AdaptationalHeroism Adaptational Heroism YKTTW Discussion

Adaptational Heroism
A villain becomes nicer or more sympathetic in the adaptation
(permanent link) added: 2012-08-23 13:07:19 sponsor: blueranger (last reply: 2012-09-28 18:35:47)

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Here's the flip side to Adaptational Villainy. While some adaptations make a character Took a Level in Jerkass, this is the opposite. A character is villainous or just not very nice in their original medium, but when the time comes for the adaptation, things change. Perhaps many insignificant scenes that establish their Jerkass nature are cut? Perhaps they are a Composite Character with someone who was nice in the original? Perhaps the original suffers from Values Dissonance and a cookie cutter villain back then comes across as an Anti-Villain or a Jerkass Woobie? Another common route is to expand the character's backstory, giving them Hidden Depths and Character Development. Contrast Adaptational Villainy and compare Villain Decay.

Note that despite the title, the character need not become an actual hero, just nicer than they were in the original.


Anime & Manga
  • In the anime version of Yu-Gi-Oh, Yugi's Alter Ego is generally played as a noble hero; in the original manga, especially early on, he's somewhere between a Heroic Sociopath and a barely-controllable Superpowered Evil Side.
  • In Sonic X Dr Eggman starts off an Affably Evil villain similar to the games, before becoming more and more harmless, his scruples and respect for Sonic coming into play often, and spends most of the Third Season in Anti-Villain territory. This is even more prominant in the comic adaptation.

  • In the Men In Black films, Agents Jay, Kay, and Zed are heroes. In the obscure comic book the movies are based on, they and the rest of MIB are villains.
  • Jason and the Argonauts has Jason as a Designated Hero who travels all the way to Colchis to rob Aeetes's Golden Fleece because he wants his kingdom back. The Hallmark version of the film changes this as Jason must get the Fleece or else Pelias will kill his mother. Medea gets this as well in both film versions. In the original she was a Manipulative Bitch who made Jason promise to marry her in exchange for her help and she killed Pelias herself when Jason decided not to accept the kingdom. In the Hallmark film she is shown to genuinely love Jason and grieve for the deaths of her brother and father.
  • In Jurassic Park Hammond was a typical Jerkass with plenty of Never My Fault moments and he suffers a Karmic Death. His movie incarnation is a relatively decent man and gets to survive too.
  • Resident Evil: Apocalypse turns game villain Nicholai Ginovaef into a good guy.
  • The Tekken film changes Heihachi Mishima from a Corrupt Corporate Executive to a much more sympathetic character who is revealed to have saved Jun Kazama from Kazuya.
  • Dracula gets this treatment in Francis Ford Coppola's film. He becomes a vampire for renouncing God after his bride kills herself and then falls in love with Mina because she is her reincarnation. Yeah, it didn't make much sense.
  • In the film version of The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, the title character gets a sympathetic backstory for his hatred of Christmas thanks to the feature-length film needing to indulge in a lot of Adaptation Expansion. Interestingly, his sympathetic backstory results in a bit of Adaptational Villainy on the part of the Whos of Whoville.
  • In Daredevil. Elektra wants to avenge her father's death by killing Daredevil, whom she faslely believes to be his killer, ad the worst thing she does is to attack Daredevil under false pretenses. In the comics, she's a contract assassin driven by bitterness her father's death in a botched rescue attempt mounted by SWAT team who was once part of the evil ninja cult known as the Hand.
  • In the second of the Sam Raimi Spider-Man films, Doctor Octopus is rewritten a good man turned into a monster by an accident, and he earns redemption in the films' climax. The Green Goblin is less sympathetic, but gets a dying moment of decency that would be utterly foreign to the comic-book version of Norman Osborn.
    • The Sandman is similarly softened in the third film, but this may simply be an adaptation of his heroic, reformed characterization in the 1980s and 1990s.
  • Happens inadvertently to Narcissa Malfoy in the Harry Potter film adaptations. The films keep her worrying for her son's life and betraying Voldemort at the end but leave out scenes showing her haughty racism and general Rich Bitch attitude before her Heel-Face Turn.
  • In the novel of Matilda Hortensia bullies Matilda and Lavender. In the film she is friendly and protective of them.

Live Action TV
  • The Worst Witch did this with a lot of characters who mostly made one or two appearances in the books but had their roles expanded on the series.
    • Miss Drill was a strict Drill Sergeant Nasty who becomes the teacher the girls can confide in the most.
    • Miss Bat similarly was your average strict teacher as well but got changed to a quirky and lovable Cloud Cuckoo Lander that was always friendly to the girls.
    • Drucilla was simply a friend to Alpha Bitch Ethel but gets a few Hidden Depths moments and even makes a Heel-Face Turn towards the end.
    • Ethel herself gets a few Hidden Depths and becomes a sort of friend to Mildred in the spin-off Weirdsister College.
    • Miss Hardbroom was a Sadist Teacher that got maybe one Pet the Dog moment in the books. She is still a bit of a Sadist Teacher in the series but is much more sympathetic and is shown to genuinely care for the girls and the welfare of the school.
  • In Game of Thrones Jaime's sister Cersai was outright evil in the books but is an Anti-Villain in the series.

Western Animation
  • While not an "adaptation" of The Jungle Book per se, TaleSpin does this to some of it's reinvented characters from the Disney film. In the latter Shere Khan, while affable, was a genuine force of evil and took sadistic pleasure in the idea of killing a man cub. In TaleSpin he is still sinister, but a business man of neutral alliance, interested only in power and having a strong moral code (even siding with Baloo if someone risks offending it). Meanwhile King Louie is altered from a wily troublemaker to Baloo's best friend.
  • A few protagonists in Disney Animated Canon are adapted this way to be more approachable to audiences. While still the heroes in most of the original novels, they are often far more abrasive and self serving, often due to Values Dissonance. Pinocchio for example was altered from a Bratty Half-Pint to a more innocent and merely easily misguided Cheerful Child.
  • Similarly, Thomas the Tank Engine in The Railway Series, while still sympathetic, was much more of a self absorbed Bratty Half-Pint. While the show kept up this depiction for most episodes adapted from the books, it's turn to original stories slowly made Thomas more altrustic and innocent. Some other engines such as Henry and Sir Handel took a similar direction.
  • One of the specialties of Batman: The Animated Series was lending depth to villain whose comics incarnations were essentially doing things For the Evulz. The Mad Hatter has no backstory in the comics, but was introduced in the series as a victim of Love Makes You Evil; minor gimmick crook Mister Freeze's sympathetic reimagining was so successful it was later imported into the comics, albeit with Darker and Edgier elements.
  • The 1990s Spider-Man animated series actually rewrote Kraven the Hunter and Calypso entirely, with both becoming heroes once Spider-Man resolved the issues with their Psycho Serum-derived powers. Similarly, minor villain the Spot was recast as a Punch Clock Villain whose episode shows him going through a Heel-Face Turn after committing a few ill-advised bank robberies. The comics version, by contrast, is an unrepentant petty criminal with a sideline in contract killing.
  • Garfield, while remaining largely the same character in all medias, is hit with this to some extent. The comic strips usually revolve around quick gags involving Garfield's snarkiness or cruel sense of humor. The Animated Adaptations however, likely due to their longer more depthful stories, keep most of Garfield's nastier qualities but also more frequently show his redeeming side, leaning him more into a Jerk with a Heart of Gold. This is especially prominant in The Garfield Show where he is occasionally toned down to the point of being outright altrustic.

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