I got caught up in Hulu’s High Fidelity adaptation for the right reasons — that soundtrack! — and was happy to discover that it was, genuinely, great; something that felt faithful to the spirit of the original book, but not beholden to slavishly following every nook, cranny and dead end of its pages, instead choosing to change and update things where necessary. (The original book is 25 years old, shockingly; it definitely needed updating.)
The most obvious update is in the central cast, which in the show is made up of two women of color and a gay white man. They’re a charming trio on screen, and I like watching them bounce off each other, and seeing them come out of their initial appearances and grow past what first looks a bit too close to stereotypes, but more than anything, it made me realize how limited the original book was.
In High Fidelity the book, the core trio is… three white straight guys. Because of course it is; Nick Hornby, bless him, wrote what he knew and that’s what — and who — he knew. And, when I read the book all those many years ago (When it first came out? Surely not, I wouldn’t have bought the hardcover; I’m pretty sure I got the paperback, though, with the book already A Thing by that point), that was fine, because that was pretty much what I knew, too.
The comparison is like a window into my own past, and how small it seems when viewed from where and who I am now. Part of it is cultural — there are many, many people I knew then that I’m sure were queer and closeted, or simply unaware; this was the time when the lead singer of Suede called himself “a bisexual who’d never had a homosexual experience,” and it was turned into a joke that followed him for years afterwards — and part of it geographical, with Scotland being severely limited in terms of racial diversity.
Nonetheless, I find myself looking back and thinking, God, how small the world seemed back then, how limited and empty compared with today. And, really, there’s something perfect to me about this being inspired by High Fidelity, a story about looking back and growing from past mistakes. Next thing, I’ll be making a list of top 5 mixtapes.