Lifetime’s Twist: Here a 17-year-old girl goes on vacation with her boyfriend’s family and starts to suspect that his father is evil but everyone thinks she’s silly because NO ONE BELIEVES LIFETIME TEENAGERS.
New Title: Paranoid at 17
(Lead GIF: Tumblr)