Created By: CuchulainnMarch 11, 2013 Last Edited By: Knight9910March 18, 2013
Troped

Adaptational Wimp

The opposite of Adaptational Badass.

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Trope

(Well, I'm not sure where the OP is, so I'll just keep taking care of this one. -Knight9910)

The character used to be so cool. They might not have been a true bonafide Badass, but at the very least they were strong and capable of standing on their own.

Then the work was remade by new writers, possibly in an entirely new medium and everything changed. The once awesome Action Girl is now a Distressed Damsel. The Badass Bookworm is now just a plain old Nerd. The Action Survivor is now just The Drag Along, or worse.

This character has been the victim of Adaptational Wimpification. Just to be clear, as with the inverse trope Adaptational Badass, this is not about characters who simply suffered a minor power decrease. This is also not the case when a Ret Con decides the character Did Not Get The Girl or something similar. This is specifically for those characters who went from actually useful to... decidedly less so.

Contrast Adaptational Badass. Compare Badass Decay, for when the character becomes a wimp within the original work. Is often a symptom of Adaptation Decay. Often happens in the case of a Hidden Badass character who isn't fully understood by the new writers.
Comics Film
  • M Night Shyamalan's The Last Airbender suffers from this on two major fronts:
    • Elemental bending is a lot less impressive than it was in the original cartoon. For example, in the show earthbenders could create and manipulate relatively simple objects like stone carts, they could open holes in the earth to swallow foes, or bring up pillars of stone to throw their enemies around. In the movie, they just chuck rocks.
    • In the show, firebenders could easily create fire from their own body heat. In the movie only the greatest firebenders are capable of this - for most of them they can only use their bending abilities if there's an existing source of flame, like a campfire or a torch.
Video Games
  • Warhammer 40 K: Depending On The Writer, every faction has suffered from this to a degree alongside Adaptational Badass. The Imperial Guard might be quite capable in their codex, but are a Redshirt Army in all others. [Example really needs to be elaborated on.]
  • A number of Superman games, including the notorious Superman64 suffer from downplaying Superman's powers in order to provide some risk for the player character. The problem is that they go too far into this trope and also remove the fun of playing as a ridiculously powerful character like Superman.
Western Animation
  • Many examples, from Justice League:
    • In the first season, the writers had Superman succumb to The Worf Effect quite often, inadvertently making him look like one of the weaker Leaguers. They eventually noticed and corrected course, leading to Trope Namer for the World Of Cardboard Speech.
    • Similarly, Green Lantern's ring was used in a much more limited fashion in the early seasons. Eventually, this too changes with the writers lampshading the matter by having his fellow Lantern Katma Tui lecture him on his unimaginative use of the ring.
    • There's also Wonder Woman very belatedly getting the full powers of her lasso unlocked, finally bringing her up to par with her standard comics incarnation.
  • Examples from Super Friends:
    • While Aquaman has always been at his best around open water, he still has super strength and resilience even on land. Super Friends downplayed this to the point of him being almost completely defenseless out of water. This led to the popular belief that he was the most useless member of the team, with many viewers considering him The Scrappy.
    • More generally, the "no hitting" rules imposed by the Moral Guardians of the time ended up making many of the heroes and villains look unusually ineffective. Hawkman and Solomon Grundy were probably the hardest hit given that they were all about melee combat in the comics.
  • In the 2010 Black Panther cartoon, every non-African American character is either evil, stupid, or both. The Juggernaut in particular is depicted as being quite a good deal dumber than usual, at one point being described by the other characters as basically brainless.
Community Feedback Replies: 14
  • March 11, 2013
    Waterlily
    This is a common complaint about Peter Craig from Road To Avonlea.
  • March 12, 2013
    Chabal2
    See also The Worf Effect. Particularly prevalent in Fan Fic where the author dislikes a particular character for any reason.

  • March 12, 2013
    Knight9910
  • March 12, 2013
    Knight9910
    I made your description look like an actual trope description. Hope you like it.
  • March 12, 2013
    Paradisesnake
    I don't really think Gimli qualifies for this. He's more comical in the movies alright, but that doesn't make him any less badass. I mean, come on, he told Aragorn to toss him on a bunch of orcs so he could go defending the gate alone.
  • March 12, 2013
    Knight9910
    • As part of his Character Exaggeration in adaptations (especially as played by Nigel Bruce), this has been true of Watson in most Sherlock Holmes adaptations prior to Sherlock Holmes. Watson in the novels is a crack shot and fairly skilled fighter, as befits a former soldier, but in adaptations, was generally a bumbling Non Action Guy.
  • March 12, 2013
    OmarKarindu
    I suspect this will end up as a YMMV trope to avoid Complaining About Shows You Dont Like.

    Film
    • This happens to Mike Hammer in the climax of Kiss Me Deadly as a deliberate part of the film's Stealth Parody of the Mickey Spillane novels. In Spillane's novel, Hammer kills the villain ess in suitably ironic fashion, but here, Gabrielle instead wounds Hammer in the final confrontation and he must be dragged to safety by his secretary.
    • In the original film adaptation of The Scarlet Letter, Hester ends up marrying Reverend Dimmesdale rather than eventually overcoming the stigma of her letter on her own. The revised ending was due to the Hays Code requiring couples who had sex to be married.

    Western Animation
    • In the first season of Justice League, the writers had Superman succumb to The Worf Effect quite often, inadvertently making him look like one of the weaker Leaguers. They eventually noticed and corrected course, leading to Trope Namer for the World Of Cardboard Speech.
      • Similarly, Green Lantern's ring was used in a much more limited fashion in the early seasons. Eventually, this too changes with the writers lampshading the matter by having his fellow Lantern Katma Tui lectures John on his unimaginative use of the ring.
        • And then there's Wonder Woman very belatedly getting the full powers of her lasso unlocked, finally bringing her up to par with her standard comics incarnation. Justice League was made of this trope.
    • Aquaman's powers and competence were so downplayed in Super Friends that they led to a popular notion that he is the most useless member of the team. More generally, the "no hitting" rules imposed by the Moral Guardians of the time ended up making many of the heroes and villains look unusually ineffective. Hawkman and Solomon Grundy were probably the hardest hit given that they were all about melee combat in the comics.

    Video Games
    • A great many examples of The Problem With Licensed Games stem from unduly weakening heroic or even superheroic characters from other media.
    • Arguably, a number of Superman games, including the notorious Superman64 suffer from downplaying Superman's powers in order to provide some risk for the player character. The problem is that they go too far into this trope and also remove the fun of playing as a ridiculously powerful character like Superman.
  • March 13, 2013
    Knight9910
    Yes, I'm thinking this will DEFINITELY be a YMMV trope.
  • March 13, 2013
    KJMackley
    Or you can keep it objective and make it an actual downgrade of powers rather than just complaining about varying power levels or them not taking full advantage of their powers. Cause the same problem seeped into Adaptational Badass where some examples cropped up that were merely observations about varying strength (like Superman lifting a mountain in one continuity and struggling with an oceanliner in another, it's still on the high end of Super Strength). As a result most of these examples are just bad, Aquaman's problem in Super Friends was not power level or incompetence but being so hopelessly specialized the writing had to strain to justify his presence in the story. But for a better example...
    • Wonder Woman was famously depowered in a 70's TV movie before the more faithful Linda Carter series. She was actually semi-based on the notorious comics retool in the 60's that, while still arguably an Action Girl, made Diana into a secret agent along the same lines as Emma Peel from The Avengers tv show.
  • March 13, 2013
    Knight9910
    Upon looking over some of these examples, I'm not sure what some of these are going for... especially the Scarlet Letter example... it doesn't seem to fit this trope at all.
  • March 15, 2013
    Knight9910
    I've decided to make the trope more objective as per KJ Mackley's suggestion, because I also don't want it to be a YMMV trope. We have more than enough Complaining About Shows You Dont Like tropes as it is.

    Anyway, I know there's only two hats so far, but I think this is looking pretty good and I haven't seen any huge objections. So unless anyone is particularly against it I'm planning on launching by tomorrow.
  • March 15, 2013
    KJMackley
    Trim out all the bad examples so we can see what is left. Then we have a chance at making this trope work.
  • March 15, 2013
    Knight9910
    Been trimming for a bit and I think I've finally gotten all the really bad ones out. For a few of them I think they could possibly work if elaborated on, so I put a note to that effect.

    A few notable cuts:
    • Removed the Golden Sun: Dark Dawn example. It refers to bosses from previous games shown in Theme Park Version, and that's not even remotely this trope.
    • Cut the "The Problem With Licensed Games" example for being too vague. (It basically boiled down to "a lot of video games use this trope" while providing zero examples to support the statement.)
    • Cut the Scarlet Letter example, as it wasn't really this trope either.
    • A good example of what I want to do here - I changed my own example (Avatar the Last Airbender). The previous example, that fans believe Katara was a little less competent, is very much a YMMV, but saying that bending itself is a lot less impressive is an objective statement. The example of firebenders no longer being able to create flame from nothing is even more objectively obvious.
  • March 18, 2013
    Knight9910
    Alright, it's pretty clear that no one has anything more to add on the YKTTW, so I'm going to go ahead and launch.

Three days must pass before this YKTTW is Launchworthy or Discardable