Created By: RossN on July 17, 2012 Last Edited By: RossN on September 5, 2012
Nuked

Adaptational Heroism

A character is more of a hero in an adaptation than they were in the original material.

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Adaptational Villainy is where a previously not particulary villianous (or occasionally outright good) character is made much more evil in a new adaptation of a story. This trope is the opposite; a character originally portrayed as an outright villain is reinvented as heroic, or at the very least far less evil.

As with Adaptational Villainy this is sometimes the result of the adapted character being a Composite Character in the new story.

In some cases this overlaps with Perspective Flip but not neccesarily so, as there is no requirement for the original heroes to portrayed negatively in the adaptation.

See also Historical Hero Upgrade for the non-fiction counterpart.

Examples:
  • The DC Comics villianess Silver Banshee was turned into a troubled but clearly heroic young woman in the New 52 Supergirl stories whose first appearance has her jumping in front of Kara to stop soldiers shooting her.
  • The Disney villain Pete had his evilness dramatically toned down in Goof Troop, going from sadistic bully and (usually) criminal to a grumpy Jerk with a Heart of Gold neighbour.
  • In the original novel Jurassic Park John Hammond was an unpleasant, ruthless Corrupt Corporate Executive who ended up getting a Karmic Death. In the films he is vastly more sypatheic, being a kindly old man who wants to share his dream with the world.
  • Pelinal in Elder Scrolls lore. A Fantastic Racist Sociopathic Hero prone to fits of homicidal madness, reverred as a hero by humans for saving them from the tyrannous Ayleids, but despised by elves and Khajiit for the destructive pogroms he carried out against both races. When he appears in the Oblivion expansion pack Knight of the Nine, in which he assists you against his nemesis Umaril, his racism and psychopathy is conveniently not mentioned.
  • In the original novel Nineteen Eighty Four, Winston Smith is a self-pitying, hypocritical coward, who was cultivated as a traitor by the Thought Police because he made rebellion against Big Brother look bad. But adaptations usually can't resist making him a heroic martyr.
  • The film version of Kick-Ass makes both Big Daddy and Red Mist much more sympathetic than in the original comic. Film Big Daddy is profoudly messed up but very much a Tragic Hero (as against the liar who is a vigilante for kicks he is in the source material). The film version of Red Mist strips him of his Dirty Coward personality from the comic and plays up his lonelieness.
  • The movie Switch is an unofficial remake of Goodbye Charlie. In both an unapologeticly sexist male Casanova is shot dead and reincarnated as a beautiful woman but in the older film he/she is firmly in Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist territory. In the newer film the reincarnated hero/ine is a much more likable character, actually learns a lesson or two and ends the film on a someone happy note.
Community Feedback Replies: 24
  • July 17, 2012
    Astaroth
    Pelinal in Elder Scrolls lore. A Fantastic Racist Sociopathic Hero prone to fits of homicidal madness, reverred as a hero by humans for saving them from the tyrannous Ayleids, but despised by elves and Khajiit for the destructive pogroms he carried out against both races. When he appears in the Oblivion expansion pack Knight of the Nine, in which he assists you against his nemesis Umaril, his racism and psychopathy is conveniently not mentioned.
  • July 17, 2012
    NimmerStill
    Considering the Jurassic Park example, where in the movie Hammond was hardly a hero, maybe the name should be broader? "Adaptational Sympatheticness"?
  • July 17, 2012
    RossN
    Good point - the intention was to invoke Adaptational Villainy but I'm not wedded to the title. Adaptational Symatheticness is a bit clunky though.
  • July 17, 2012
    NimmerStill
    ^Agreed on the clunkiness. There must be something. "Adaptationally sympathetic"?
  • July 17, 2012
    abk0100
  • July 17, 2012
    Lumpenprole
    In the original novel Nineteen Eighty Four, Winston Smith is a self-pitying, hypocritical coward, who was cultivated as a traitor by the Thought Police because he made rebellion against Big Brother look bad. But adaptations usually can't resist making him a heroic martyr.
  • July 17, 2012
    kjnoren
    Clunky and ambigious title (and this is true of Adaptational Villainy as well): my first thought on that title was with a hero (villain) who adapts to changing/different situations, but still retains his fundamental characteristic as a hero (villain).
  • July 18, 2012
    RossN
    Leaving aside the title for the moment I'm looking for more examples.
  • July 19, 2012
    Tuckerscreator
  • July 20, 2012
    RossN
    As I said I'm looking for examples - we can fix the title later.
  • July 21, 2012
    RossN
    The film version of Kick-Ass makes both Big Daddy and Red Mist much more sympathetic than in the original comic. Film Big Daddy is profoudly messed up but very much a Tragic Hero (as against the liar who is a vigilante for kicks he is in the source material). The film version of Red Mist strips him of his Dirty Coward personality from the comic and plays up his lonelieness.
  • August 4, 2012
    RossN
    Bump.
  • August 4, 2012
    Jordan
    • Harry Lime of The Third Man is basically a deliberate subversion of a Lovable Rogue- while thought of as such by his friend Martins, he's revealed to be an amoral criminal who is completely uncaring about the welfare of others, most notably knowingly selling penicillin which is watered down and won't work. However, following the novel/film, there was a radio series titled "The Adventures of Harry Lime", in which Lime is a Lovable Rogue and more benign Honest John type. Possibly handwaved by being a supposed prequel, so arguably he could have become irredeemable after that.

    • A lot of Gentleman Thief characters are way more heroic in adaptations than they were in original works.
      • Fantomas in the original novel got his kicks from killing people (sometimes lots of people at once) in clever and/or horribly painful ways. However, adaptations tend to play him as an antiheroic master thief
      • The Saint started out as a pulp hero, and like many other characters with that origin, he was a Vigilante Man who had no qualms about killing baddies, sometimes rather nastily (i.e. leaving villains to die in a burning building- admittedly, they planned to do the same to him, but still...). In contrast, he's way more pacifistic in adaptations.
      • Raffles in his original stories wasn't a totally bad guy, but he's basically Sherlock Holmes, including the insufferable personality and borderline sociopathy, except that whereas Holmes solves crimes, Raffles commits them. Raffles is generally a lot nicer in adaptations, and will often steal for a good cause, something he only did occasionally in the original stories.

    • Phoebes in The Hunchback Of Notre Dame is a selfish jerk who leaves Esmerelda to die. His Disney counterpart is a heroic knight.
  • August 5, 2012
    MiinU

    Anime and Manga

    Film

    • Tim Burton's version of Sleepy Hollow portrays Ichabod Crane as a constable (though a Lovable Coward) and a private investigator, who is sent to the eponymous hollow to deal with the Headless Horseman. Whereas, in the novel, he was a grade school teacher and only encounters the Horseman, at the climax, through happenstance.
  • August 7, 2012
    randomsurfer
    The original Cisco Kid in the O Henry short story "The Caballero's Way" is a mean desperado who kills for sport and tricks the Texas Ranger sent after him into killing his* girlfriend while the Kid escapes. The Cisco Kid is a full-on hero who never ever kills.

    *Ambiguous pronoun intentional; the girl is both the Kid's and the Ranger's girlfriend.
  • August 8, 2012
    Psi001
    • In the Kirby games, Meta Knight is more an Anti Hero or Hero Antagonist. In the anime Kirby Of The Stars while King Dedede's minion, he leans far more into heroic territory and often helps Kirby stop the Monster Of The Week.
    • While still a sinister prankster, Beetle Juice of the animated series has a more harmless sense of humor with most of his victims rather karmic. He is also shown to deeply care about Lydia and goes out of his way to help her or those close to her.
    • Similar Screwy Squirrel (renamed "Screwball Squirrel") reappeared in segments of Droopy: Master Detective as a more toned down Karmic Trickster.
  • August 9, 2012
    MiinU
    bump.
  • September 4, 2012
    RossN
    In the original Pink Panther film Inspector Jacques Clouseau was a bumbling Sympathetic Inspector Antagonist on the trail of the Gentleman Thief protagonist. From A Shot in the Dark on Clouseau is, while still a bumbler, solidly the protagonist and solidly a hero.
  • September 4, 2012
    Psi001
    • sigh* Do I really need to retype all the same examples from the duplicate version?
  • September 4, 2012
    randomsurfer
    Control-C is your friend.
  • September 5, 2012
    Folamh3
    • The film adaptation of V For Vendetta removed much of the moral ambiguity present in the original comic, transforming V from an ethically dubious terrorist into a heroic freedom fighter.
  • September 5, 2012
    Folamh3
    Also agree with "Adaptationally Sympathetic" or something like that.
  • September 5, 2012
    ScanVisor
  • September 5, 2012
    randomling
    Possible example: Harry Palmer of The Ipcress File struck me as far more sympathetic in the film than the novel. In the novel he is a selfish snake who is playing both sides against the middle for his own reasons and appears to be ultimately loyal to the Communists; in the film he is much more solidly on the British side of the Cold War and manages to save the day.

    (My memories of both book and movie are fuzzy so someone with better knowledge might want to come in and correct me or elaborate!)
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