Created By: Hodor on June 30, 2013 Last Edited By: Hodor on October 23, 2015

Adaptational Karma

A character who is a Karma Houdini in source material receives punishment in adaptation

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Up for Grabs. As the Laconic indicates, this trope is where an adaptation has a character receive punishment that was a Karma Houdini in the original work. Sometimes this kind of change is the result of a film being made during The Hays Code or equivalent, or similarly, to appease Moral Guardians.

Additionally, whether or not the first consideration applies, directors might just think a Karmic Twist Ending works better.

In some instances, the film is an adaptation of the first installment of a series, and the change allows for finality when sequels are unplanned or uncertain.

This may overlap with Death by Adaptation and Super Hero Movie Villains Die.

Because of the nature of the trope, spoilers ahead.

Examples:

  • Kind Hearts and Coronets is a case of this in regard to the source novel ''Israel Rank;;:
    • In Kind Hearts and Coronets, the Villain Protagonist narrowly escapes being executed for a death in which he had no involvement, but then the film ends with him realizing that he left his Memoirs (in which he had confessed to everything) in his cell.
    • In the source novel, Israel Rank, there isn't this kind of twist (the Villain Protagonist is on trial for the murders he did commit), but an Adapted Out love interest kills herself and takes the blame for the crimes.
  • The George Sanders film The Private Affairs of Bel Ami has the Villain Protagonist Georges Duroy get in trouble for posing as an aristocrat. In Maupassant's original novel Bel Ami, Duroy gets away with everything and the "posing as aristocrat" is a minor detail (he is from a town called Canteleu starts calling himself Du Roy de Cantel).
  • Layer Cake has an ambiguous ending that implies the drug dealer protagonist's death from a gunshot wound to the chest. In the original novel, he's actually shot in the head, but since his assailant is a bad shot, he lives (but gets a metal plate in his head and experiences some memory issues). At that point, he retires to the Caribbean with the small amount of ill-gotten gains he'd been able to salvage. There is a sequel novel, and so if that is ever adapted, the protagonist will obviously be revealed to have survived, but until then, he's in a Schr÷dingersCast situation.
  • In Muppet Treasure Island, Long John Silver escapes with loot, but it is too heavy for his canoe, and he ends up trapped on a desert island with weird muppets. In Treasure Island, Long John escapes with some loot, and is believed to have settled down after that, and the protagonist makes no effort to pursue him.
  • Topkapi ends with the band of thieves and the protagonist Arthur Smith breaking rocks in prison, but on good terms and plotting escape/future jobs. In the source novel The Light of Day, the thieves escape and Smith (who in both versions was planted as a Sixth Ranger Traitor by the Turkish police) who is a much more anti-heroic character, leaves with a small reward, but is essentially stateless. At the end of the sequel novel Dirty Story (written after Topkapi), he ends up in a slightly better position.
  • Les MisÚrables (2012) has this with the Thenadiers in regard to both the original novel and the source musical:
    • In the novel, M. Thenardier, who is the evilest character in the book, is given money by Marius to settle a debt, and the narration indicates that he became a wealthy slave trader in America.
    • In the musical, Thenardier and his wife (who is Spared by the Adaptation) have the role of Plucky Comic Relief but still do the same evil stuff as in the novel. At the end, they crash Marius' wedding and are paid by him as in the book, and sing a cheery song about how people like themselves who scavenge off society without moral compunction always win.
    • In the newer film (which is mostly an adaptation of the musical but is also in some respects more faithful to the novel), the Thenardiers are physically thrown out of Marius' wedding and don't receive any payment (although oddly, they still sing the same song about "winning").
Community Feedback Replies: 17
  • June 30, 2013
    marcoasalazarm
    The Bad Seed: In the original movie, the Devil In Plain Sight Enfant Terrible Rhoda manages to survive her mother's attempt to kill her when she discovers what kind of being her daughter is and is implied that she has a new victim in her sights. The 1958 movie adaptation, because it was made during the Hays Code era, wasn't going to allow such a monster to live... and because her mother failed, Rhoda was struck down by lightning on the very last scene (an epilogue right after that has the actresses of Rhoda and her mother break character and, in a pretty comedic moment, Rhoda's actress gets spanked).
  • July 1, 2013
    Larkmarn
  • July 1, 2013
    Duncan
    Jenny in the film of Forrest Gump gets an implied Death By Sex (or Death By Fun) that's absent from the novel.
  • July 1, 2013
    robinjohnson
    • Both the 1950s animated film and the 1999 live-action film of Animal Farm end with the pigs' regime falling.
  • July 19, 2013
    yisfidri
    • The film of A Little Princess does this to the evil Miss Minchin, who was a Karma Houdini in the original, by having her lose the school and become a chimney sweep.
  • July 19, 2013
    Chabal2
    While the actual Karma Houdini-ness may vary, many adaptations of The Count Of Monte Cristo replace Morcerf's suicide (due to the Count revealing his sordid past, causing his wife and son to desert him) with a Sword Fight where he is defeated by the Count.
  • October 21, 2015
    yisfidri
    • In the Sherlock Holmes story "The Disappearance of Lady Frances Carfax", the villains get away. In the adaptation by Granada starring Jeremy Brett, they are caught - although Lady Frances also suffers brain damage.
  • October 21, 2015
    Snicka
    • In the book Babar's Story, the hunter completely disappears from the story after killing Babar's mother. In the Nelvana animated series Babar, he returns in a later episode, and dies in a forest fire that he caused himself.
  • October 21, 2015
    DAN004
    Inversion would be someone who gets karma in the original work, but doesn't in an adaptation.
  • October 21, 2015
    Tuckerscreator
    • In the Disney film Pinocchio, Pinocchio merely escapes the Coachman and his slave camp on Pleasure Island. In the video game of the film, Pinocchio kicks the Coachman off a cliff.
  • October 21, 2015
    marcoasalazarm
    Possible Live Action Television example?

    Saturday Night Live adapted the final scene of Its A Wonderful Life for one of their sketches... which immediately goes this route by having the characters pointing out how Mr. Potter had been quite the Karma Houdini up to that moment (like in the original movie) and the mobilizing to lynch Mr. Potter.
  • October 22, 2015
    marcoasalazarm
    Think we also need to add to this Trope cases where the adaptation makes a character a Karma Houdini (probably because whatever part of the work included his karmic payback was not added to the story).
  • October 22, 2015
    DAN004
    ^ that's inverted
  • October 22, 2015
    marcoasalazarm
    Yeah, and still we should add to the description that such a thing exists.
  • October 23, 2015
    Snicka
    ^ Agreed, the Inversion should be pointed out in the description, it helps avoiding misuse.

    Also, the examples should be sorted by medium.
  • October 23, 2015
    Snicka
    • The Wicked Fairy in Sleeping Beauty disappears from the story after cursing the princess, and gets no comeuppance for her evil deed. In Disney's Sleeping Beauty, Maleficent is slain by Prince Philipp when she turns into a dragon to stop him from breaking the curse.
  • October 23, 2015
    IniuriaTalis
    • In Disney's Cinderella, the wicked stepmother and stepsisters don't face any punishment for their treatment of Cinderella besides losing their live-in servant. In the level it inspired in Kingdom Hearts Birth By Sleep, they are killed by an Unversed while trying to keep her from escaping.
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