Adaptational Karma YKTTW Discussion

Adaptational Karma
A character who is a Karma Houdini in source material receives punishment in adaptation
(permanent link) added: 2013-06-30 21:26:44 sponsor: Hodor (last reply: 2015-10-23 19:52:15)

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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.


  • 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").
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