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Adaptational Heroism

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"Yup, the comic and movie are pretty much identical — as long as you cut out all the 'I make this look good"s and "It just be rainin' black people in New York!"s and replace them with a whole bunch of murder."

The flip side to Adaptational Villainy. While some adaptations make a character more evil, 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 some of the scenes in which they Kick the Dog are cut, or they are a Composite Character with someone who was nice in the original. Perhaps the original suffers from Values Dissonance and is portrayed more sympathetically to match the values of a modern audience. Maybe a Generic Doomsday Villain gains a motive and comes across as an Anti-Villain or a Jerkass Woobie. Another common route is to expand the character's backstory and role, giving them Hidden Depths and Character Development.


A subtrope of Adaptation Personality Change. Compare Adaptational Nice Guy. Contrast Adaptational Villainy. Doing this to a historical person in a work is Historical Hero Upgrade. Fandom doing this to a canon villain is Draco in Leather Pants. Doing this with gods associated with light and the heavens is Everybody Loves Zeus.

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



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  • In both of Robin McKinley's retellings of "Beauty and the Beast", Beauty: A Retelling of Beauty and the Beast and Rose Daughter, Beauty's sisters are portrayed as kind and loving instead of petty and jealous of Beauty. They do start out as somewhat haughty people in Rose Daughter, but even then quickly mellow out once they lose their wealth.
  • In The Divine Comedy, the Titan Saturn is described as "that dear king whose rule undid all evil," ignoring the myth where Saturn ate his own children and waged divine war as soon as they escaped his stomach. This reflects the great difference between the mythological accounts of the Greek titan Cronos and the Roman god Saturn, who were nevertheless regarded by the Romans as somehow the “same”.
  • In Everworld, the Fomorians go from being the divine enemies of the Irish gods, not unlike the Titans or Jotuns, and instead are a race of friendly, dumb Gentle Giants who guard the shores of Everworld-Ireland.
  • The novelization of Halloween strongly suggests that Michael Myers is actually an innocent victim possessed by the ghost of a Celtic murderer named Enda.
  • In Myth-O-Mania, mostly with the help of Hades, encounters with famous monsters from Classical Mythology tend to be resolved peacefully, and many of them are friendly and misunderstood rather than evil. The Hydra becomes one of Hercules's True Companions, and killed humans with her poisonous breath by accident rather than malice. The Minotaur is a perfectly decent vegetarian whose human "sacrifices" are found alive and well, intended as wrestling partners instead of food, while the Calydonian Boar is a down-on-his-luck wrestler who just wants his job back.
  • As opposed to Paradise Lost, Genesis portrays the Serpent as being chiefly responsible for his action and in the last book of the biblical canon, it becomes clear that the Serpent was Satan all along. In John Milton's mind, the serpent was just a mindless animal whose body Satan possessed to carry out his plans. The serpent is just a hapless victim of the Devil's scheming, more innocent than even Adam and Eve.
  • In Prince Caspian, Bacchus and the Maenads undergo this treatment. The original Greco-Roman myths depict Bacchus as a fearsome god of alcohol and madness, and the Maenads as frenzied cultists who partake in orgies of ecstasy and gruesome violence similar to The Wild Hunt. In Prince Caspian, on the other hand, Bacchus is almost like the Disney version of Peter Pan, and the Maenads are the female equivalents of the Lost Boys. To someone versed in Classical Mythology, this comes off like a kiddie cartoon called "Mola Ram and Friends." This is somewhat justified in-story by the implication that they're changed by Aslan's presence, losing the aspects of their character associated with corruption and becoming representatives of harmless joy and high spirits. Susan even comments that "I wouldn't have felt very safe with Bacchus and all his wild girls if we'd met them without Aslan." It's a clear reference to the Christian "baptism" of pagan symbolism (e.g., the use of pre-Christian Germanic traditions at Christmas)
  • In The Secret of Platform 13, all the magical creatures are depicted as basically good, though the more traditionally bad ones generally fall under Bad Is Good and Good Is Bad (like the hags) or Good Is Not Nice (like the harpies). The nuckelavee gets the full treatment, however: not only is there no mention of its poisonous breath, the fact that it has no skin fascinates everybody except Raymond, whose insults make it slink back into the water for another century.
  • Transformers: The Covenant of Primus sees this happen to the Fallen, as his incarnation Transformers Aligned Universe is a far more sympathetic character than previous portrayals have had him, where he was straight-up evil from the get go. This version is heroic and noble, if misguided, before his eventual fall and seeks to atone for his actions It's ultimately subverted as his appearances in Transformers: Robots in Disguise presents him more in line with his Dreamwave and Revenge of the Fallen incarnations.

  • In the Discworld novel Wintersmith, the Summer Lady is callous and uncaring, and it's made very clear that eternal summer would have been just as bad as eternal winter; it's just not what happened. The song "The Summer Lady" in the Steeleye Span Concept Album Wintersmith is about how wonderful she is for ending the cold. (Although the earlier "Fire and Ice" correctly portrays both the Summer Lady and the wintersmith as neither good nor evil, just balanced.)
  • In Mastodon's album Crack The Skye, this happens to Rasputin, of all people. The nameless protagonist of the album is a quadriplegic who accidentally flew too close to the sun while astral projecting, burning away the umbilical that was connecting him to his body. His spirit ended up getting summoned by Rasputin's cult, where he foretold Rasputin's demise. After his prediction came true, Rasputin's final act was to show him how to return to his own body.

    Myth and Legend 
  • In Greek mythology, Ares was a vicious brute, viewed primarily as a destructive and destabilizing force. But his Roman counterpart, Mars, was seen as a more paternal figure who fought first and foremost to secure peace.
    • This was a trend for Roman mythology in general. Romans placed a much higher value on order than the Greeks had, and they tended to portray the gods as more rational and moral in their depictions, with The Aeneid being a classic example.
    • It also helped that Mars and Ares had separate origins, and only later became seen as the same individual. Mars was originally a native Latin god of agriculture, and as a war god he was seen as defender of the land. Ares was always the spirit of bloodlust. The more positive view of Mars continued even after people decided he was also Ares.
  • In Egyptian Mythology, Osiris was an ambiguous deity in the earlier version of his myths who oversaw the weighing of the heart and let souls enter the afterlife if they passed the test. After he was killed by Set and resurrected by Isis and Anubis, he became The Good King of Egypt during the end of the Osirian cycle.


  • Agatha Christie's theatrical adaption of her novel And Then There Were None has two of the ten characters innocent of the crimes of which they were accused, survive, and fall in love. Most film adaptations use this revised ending, although for adaptations where Lombard is replaced by Charles Morley, this trope only applies to Vera, as Lombard was still guilty and committed suicide before the start of the story.
  • Quite a few characters in Wicked, due to the musical's Lighter and Softer nature compared to the book. Book!Elphaba was a very bitter and cynical person even before her Face–Heel Turn, while the play version is a nice but misunderstood girl who never becomes truly evil. Fiyero gets upgraded to a Jerk with a Heart of Gold who genuinely cares for Elphaba, while in the book he just used her for sex. And the Wizard is now a Well-Intentioned Extremist who is being manipulated by Madam Morrible.
  • Herbert West in Reanimator? A dangerous Mad Scientist obsessed with reanimating dead bodies. Herbert West in A Shoggoth on the Roof? A dangerous Mad Scientist obsessed with reanimating dead bodies... to provide humanity with the necessary immortality to combat Eldritch Abominations, with his devoted young wife by his side. He actually winds up the hero of the whole musical because of this.
  • Les Misérables: Like in its film adaptation (see above), Eponine is considerably more sympathetic (and saner) than she is in the original novel.
  • Jean Racine's play Phèdre has Phaedra being a love martyr and trying to fight her forbidden love for her stepson Hippolytus. Unlike the antic myth and previous adaptations, she doesn't accuse Hippolyte of having raped her to her husband Theseus but her nurse does to save her reputation. She kills herself after Hyppolyte's death and reveals his innocence in her last breath.
  • Two different adaptations of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory — the 2005 stage musical Roald Dahl's Willy Wonka and the 2010 opera The Golden Ticket — do this to Willy Wonka. In the book, he's a cheerful Jerk with a Heart of Gold Trickster recluse who isn't one to go out of his way to be nice most of the time. In both of these adaptations, he becomes a Composite Character with the friendly sweetshop owner by way of the latter becoming the former's King Incognito disguise (this is telegraphed so clearly to the audience that there's no reveal of it. Many productions of the former just cast two actors, thus dropping this trope). In this disguise, he gets to know Charlie Bucket and, taking pity on the worthy-but-poor boy, arranges things so that he gets the Wonka Bar that contains the last of the Golden Tickets, whereas in the book Charlie finding his ticket is just a Million-to-One Chance paying off. The 2013 West End stage musical applies this to Mr. Wonka as well, but his masquerade and hand in Charlie's fortune is hidden until the very last moment. And with his greater generosity and sensitive artist's soul also come a darker attitude towards the unworthy, resulting in a complex example of this trope.
  • In the original Heathers Veronica is an Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist Anti-Hero, while J.D. is an Ax-Crazy sociopathic Serial Killer. In the musical, Veronica comes off more as a generally nice (if snarky) girl who got in way over her head, and is too easily manipulated, and while J.D. is still a serial killer he's much less of a sociopath, and more of a Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds that does genuinely care for Veronica. The musical also takes more time exploring the fact that J.D. isn't evil, exactly.
  • Dido gets a more sympathetic depiction in Dido, Queen of Carthage and in Purcell's opera Dido and Aeneas than in The Aeneid.
  • In Jesus Christ Superstar, Judas Iscariot comes off as a significantly better man than he does in The Four Gospels. He's here portrayed as an impassioned activist for the poor, based on the scene in the Gospel of John where he admonishes Jesus for using expensive oil on himself rather than donating it; while this episode is in the Bible, the narration notes that Judas really wanted the money for himself and was just buttering Jesus up. The show also gives him a sympathetic motive for betraying Jesus, namely feeling that Jesus needs to be fed some humble pie before his movement grows large enough to face a crackdown by the Romans, while in the Gospels he was either possessed by the Devil or simply greedy, depending on which one you read. How sympathetic the High Priests and Pontius Pilate are varies heavily by production as well.
  • William Shakespeare's Othello gives some characters this treatment. In the story the play was based on, Cinthio's "A Moorish Captain", some characters were far worse.
    • In the inspirational story, Othello's counterpart "The Moor" actually has "The Ensign" (Iago) bludgeon Desdemona to death with him and then the two of them Make It Look Like an Accident. The Moor then eventually turns on The Ensign not because he realises he has been manipulated but because the latter reminds him of his crime just by being around. He also refuses to admit his crime even after he is caught out. Shakespeare's Othello, by contrast, confesses to his crime almost immediately and chooses strangulation (after toying with poison) because he couldn't bring himself to damage her in such a brutal way; he is also much more of an Unwitting Pawn overall.
    • "The Ensign's Wife" was involved in the murder plot in the original story. While her counterpart Emilia steals Desdemona's handkerchief in Shakespeare's play, she has no idea why Iago wants it and is utterly horrified when she learns the truth.

    Visual Novels 
  • Astoria: Fate's Kiss depicts Hydra, Chimera, and Medusa - monsters from Classical Mythology who existed mostly to be fought by heroes like Hercules, Bellerophon, and Perseus - as heroic characters and possible love interests for the Player Character. The Nemean Lion and Erymanthian Boar, also among the monsters fought by Hercules during his Twelve Labors, are similarly recast as friends and allies of the main characters.

    Web Comics 
  • Beauty's sisters in Megan Kearney’s Beauty And The Beast are kinder and much more complex than they are in the source material. For instance, the part where they ask for gifts from their merchant father is treated not as a serious example of their greed (and they've learned to live with their change in social status in this retelling) but as sarcasm that the father takes at face value.
  • Kipen Manga did an adaptation of "The Wolf and the Seven Kids" where the wolf learns the kids are home alone because their mother got taken to the slaughter-house. Touched by their plight, the wolf performs a Heroic Sacrifice to rescue their mother from being slaughtered.

    Web Original 
  • The Lizzie Bennet Diaries:
    • Lydia Bennet is developed into a much more rounded and sympathetic character than she was in the original book. Whereas the Lydia from the book was a shallow, self-absorbed Bratty Hormone Addled Teenage Daughter who never even realized how much grief she had put her family through, the Lydia in this web series is shown to have a Freudian Excuse for her attention-seeking behavior, genuinely love her sisters, and be consoled by them after George Wickham takes advantage of her trust in him.
    • Mr Collins again who is framed as a more Adorkable character. Additionally his marriage proposal is updated to a job offer instead, and this time Lizzie is portrayed as being rather unreasonable for turning him down.
    • Charlotte's role is greatly expanded to become a friend who is there for Lizzie at several points where she wasn't in the books.
  • In Vaguely Recalling JoJo, J. Geil genuinely cares for Enya and Dio is a good father for Giorno. Also, Dio cares about his minions, as they're alive in later episodes.
  • We Are Our Avatars: Although Tim Langdon was seen in a few scenes so far, he's much nicer than both Hiromu, his Sentai counterpart criticized for his serious characterization, and reboot!Dante. For the latter, arcadiarika states that she's trying to make him nothing like him and attempt to be closer personality-wise to classic!Dante.
  • Gigan in Monster Island Buddies is still one of the villains, but rather than being a Psycho for Hire who chops opponents For the Evulz he is an Adorkable nerdy Punch-Clock Villain who even wants to be friends with Godzilla, his supposed enemy.
  • The fan-made series Nightwing: The Series gives this to Deathstroke. While he initially appears to be as brutal as his comic book counterpart that keeps the Never Hurt an Innocent ideas, it turns out that most of his high-profile victims were responsible for the military experiments that turned him into the proficient killer he is, and are implied to have made him kill children, causing a Roaring Rampage of Revenge. When Slade confronts the last of his victims, he looks like he's about to break down into tears over this. He also favourably compares Nightwing to his son Grant during their last conversation, although we never find out why he views them as alike, since he gets shot in the head by Jason Todd.
  • Hellsing Ultimate Abridged has Enrico Maxwell—rather than gleefully admitting the Vatican's past involvement with Millennium like in canon, here it's the Major who reveals it to Maxwell's embarrassment. He also seemed disgusted to find out that Millennium's Mole was also a Pedophile Priest. This lasts until episode 6, where he becomes a fundamentalist madman like his canon counterpart... by gathering an army to revolt against Pope Francis, mostly because he hates gays and poor people (though he draws the line at hate crimes and racism, when he finds out that the Ku Klux Klan have joined his crusade as well).
  • Carmilla the Series does this to Carmilla herself, taking the unrepentant murderer from the original and making her a Jerk with a Heart of Gold Tragic Villain who performs a Heel–Face Turn.
  • RWBY: The Abridged Series portrays “The Creatures of Grimm” as more quirky intelligent animals and less the murderous psychopaths bent on the destruction of humanity they were in the original show. The avian Grimm Ruby kills was just enjoying his day. The Beowolves are surprisingly polite, even though Weiss started a fight with them and Ruby attacked one of their pack mates with her scythe. They even ask Ruby and Weiss if they need a minute alone after they start arguing with each other and one of them even playfully tells them to get a room. The black head of the dual-headed King Tajitu Ren gets into a fight with was just trying to be nice when questioning whether or not he was lost in the woods and the other head only attacked Ren after he stabbed his friend. As of Episode Four, the Dark Stalker Pyrrha and Jaune run into is the only really bad Grimm and the worst it does is molest Jaune and ignore his safety by tossing him into the forest and in this version, Pyrrha already does stuff like this to Jaune anyway.
  • DC Super Hero Girls takes place in a high school for superhero trainees. Several villain characters are made into heroes, such as Harley Quinn (who's simply a Genki Girl here) and Poison Ivy (who's portrayed as a Shrinking Violet). Being heroic doesn't make you nice though, as characters like Cheetah are bullies. Also, not only is Amanda Waller the head mistress, but Gorilla Grodd and Crazy Quilt are teachers.
  • The Dragon Ball Z Abridged version of Doctor Wheelo, the villain of the second DBZ movie, The World's Strongest, is actually a super smart scientist who made great leaps and bounds in cancer research, but died of lung cancer and had his brain put into an android's body by his Mad Scientist assistant, Kochin. The entire movie shows Kochin perverting Wheelo's work for evil purposesnote  and he only really attacks the heroes because he flips out after discovering Kochin put him into a robotic body. In a strange twist, Wheelo regains his sanity when he flies into space and is struck by how beautiful the Earth is, which lets Gohan talk him down, leading to the heroes using the Dragon Balls to grant him a new body.
    • From the series proper there is Doctor Gero. While still responsible for the same acts as his canon counterpart his obsession with killing Goku stems from Goku killing his son in his attack on the Red Ribbon Army.
    • In canon, Nappa was a sadistic psycho who enjoyed death and destruction for their own sake. But in the Abridged series, it's all but stated that he does what he does because he genuinely doesn't know right from wrong, let alone understand the gravity of his actions. He also gives up being evil after he gets resurrected. On the other hand, canon Nappa did actually care about Raditz to some extent (suggesting that they use the Dragon Balls to wish him back to life) while Abridged Nappa makes fun of him just like everyone else does.
    • Downplayed with Freeza. He's still a genocidal tyrant, but he's not quite as hateful as he was in canon. For one thing, he doesn't show as much sadistic glee in his cruel and brutal acts, and almost comes off as a Punch-Clock Villain at times. During a conversation, he admits that he used to spare children, and only stopped doing so because they'd almost inevitably come after him. He also shows much more care and concern for his higher-ranking minions than his canon counterpart ever did; for example, during the battle with the heroes he mentally agonizes about losing all his elites, says he misses Zarbon when Goku shouts that his butt is flaming, and tries to decide what to give the Ginyu Force's families when he sends his condolences.
    • Paragus is given a much more sympathetic treatment than his canon counterpart. He's still an antagonist, still trying to kill Vegeta for something his father did and he did enslave a race of aliens. However, the Saiyan Prince's Adaptational Villainy in the abridged series makes him more sympathetic in his attempts to murder him, and the aliens he enslaves actually enjoy their situation. Moreover, the most heinous action of his canon counterpart (the havoc of the South Galaxy) is here clearly presented as a horrible accident and he didn't want to lure anyone other than Vegeta onto the doomed planet. Also unlike his canon counterpart, he has no ambitions of galactic conquest. Finally, he never even tried to brainwash his son Broly or use him as a weapon.
    • Speaking of Broly, unlike in canon, he's not a bloodthirsty maniac only kept in check by brainwashing. Rather, he's a harmless, meek, passive, even somewhat Adorkable guy with a violent, brutal, sadistic alternate personality that comes out whenever he hears the name "Kakarot". He and Goku even strike up something of an Odd Friendship before Vegeta starts hammering his Trauma Button.
    • Mr. Satan is in this seat as well. In canon, he's a Glory Hound who proclaimed himself the one who defeated Perfect Cell and really wasn't believing of what the Z Warriors could do until Buu showed up years later. In Abridged, Cell's threat quickly changed his worldview, revealing his personality to be that of Kayfabe and he took to title of victor against Cell because Jimmy Firecracker let him know that the people were probably rioting at this point and they needed a hero, so he took it to calm them down.
  • In Berserk Abridged, Griffith is portrayed as less self-centered and more caring than he is in canon. This culminates in the eclipse. When the Godhand make their offer, he flat-out refuses to sacrifice his friends, and is outraged that they'd even suggest such a thing. It's also worth mentioning that he didn't know Guts still had some healing powder, so he was under the impression that he had no other way to fulfill his dream, or even recover from his ordeal. In other words, he chose to remain a crippled wretch because he cared about his friends too much to sacrifice them.
  • Sword Art Online Abridged:
    • Diabel gets promoted from a Manipulative Bastard using a raid group just so he can be the one to grab a rare item, to a genuinely Nice Guy trying to lead the other players through the first dungeon. Unfortunately he's Surrounded by Idiots, so by the end of his episode he's bought into Kirito's cynical, dismissive worldview.
    • Played with in the case of Akihiko Kayaba. The big difference between this Kayaba and his canon counterpart is that the whole "death game" scenario was the result of a Game-Breaking Bug and Kayaba was so loopy from sleep deprivation that he decided to pretend I Meant to Do That and lock everyone in SAO. By the time he recovered enough to realize what a horrible idea that was, thousands of players had died, so he intervened as a GMPC to try to get the rest through the game safely, to mixed results. When he meets with Kirito and Asuna after their final confrontation, Kayaba insists that he never actually meant for anyone to get hurt... which they take issue with.
      Kirito: Uh, you just killed a guy, like, two minutes ago for mildly sassing you.
      Asuna: Also, you know, us!
      Kayaba: Look, it was a very tense situation, and I think it should be pretty apparent by now that I ain't exactly the picture of grace under fire! Besides, that guy was in the mafia, that's, like, a freebie.
  • Brighthammer 40,000 is a Lighter and Softer take on Warhammer 40,000. Naturally, examples of this abound.
    • For starters, let's examine this setting's equivalent to the Chaos Gods, the Lords of Order. While hardly "nice" in a mortal sense, they're far better than their canon counterparts, and in-universe considered overall benevolent even by their detractors. For example, Nurgle cures sickness instead of inflicting it, while Khorne is a god of honorable combat rather than wanton slaughter.
    • The Imperium of Man, meanwhile, is a far cry from the "Catholic Space Nazis" of the original setting. People are not forced to worship the God-Emperor on pain of death, Xeno subject races have freedom of travel and settlement, and mutants and psykers are not persecuted or mistreated simply for existing.
    • In this universe, Horus and the other traitor Primarchs didn't turn on the Imperium. Instead, they sacrificed themselves to prevent an endless, devastating war between the Imperium and the Lords of Order.
    • While they're still pretty brutal, the Orks have a good deal more nobility and restraint than they do in Warhammer. For example, they have a strong code against harming noncombatants, and any Ork who violates this rule can expect to be beaten within an inch of their lives. They're the lucky ones; non-Orks who break this rule are often singled out for particularly brutal deaths.
  • In Disney's Anne Frank, Joseph Mengele is portrayed as trying to unlock humanity's next stage of evolution through his experiments. IRL, he was literally Playing with Syringes.

     Web Video 
  • The version of Bi-Han (AKA Sub-Zero) in Mortal Kombat: Legacy is shown to be a genuinely heroic figure in stark contrast to him being an outright Jerkass in the game. He is so dedicated to preserving the peace between his clan and the Rhirai Ryu that he forgives Hanzo Hasashi (AKA Scorpion) for the death of his younger brother Kuai Liang (admittedly, Kuai Liang attacked Hanzo, who was merely protecting his wife and son). When Bi-Han finds out that the Rhirai Ryu have been wiped out, presumably by his own people, he is ready to execute them, and only stops when his adviser tells him that something supernatural is afoot (in fact, some of his people were involved, but they thought they were following his orders, when, in fact, it was the sorcerer Quan Chi impersonating him). He joins the tournament specifically to try to get through to Scorpion that they've both been played and is reluctant to fight his old friend. Unfortunately, the undead Scorpion is not in the mood to listen and ends up killing Bi-Han in a gruesome fashion.
  • Fairly common in "Recut Trailers" on YouTube. For example:
  • If the Emperor Had a Text-to-Speech Device: While the Emperor's dickishness is much clearer in this series, and quite pronounced at that, he actually cares about his Primarch as his children, and loves them just like they were his natural sons (though he's still a particularly shitty father). Back in the Black Library books, it's been revealed he never cared about them in canon, at least not as anything more than powerful, yet expendable tools in his conquests.