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Adaptational Villainy

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Kaa in the original book vs Kaa in Disney's adaptation.

"As many people have noted throughout the years though, Disney has been rather... lax when it comes to adapting books and fairy tales into movies. This is understandable in some cases. Still, it can be a bit galling when one knows that the fire-breathing, demonic witch on the screen was a kindly old lady in the source material."

The villain of an adaptation or retelling of a story is a familiar character who wasn't as bad in the source material. Sure, they may have been a bit of a jerk, or couldn't care less about the good guys, but they weren't evil. Maybe they were even an ally of the main characters who leaned a little too far on the evil side, or a villain with standards or who was known to show a softer side. Maybe the character rubbed the heroes the wrong way, but never caused any real harm and was otherwise a decent person. In any case, the character seriously Took a Level in Jerkass in the P.O.V. Sequel, The Movie, The Film of the Book, or any other reimagining of the original material. Where they were simply a pest before (and never treated as anything worse than that), or even friendly, they now kick dogs for fun.

This trope can take several forms, depending on the adaptation and the character. The True Neutral figure is actively villainous instead of simply not caring or choosing not to get involved. An imposing and potentially dangerous, but ultimately helpful, ally may become an enemy instead. The Anti-Villain and Tragic Villain will probably lose most or all of their sympathetic side and have fewer, if any, nicer moments. The Jerkass companion who is merely contemptible (but still entitled to the same protection as any other non-villain) in the source material will start committing acts in the adaptation that make them an actual enemy. The dangerous but tragic Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds will lose any sympathetic parts of their characterization or backstory, and the Noble Demon will lack most or all of their code of honor. Meanwhile, the Well-Intentioned Extremist's belief that they are doing the right thing is gone, and they do evil things just For the Evulz, even saying so. Sometimes it can be as simple as ignoring a reformed character's Heel–Face Turn or The Atoner's remorse over their past bad behavior. An Unintentionally Sympathetic character or a Designated Villain in the source material may also be given a Kick the Dog moment or two to make the character more obviously vicious and prevent the audience from feeling too sorry for them.

This occasionally happens to characters who were explicitly good guys in the source material, and if it does, it's sometimes a Take That, Scrappy! or to make the character Darker and Edgier. It may be a sign of Character Exaggeration. It can also be done to preserve a twist in the original story by surprising the audience with the identity of the villain, using an unexpected character as opposed to the original villain, who turns out to be innocent in the adaptation.

Note that just because this happens to someone does NOT mean that he or she was a good person in the original.This isn't always a bad thing, however, and indeed some iconic villains have come about in this way, although it will probably lead to accusations of Adaptation Decaynote  or Character Derailment from purists. Sometimes is the result of Composite Character — the composite mixes the harmless character and a more villainous one — or Adaptation Expansion, when there is no obvious villain in the original work, and a Ghost or another minor character gets the part. Sometimes it's to make the moral lines of an otherwise edgy story more clear or to simplify a complex character. A Perspective Flip often uses this deliberately along with Adaptational Heroism to subvert the audience's expectations of who the hero and villain are. If the adaptation does well, the darker incarnation of the character may become more popular and eventually overshadow the original, for a variety of reasons.

It's not Adaptational Villainy if an entirely new character is created to be the villain. This trope only applies if the villain in question is recognizable from the original work, but was a more sympathetic or tragic figure, had some form of standards or sympathetic motivations, had sympathetic moments or people that the villain genuinely cared about, was strictly neutral, was eventually redeemed, showed remorse, or wasn't evil at all. It is also not Adaptational Villainy if a character is Flanderized into being more outright evil than they originally were within a canon, their original, more understandable motives behind their actions are downplayed or completely ignored as the material goes on, or if constantly switching sides is an established character trait.

This trope is Older Than Dirt, since this sometimes happened to religious or mythological figures who, over time, became more malicious than they were in the older versions of their myths due to displacement or conquest, hence the Super-Trope Demonization. Also a subtrope of Adaptation Personality Change. Compare Everybody Hates Hades (when this trope is applied to certain Dark Is Not Evil gods in mythology), Historical Villain Upgrade (a variant for Real Life figures), Ron the Death Eater (when a section of a fandom demonizes a character rather than one specific adaptation), Adaptational Jerkass (where the character becomes more unpleasant in the adaptation, but does not necessarily change alignment), Adaptational Seriousness (where the character loses all of their comedic traits due to their more villainous portrayal in the adaptation), Memetic Psychopath (where the fandom portrays the character as some kind of evil monster for the sake of humor), and Memetic Molester (where the fandom portrays the character as some kind of sexual predator for the sake of humor). Contrast Took a Level in Jerkass, in which the character becomes more unpleasant canonically because of Character Development and Adaptational Sympathy, in which a character's initial villainy is portrayed in a softer light. Might overlap with Heinousness Retcon.

For the inverse where a villain or Anti-Hero is softened in the adaptation, see Adaptational Heroism.

Example subpages (the medium is the adaptation's):

Other examples:

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  • In most Judeo-Christian Art, Eve is often portrayed as a passive waif who was easily fooled by the snake into partaking in the Fruit of Knowledge. In The Sin, Eve is portrayed as more of a Femme Fatale (a recurring trope found in the Symbolist Movement) and an almost Lilith-like Embodiment of Vice; the Chiaroscuro of the painting emphasizing her breasts and naval to catch the eye of the viewer, keeping the viewer unaware of the Obviously Evil snake coiling around her body ready to strike.

    Comic Strips 
  • The 1978-1988 Winnie the Pooh comic strip, syndicated by King Features and based on the Disney movies based on the book, has gained some memetic steam on the Internet for its portrayal of the usually kind-hearted and sugary-sweet Pooh as a complete jerkass, usually for the sake of a punchline. It's all the more funny (or disturbing) because his face is still fixed in that innocent Disney-merch smile.
    Pooh: You take yourself too seriously, Eeyore.
    Eeyore: You mean I should laugh at myself, Pooh?
    Pooh: Why not? Everyone else does.

    Pooh: How are you, Piglet?
    Piglet: Well, actually, Pooh... I didn't sleep too well last night and...
    Pooh: Please, Piglet! I was just being nice! I don't have time for all that today!

    Eastern Animation 
  • In the original book version of Adventures of Captain Vrungel, Archibald Dandy, the Speaker of the Yacht Club, started off on the wrong foot with the protagonists over him mistaking them for thieves and getting into a fistfight with Captain Vrungel, but after the misunderstanding gets cleared up, he befriends the sailors and helps them win the regatta. In the animated series, he is revealed in the last episode to be the mysterious mafia boss Chief who organized the theft of the Venus de Milo, while the book's actual main antagonist, Admiral Kusaki, was Adapted Out.

    Fairy Tales 
  • "One-Eye, Two-Eyes, Three-Eyes": In the original German tale, Two-Eyes is her mother and sisters' abused victim. In a Russian version, Two-Eyes is just as evil and abusive as her sisters, and the heroine is an orphan living with the family.

  • Alice's Adventures in Wonderland:
    • The Queen of Hearts is clearly a mean woman and a blustering jerkass type, but calling her evil might be stretching the definition a little; though she often calls for people to be beheaded, her husband secretly pardons most of the people she condemns, and the Griffon tells Alice that, "It's all in [the Queen's] fancy, you know. They don't actually execute anyone." Nonetheless, you can be sure in almost any modern story where Alice is portrayed as the protagonist, the Queen of Hearts (often conflated with the Red Queen) will be the villain, and portrayed as far more evil than Carroll could have ever imagined. Whereas Alice's trial in the book ends with her realizing that the Queen of Hearts' threat against her is empty and dismissing the Queen's court as a pack of playing cards, in the 1951 Disney version, the Queen of Hearts is portrayed as a genuine threat, and the trial ends with Alice running for her life from the Queen and her soldiers before waking up.
    • Then there's Tim Burton's movie and the popular video game. Then Queen of Hearts is a mad tyrant in the first, and an Eldritch Abomination in the second.
    • The Jabberwock is often both this and an Ascended Extra in such works, seeing as the evil beast wasn't even an antagonist for Alice in Through the Looking Glass, only appearing in the now-famous poem that she read. The poem became so popular that most modern adaptations include the creature as an adversary for Alice and the heroes in general.
    • The Cheshire Cat gets this sometimes; while he is a bit mean in the original books, he's ultimately an ally of Alice and an example of Dark Is Not Evil. Stories based on the books sometimes have role filled by a malicious or even outright demonic counterpart: (Mario) The Music Box and Alice Mare are great examples.
  • In Angels of Music, a Massive Multiplayer Crossover of fictions written or set in the 19th century, all the villains are borrowed from other works and they generally become more villainous in the process. "The Mark of Kane", for instance, features Charles Foster Kane as a James Bond-style evil mastermind. "Les Vampires de Paris" takes a character who in his own work has a penchant for elaborate revenges that are embarrassing but essentially harmless, and turns him into a revenge-driven crusader with a taste for Death by Irony.
  • Another Sherlock Holmes-related example features in The Beast of the Stapletons, which is essentially a sequel to The Hound of the Baskervilles, opening with Sir Henry believing that he is being stalked by a giant blood-sucking moth that killed his new wife Audrey. In the course of their investigation, Holmes and Watson learn that some prior allies have more malicious intentions; Beryl Stapleton has suffered a mental breakdown and created the giant moth because she blames Sir Henry for her subsequent traumatic miscarriage, and Doctor Mortimer is revealed to be the step-brother of Professor Moriarty (his mother married Moriarty's father), who now blames Holmes for his brother's death.
  • An interesting example of this occurs in the novel A Betrayal in Blood by Mark A. Latham, which sees Sherlock Holmes investigating the events of Dracula, with Holmes starting from the premise that Dracula was never a vampire. With the novel written to put a 'realistic' take on the case where Dracula was only human, Quincey Morris is the only member of the 'Crew of Light' whose intentions were always honorable while Holmwood was explicitly manipulated; the Harkers killed Jonathan's employer to take the firm for themselves, Seward was incompetent at best and blindly devoted to Van Helsing at worst, and Van Helsing's actions are revealed to be driven by a desire for revenge against Dracula, who once had an affair with Van Helsing's wife that resulted in the birth of Arthur Holmwood. Rather than a learned man trying to destroy a centuries-old monster, Van Helsing is a petty man who manipulates the man who is essentially his step-son into killing his biological father to avenge his perceived past slight.
  • The Elder Things in Cthulhu Armageddon by C.T. Phipps, depicted by H. P. Lovecraft as A Lighter Shade of Black, and an educated cultured race are shown to be a vicious monstrous one that John hates with every fiber of his being. This may be because they are slavers and they are John's Berserk Button.
  • The Divine Comedy: In a deviation from The Odyssey, the Odysseus portrayed testifies that his voyages ended when he arrogantly tricked his men into going on a suicide mission. For that crime not found in his poem of origin, Odysseus is burned forever in a tongue of fire.
  • The Doctor Who Expanded Universe novel The Resurrection Casket is Treasure Island IN SPACE! Drel McCavity (the Squire Trelawney character) turns out to be a villain, but not quite as much of one as Salvo (the John Silver character), who's been "upgraded" to Faux Affably Evil.
  • Dragon Keepers:
    • In the original story of "Saint George and the Dragon" and most reworkings of it, Saint George is the hero, or at worst a Well-Intentioned Extremist (usually in versions where the dragon is misunderstood and George assumes it's dangerous). For example, in The Reluctant Dragon, he becomes the title character's friend. Even in retellings where the dragon is Spared by the Adaptation, George usually convinces it to make a Heel–Face Turn, sometimes by converting it to Christianity. These books make Saint George a Villain with Good Publicity who enslaves magical creatures and kills harmless and intelligent dragons for purely selfish reasons (to drink their magical blood) while the princess he saved is an evil witch. The dragon from the original tale tells his own side of the story, in which he was a benevolent sorcerer betrayed and killed by George.
    • Later in the series, Beowulf gets the same treatment - he became immortal by drinking a dragon's blood and faked his death (in the original story he and the dragon died in a Mutual Kill). He disguises himself as a Bad Santa along with trolls disguised as Christmas Elves, is Cruella to Animals, and antagonizes the protagonists by trying to steal dragon eggs. While less heroic versions of Beowulf have been done before and since, few are as outright villainous as this take on him.
  • Frankenstein's Monster gets this a lot. Dozens of interpretations of the character portray him as an evil fiend, rather than the misunderstood and rejected outcast he was in the original novel. (Mostly due to Artistic License as a plot demands.)
    • His creator gets hit with this just as much, if not more. In the novel, while Victor Frankenstein is slightly morally unhinged and very self-absorbed Byronic Hero, he isn't completely unlikeable. However, the various adaptations of the story have him be an Ax-Crazy Mad Scientist with a strong God Complex who lacks the (few) redeeming qualities of the original character.
  • The mice from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy — in the radio play, they are fairly amiable, and upon discovering that Arthur is in the ideal position to find the ultimate question, offer to make him "a reasonably rich man" if he does. In the book and subsequent adaptations, however, they are much more sinister, plotting to steal his brain in order to read the question from it.
  • I Am Mordred: Merlin here is a cruel wizard with no redeeming traits we see, pushing King Arthur to kill his son when he's prophesied Mordred will be his downfall.
  • In The Land Before Time, even though Sharptooth managed to terrify a generation of children, it's not clear if he can truly be called evil, and there's a distinct possibility that he's just hungry. The novelization adapted from the original screenplay, however, portrays him as a narcissistic serial killer who's after the hatchlings out of petty revenge and is implied to kill For the Evulz, hence why he ends up actively seeking out the entrance to the Great Valley in the climax.
  • Land of Oz:
  • The swan knight in German legends (usually named Lohengrin) is a hero who rescues the girl and marries her. In Robert Southey's ballad Rudiger, he's the villain who sold his soul to the devil and nearly threw his infant son right into hell as part of the deal.
  • Myth-O-Mania has some in-universe examples:
    • When Zeus rewrote the stories of Classical Mythology, he exaggerated monsters' scariness to glorify the heroes. (eg, The Minotaur went from being a vegetarian to eating humans.)
    • Zeus claimed that Hades kidnapped Persephone, when actually she hitched a ride on his chariot while running away from her overprotective mother. Persephone's opinion is shown by her choosing to stay in the underworld by eating the refreshments laid out for a party: "It was very good dip."
  • In Noob, the novel version of Donteuil in regards to the webseries one. When that fact that Fantöm's avatar was illegally enhanced get revealed in the webseries, Judge Dead is the one who decides to blame the whole thing on its Locked Out of the Loop victim. A couple of webseries scenes give the impression that Donteuil has a My God, What Have I Done? feeling towards the victim in question and it's via Donteuil that the audience eventually finds out that the victim's situation isn't as bad as it first looked. In the novels, Donteuil seems to be the one who decided to pull the "blame the victim" move, while the "situation not as bad as it first looked" reveal comes from a Fictional Document provided by another character that gets no mention in the webseries.
  • SD Perry’s Resident Evil’s books do this to Wesker, Chief Irons and Nikolai who were already bad guys in the games but the books make them overtly vile and depraved.
    • Irons is a sexual predator as files reveal in RE2, but the worst thing he does in the original game is point a gun at Claire. In the novelisation, Irons outright attempts to rape (and taxidermy) Claire, before the mutated William Birkin ironically saves her by killing Irons.
    • Wesker, whom has multiple Affably Evil moments in the games is made to be a leering creep upon his resurrection in the books, as in the Code Veronica book he gloats to Chris that very much intends to rape Claire which triggers Chris’s brotherly Berserk Button.
    • Nikolai gets it the worst as in the original RE3 he was a Punch-Clock Villain at worst who was extremely polite to Jill and others, whereas in the book he’s a complete sadist who takes obscene pleasure in the suffering he causes to his targets and victims. Nikolai even tries raping Jill before Implacable Man Nemesis comes in and unintentionally protects Jill by slaying Nikolai.
    • Inverted for Ada, whom is given Adaptational Sympathy in stark contrast to the games where she actually enjoys being a Femme Fatale Spy with a Chronic Backstabbing Disorder.
  • In the Secret Agent Mummy series, Sobek is a vicious God of Evil who demanded to be worshipped above the other members of the Egyptian pantheon, was temporarily destroyed by the other gods when he threatened to destroy Egypt in revenge, and later attempts to forcibly turn the world's animals into crocodiles. While Sobek was a complex and ambiguous figure in mythology, he wasn't outright evil, had several prominent positive aspects, and didn't cause trouble for the other gods.
  • The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman takes the wicked fairy from "Sleeping Beauty" and makes her much worse. The story explicitly rules out justifications such as her responding to an insult from the royal family, and establishes that the curse she put on the princess was part of a premeditated scheme to boost her own power. The curse itself is made much crueler: the girl sleeping in the high tower is the wicked fairy, regaining her youth and beauty by leaching the life force out of the sleeping inhabitants of the castle and its surroundings, while the princess was cursed to stay always awake and keep guard.
  • In Sonic The Hedgehog, Knuckles was misled by Dr. Robotnik into fighting Sonic in Sonic the Hedgehog 3, but quickly made a Heel–Face Turn after realizing his mistake and has generally been a firm ally ever since. In The Sonic the Hedgehog Joke Book, he seems to be one of Robotnik's full-time minions.
  • The nursery rhyme "There Was a Crooked Man" has had multiple villainous adaptations. The nursery rhyme only has one stanza and doesn't feature any scares at all. In recent years however the nursery rhyme has the titular character become an embodiment of depression or the murderous ambition for avarice.
  • Happens to Agamemnon in The Troy Saga. While Agamemnon wasn't the nicest character in the original poems and he did serve as antagonist to Achilles but in the series he is as close to pure evil as the series gets. The entire war is of his creation and one that he had been planning for years, whereas in the original myths he was responding to a grievance initiated by Paris.
  • Twilight Sparkle and the Crystal Heart Spell: By the end of Magic Duel, it seemed like Trixie made a full Heel–Face Turn (Which the comic follows through on), which makes her return to an antagonistic role in this book rather jarring.


    Mythology and Religion 
  • Arthurian Legend:
    • Mordred went from playing a small but important role as the killer of Arthur (and something of a Worthy Opponent) to becoming Arthur's evil illegitimate son and in earlier versions Evil Nephew who was connected to Morgan le Fay. In his earliest appearances, it isn't clear whether Mordred and Arthur were enemies at all - it is only said that Mordred fought in the battle in which Arthur was killed, without making it clear whether they fought on the same side or opposing ones.
    • Morgan le Fay herself was, in her earliest incarnations, a healer who helped Arthur by preserving his immortality, not the evil witch seen in later versions of the story.
    • A story that Arthur killed his own son in battle is actually one of the earliest recorded; presumably Mordred's villainy was developed to make this okay (though said son was not Mordred but Amr who is absent from most later legends, while Mordred himself in these legends was Arthur's Nephew).
  • Classical Mythology:
    • Odysseus, while respected by many of his enemies for his cunning and tactical skills in Greek myths, was viewed as a liar and a cheat by the Romans (such as Virgil), who treated him as a pure villain and placed far less emphasis on his good characteristics. In The Divine Comedy, Dante placed Ulysses in the hell of evil counselors.
    • The Greeks from the Trojan War got this in general from the Romans and their later followers. The Romans were supposedly descended from the Trojans (specifically Aeneas), so naturally they weren't happy by the way their ancestors had been treated.
    • Ironically, the original founding myth of Rome held the city was founded by a son of Odysseus and Circe. It's not entirely clear when the now far better-known tale of Romulus and Remus, descendants of Aeneas, founding the city displaced that story. It's presumed that this happened because the increasingly powerful Rome wanted to be seen as separate from the no-longer-dominant Greeks rather than descended from them.
  • Egyptian Mythology: Although Set feuded with Horus after killing Osiris, he was originally the protector of Ra from the evil serpent Apep, who he fought every night, and was worshiped in his own right. After Egypt was split between the Upper and Lower Kingdoms, he became an evil god in Lower Egypt and his positive aspects were handed over to other deities. His worship as the god of foreigners almost entirely stopped after the Hyksos invaded Egypt. The part about Set aiding in the fight against Apep survived this shift in his nature, but it became a matter of Evil Versus Oblivion, rather than any semblance of heroism. He fell into decline as the trio of Osiris, Isis, and Horus rose in prominence. Different cult centers always had different opinions on everyone. He was also associated with the desert, which seems to have gotten less awe and more resentment over time.
  • Norse Mythology:
    • Loki's daughter Hel, the Norse goddess of death. Older myths suggest that she was originally a serene guide to the underworld for people who died of natural causes, and early descriptions of her realm Helheim aren't particularly negative. Later myths portray her as a hag preparing an army of the dead for her father, and Helheim itself is the origin of the word "hell".
    • Loki himself started out as a much more good-natured trickster, who was the Guile Hero to Thor's Action Hero. They were also drinking buddies. He was still often a troublemaker, but it wasn't until later myths that he shifted to being outright malicious. Many scholars of Norse mythology have even concluded that Loki is one half of a Decomposite Character as the myths expanded and shifted. Loki is also the rare case where the dissonance between earlier and later versions of the character is acknowledged within the canon of the myths, with the story of Loki's murder of Baldr being his Face–Heel Turn.
  • In the Old Testament of The Bible, Satan was portrayed more as a tester of mankind who worked on God's orders, as in the Book of Job. The New Testament made him out to be pure evil and working against God.

  • The Midwestern Brotherhood of Steel are just downright fascist in one of the worlds from We Are Our Avatars, they even tortured an Enclave soldier even though he's a Punch-Clock Villain.


  • Over the course of act one of Pokémon World Tour: United, Jesse and James from Pokémon: The Series are discovered to be among the ranks of Team Rocket. Given their reputation as an incompetent Goldfish Poop Gang, it would be easy to assume they're in its lower ranks just as they are in the anime. Especially given that United's Team Rocket has misdeeds ranging from a Jigglypuff Fight Club, brainwashing its members into its service, and causing chaotic weather by subduing one of the Legendary Birds. However, the climax of act one reveals that they aren't the mere Grunts they were when Giovanni was in charge. No, Jesse and James are the leaders of the new Rocket Regime, the ones creating and implementing all these plans.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons: In 3rd Edition, steel predators are True Neutral, animalistic beings with no greater aim than to keep themselves fed, and only hunger for metal. In 5th, they're Lawful Evil killing machines created for the sole purpose of tracking down targets across the planes and assassinating them, and sometimes go rogue and begin to kill indiscriminately.
  • Legendary, a Marvel Comics card game, has J. Jonah Jameson go from being a pain in Spider-Man's backside to a Master Villain who can attempt the same kind of Schemes as Ultron or Doctor Doom.
  • Pathfinder:

  • Jacob Marley is much more malicious in Ebenezer than in A Christmas Carol. He was in a one-sided love with Scrooge and Fran's mother despite her having a husband, impregnates and kills Fran as an act of revenge on their family, convinces Scrooge his fiancee Emily was cheating on him, and convinces him to foreclose Emily's orphanage on Christmas Eve, killing everyone there. Scrooge is even worse, because when Dickens reveals Marley's crimes to him, he reveals he'd known about Marley from the start and is fine with all they'd done, including viciously attacking Emily himself and ordering the foreclosure. This is in contrast to the book, where they're simply a pair of greedy, self-interested businessmen.
  • In The Golden Ticket, an opera adaptation of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Spoiled Brat Veruca Salt - already an unlikable character in the source material - agrees to a deal with a TV reporter to secretly film and photograph the titular, top-secret factory during the Golden Ticket tour — which makes her and her dad, who goes along with the plan, spies. As well, she's much nastier in her selfishness than in other versions, and specifically contrasted with poor-but-good Charlie Bucket throughout. With this in mind, while the novel and all other adaptations have them the third group to be eliminated from the tour, here they're the fourth and last to go, with Mike Teavee's group being the third instead rather than fourth like they usually are.
  • This happens to several characters in Love Never Dies, the sequel to The Phantom of the Opera. The trope applies in two ways, both because characters from the first musical undergo villain transformations and because in The Phantom of Manhattan (the Frederick Forsyth novel that was the result of early work on what became this show) contains no such transformation, instead having the villain be a completely new character who didn't make it to the stage. Madame Giry is more-or-less the main antagonist, and only helps the Phantom for the reward it earns her. Meg gradually loses her sanity while trying to start a relationship with the Phantom, culminating in her kidnapping and attempting to drown Gustave, then ultimately shooting Christine. Meanwhile, more adaptational Jerkass than villainy, but Raoul is now a cranky alcoholic whose gambling has put the family in a load of debt, and no longer feels the love for Christine that he once did.
  • Compared to his animated counterpart who was half of a Bumbling Henchmen Duo, Hotep in The Prince of Egypt goes from comic relief to The Dragon, who eventually goes into full The Starscream mode and takes control of the troops from an indecisive Ramses at the Red Sea.
  • The Boyg was originally a troll/monstrous abomination from the stories of Asbjřrnsen and Moe. The original Per Gynt managed to finish it by shooting it point blank between the eyes. In the play Peer Gynt, written by Henrik Ibsen, the Boyg is an almost invincible Adaptational Abomination that does a Mind Rape on the titular character, and who is the driving force for Peer´s demise throughout the play, actually the real Big Bad (set up against the true Big Good: Solveig).
  • In The Ring of the Nibelung, Hagen goes through this. He is largely a Composite Character of Hagen from The Saga of the Volsungs and Nibelungenlied. However in the Volsung Saga he is Gunther's heroic brother and though a more villainous figure in the Nibelungenlied, murdering Siegfried, there he is acting out of loyalty to Gunther. In the Ring Cycle Hagen is the son of the main villain Alberich and murders Siegfried and Gunther for the Ring of Power.
  • In The Tale Of Tsar Saltan, it happens to the tsaritsa's two elder sisters. In the original fairytale, they only turn on her after she marries the Tsar and they get jealous. In the opera, they are Big Sister Bullies towards her even before that. In addition, they are terribly lazy, while the fairytale gives no indication of that.
  • Brecht's The Three Penny Opera makes Macheath considerably more unpleasant than he was in The Beggar's Opera. In the original play, Macheath is a gallant highwayman who doesn't kill except in self-defense, and while utterly incapable of remaining faithful to one woman, is an overall nice guy. In contrast, Macheath in Brecht's play is a mass murderer and rapist and only rarely pleasant. An additional change is that lines from the original play given to Peachum involving plans to sell out criminal associates to the authorities with full knowledge they will be hanged is given to Macheath in The Three Penny Opera, changing Macheath from an example of Honor Among Thieves to one of No Honor Among Thieves.
  • Wicked the musical is still an example, but is more sympathetic to The Wizard than the book version above, portraying him as a sort of a Well-Intentioned Extremist who is puppeteered by Madame Morrible and generally seems to want the best for Oz, as long as he remains its leader.
  • In Wonderland: Alice's New Musical Adventure, the Mad Hatter becomes female and the play's main antagonist, with the March Hare as her Dragon. In the book, he's scatterbrained, but not particularly malicious about it.
  • Be More Chill's version of The SQUIP is much more malicious than its book counterpart. In the books it did have its moments of manipulation and haughtiness, but by the end it knew when it had failed and apologized to Jeremy upon failing to help him get Christine. The musical's version is an unrepentant Jerkass who uses cruel insults to push Jeremy into being "cool", and nearly allows Jeremy to be raped at a party. Upon realizing Jeremy was going to rebel against his words, his next course of action is to Take Over the World by brainwashing anyone he could encounter.

    Theme Parks 
  • In The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man at Universal Studios, Ned Leeds is the Hobgoblin; who in the comics was merely brainwashed into temporarily becoming the villain, whereas here he appears to be all-evil.
  • In the horror attraction Pinocchio Unstrung at Knott's Scary Farm, Pinocchio himself is transformed from a mischevious do-gooder to a sadistic Serial Killer. Seeking revenge for not having his wish to be a real boy granted, Pinocchio murders and mutilates a town, takes over Pleasure Island, and builds a massive duplicate of himself out of human bones and skin.

    Visual Novels 
  • In Astoria: Fate's Kiss, Hercules - who certainly has problems but is generally considered a hero in Classical Mythology - is the main antagonist of Hydra's route, taking advantage of his status as the son of Zeus to use H.E.R.A. resources while acting outside of their chain of command. He turns out to have assaulted several people, including his own ex-wife, in order to steal the Auras that are the sources of their power for his own use.

    Web Animation 
  • Toon Sandwich's Super-Villain-Bowl strangely groups Godzilla and King Kong among the villains even though from their inception they were both misunderstood creatures meant to show that Humans Are the Real Monsters. Also it’s the MonsterVerse Godzilla featured in the Bowl, who’s explicitly a hero (albeit a destructive one). Likewise Seth Brundle and Carrie White from The Fly (1986) and Carrie (1976) aren’t truly villains, more tragic victims but like the aforementioned Kaiju are placed among serial killers and dark lords due to their antagonistic roles at the end of their films. The Suicide Squad, Catwoman, Nebula and Maleficent are more marginal cases since, they’re still considered villains in their own films despite really being anti-heroes. Especially since Nebula pulled a Heel–Face Turn and its the 2014 version of Maleficent featured, who got Adaptational Heroism compared to her firmly villainous cartoon version. Subverted ultimately since they all join the heroes to defeat Oscar anyway before building their own society.
  • Bluehaired Kona's YouTube Poops demonize various The Simpsons and Futurama characters for comedy. Homer Simpson, normally a goofy but well-meaning Bumbling Dad, is now a mass-murderer, serial rapist and domestic abuser, while Zoidberg snaps from the Planet Express crew insulting him and rapes, murders and mutilates Professor Farnsworth, Hermes and Fry in retaliation.
  • Cupcakes (Sergeant Sprinkles): In the official series, My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, Pinkie is a cute bubbly comic relief character. Here, she's a cannibalistic psychotic murderer.
  • In Dragon Quest, The Heroes of the game are well, The Hero. But in CPU Championship Series, The Heroes are petty people who jump the winner of a tournament because he beat them in bracket. In a 4v1 battle. It was a Curb-Stomp Battle. As well, Ness is also treated as a Heel.
  • DEATH BATTLE!: This is an Enforced Trope in quite a few battles, thanks to characters having all personality restraints to killing removed as one of the rules. These two particular examples stand out:
  • In Freeman's Mind 2, Dr. Isaac Kleiner seems as friendly and endearingly quirky as he does in the source material, but Gordon Freeman remembers him differently. According to Gordon, Kleiner is an amoral Mad Scientist who treats anyone who isn't Gordon as disposable (and Gordon relents on complaining about putting on the HEV suit when he sees the look Kleiner gives him) and will do anything and sacrifice anyone For Science!.
  • The various "Grounded" videos made through GoAnimate tend to make "baby show" characters, such as Caillou and Dora the Explorer from well-adjusted and lovable characters to spoiled brats who enjoy causing all sorts of destruction and mayhem. It doesn't help that, at times, their parents are just as bad.
  • The Mario Brothers version of Bowser depicts him as a callous, genocidal monarch, whereas the games portray him as merely a brutish kidnapper with a buffoonish edge and an implied soft spot for Peach.
  • McBusters:
    • The McNugget Buddies go from being harmless and amiable to bloodthirsty monsters that enjoy killing people.
    • Birdie the Early Bird was as friendly as any other McDonaldland mascot, but here is reinterpreted as a demonic hallucination appearing in Mayor McCheese's food coma who initially appears beautiful and seductive before revealing her true colors and vigorously pecking at McCheese's groin.
  • Mr. Turtle gets this treatment in Mongolian Erectile Dysfunction, an animated short that spoofs the classic Tootsie Pop commercial. The original commercial had no indication that Mr. Turtle was a pedophile intent on raping the boy with a Tootsie Pop.
  • Power Star gives us the boos, who in the Mario games are usually portrayed as spirit mooks who only attack Mario whenever he isn't looking toward them. But here, they are shown as clever and frightening demons who corrupt Mario and turn him into a killing machine in their pursuit for the namesake talismans.
  • Prostitute Mickey does this to a few Disney characters, mainly to establish exactly how crappy Mickey's life is in the series.
    • Mickey's best friends Goofy and Donald have become a drug addict prone to committing robberies and a legless cripple prone to giving Mickey violent threats respectively.
    • The Christmas Episode features a character named Ebenezer, who is essentially the series' version of Scrooge McDuck. While most incarnations of Scrooge have been greedy and cheap at worst, Ebenezer was a pedophile who paid children to let him urinate on them, and one of the children he did this to was a younger Mickey.
  • Francis to an extent in SMG4. While he was a major boss in Super Paper Mario, in that game he was shown to be an extremely awkward and inept otaku who ended up being sympathetic because he just wanted to have friends. Meanwhile, the SMG4 version is a genocidal, perverted mass kidnapper who traumatised Meggy for the rest of the series by murdering Desti.
  • in Starshine Carly, Apple Blossom is a good person in the original series, but a bad person here.

    Web Comics 
  • Aisopos offers us two examples:
    • Yadmon, in Real life, actually cared about Real Life Aesop and tried to free him. In the webtoon, he killed his parents, tormented him on a daily basis, hunted him down for ten straight years after Aesop managed to escape, and still treated him the same awful way he did when the latter was a kid.
    • In Real Life Solon was a benevolent law-maker who reformed the Drakonian Laws into a system that was much more humane and fair than before. He went into a self-imposed exile because he thought his laws were as fair as they could be and he didn't want to be forced to change them. In the webcomic he is an Anti-Villain who organizes a coup that goes horribly wrong in order to get rid of Athens' corruption and emancipate the slaves. He ends up unwittinlgy helping Yadmon gain ultimate political power and causes Aesop's death. He is understandably horrified and goes into self-imposed exile because of that instead.
  • Akuma's Comics: The main villainous organization is the Ministry, which along with both villains from canon work and original characters have Android 17 and Julie-Su as members. In canon Julie-Su was a straight up hero and 17 started as an Anti-Villain before becoming an aloof Anti-Hero. Here not only are both villains, but 17 is loyal to Dr Gero instead of being rebellious.
  • Avengers… Adventure!!!: This version of Tony Stark is stated from the get go to be lining his pockets with tech sold on the black market, before the events of the movie/campaign cause him to become a better person.
    • Pepper Potts undergoes this as well in the Iron Man 2 chapter, having hired Whiplash to kill Tony.
  • Darths & Droids does this to Han Solo, who shortly before being frozen in carbo... er, alcohol, admits he's been feeding information the the Empire for months. Jim was really impressed with how Annie roleplayed Anakin's Start of Darkness and wanted to do the same. Similarly, this also applies to Padme Amidala, because she's Darth Vader in this version.
  • In Real Life, Guy Fieri is a fairly kind man who likes to help out others and has a chain of successful restaurants. In Homestuck, he's a fascist who helped a genocidal program known as the "Hilarocaust". This quote sums it up the best:
    He was an especially degenerate piece of filth.
    • Likewise, Insane Clown Posse are generally agreed to be pretty decent guys in Real Life, and they’re known for their generous donations to charity. In Homestuck, they’re the tyrannical dual President Evil serving The Condesce.
    • The advertising character of Betty Crocker, to the extent she has a personality at all, is just a nice woman who likes baking. In Homestuck She is the Condesce.
  • Inanimate Experiments: Testtube is a Smart Girl who is often kind and decent person in her source material. But in this comic she is portrayed as a Mad Scientist who kidnaps people and commits Cold-Blooded Torture on them for her experiments.
  • Klonoa: Dream Crusaders: While Claire the Ancient, the goddess of Lunatea, was an unseen but benevolent figure in Klonoa 2: Lunatea's Veil, she is made here into the Greater-Scope Villain.
  • Knights of Buena Vista does this to the bishop in Frozen. In the movie, he just officiates Elsa's coronation. In this comic, he's using magic to hypnotize Elsa. This is then subverted when it's revealed to be a magic doppelganger impersonating the real bishop.
  • Lore Olympus:
    • While in the original myth Minthe was just a fling of Hades, here she's a catty Alpha Bitch who regularly demeans Hades and treats him like a walking wallet. She does get slightly better about this after realizing that her awful behavior might drive him away but she still has no love for Persephone.
    • In the myths, Thetis was a loyal and kind nymph who saved Zeus from a coup and fostered Hephaestus after his mother rejected him. Here, she's a shameless, amoral homewrecker who also conspired to ruin Minthe's relationship with Hades out of jealous spite.
    • Psyche's parents are physically abusive to her and tried to force her into a marriage with a cruel man for their own benefit.
    • Surprisingly, Hestia has gotten some of this treatment, from what little has been seen of her. While in mythology, she's the quintessential Olympian Nice Girl, her depiction in Lore Olympus comes across as more than a little Holier Than Thou. She slut-shames Persephone for being photographed with Hades by a tabloid, and takes the fur coat Hades gave to Persephone apparently as a bribe (possibly upon a threat of revoking Persephone's scholarship or reporting the incident to Demeter).
  • After minus. ended, the author created some gag strips that parody scenes from the original webcomic, and which are not in continuity. If they are interpreted as a Compressed Adaptation of the original work, then minus gets hit with this trope, big time. Whereas in the original she is merely The Trickster who only does bad things because she doesn't understand the consequences of her actions and frequently softens her antics to make them not as bad, in the extras she is a cruel and vindictive psychopath who takes out horrifying revenge on people for excruciatingly minor slights, behavior which the minus from the main webcomic would never do. In the strip that has been linked, she actually turns one of her classmates into a chalk drawing and smudges her, even after the classmate apologized.
    • When it comes to other characters, the extras actually contain a spectacular Inversion. One strip features a man who stuffs minus in a briefcase after luring her in with promise of sidewalk chalk, and who would certainly have tried to abduct her if he wasn't stopped. His counterpart in the extras, on the other hand, is an innocent bystander who doesn't do anything to deserve being antagonized by the villainized minus.
  • PMD: The Rogue Team: In the original Pokémon Super Mystery Dungeon game, the Partner is a loud, energetic, mischief-maker child, but ultimately has a good heart. In this comic, they're represented by Tabor, a sardonic treecko who takes delight in his enemies' misfortunes. His wide grin when encountering a drowning fennekin girl also implies ulterior motives for helping her out.
  • In Roomies!, Mary started out being intended as a Voice of Reason, and gradually became portrayed as more hypocritical as the author found himself questioning his fundamentalist upbringing and, therefore, Mary's opinions on things. In Dumbing of Age, she's straight-up one of the least sympathetic characters from the get-go, representing everything Willis dislikes about his background. Similarly Joyce's mom in the Walkyverse went from "background mother character" to "background mother character who has lots of sex with her husband" to "deeply obsessed with having grandkids", while her Dumbiverse counterpart is mostly characterised by religious intolerance.
  • Sonic the Comic – Online! does this with many games characters, following in the lead of its print counterparts. These include Shadow, Rouge, the Babylon Rogues, Bean, Emerl, and Void. Blaze is immune to this, being almost identical to her game counterpart. Silver and Cream are also still good.

    Web Original 
  • This page lists five well-known characters who were reimagined into villains through Disney movies in this way.
  • Hilariously, the Lighter and Softer version of the game Warhammer 40,000, Brighthammer 40,000, does this to the Tau Empire. To explain, Warhammer 40000 is an extremely grimdark setting, with a number of genocidal, xenocidal and one or two omnicidal factions locked in a Forever War. The sole exception is the Tau, who are still bad in a sense but one of the more sane, if unsympathetic, factions. For Brighthammer 40000, every faction except the Tau have been made more sympathetic, while the sinister aspects of the Tau have been played up, along with some new ones added. This has the effect of turning the Tau into the setting's Big Bad. Water Caste Tau are all conniving schemers and cheating merchants, Air Caste Tau are all cowards who launch unprovoked bombing runs and orbital strikes on defenceless worlds, Fire Caste Tau are all violent brutes who bully other Tau and use prisoners of war for target practice (when they bother to take prisoners at all), and the Ethereals run the empire as this horrible 1984-esque society and often use mind-control to order Tau to kill themselves, sometimes for fun. Only the Earth Caste escape this treatment, being poor schmucks who are abused, exploited and left to die when they're no longer useful.
  • Francis E Dec insisted in his letters that his brother was a "deadly felon-murderer and secret assassin-spy agent against me for this Gangster Government". Seeing how Dec saw the entire universe Through the Eyes of Madness, we can safely guess that this wasn't the case.
  • Book of Mario: Thousands of Doors has a lot of personality shifts, very few for the better. The biggest example has to be the god-substitute pantheon now called the Stellarvinden. Lets list off some of their cruel acts: Possessed Mario and made him do their dirty work to regain the Star of Rodin, assaulted a man recovering from a financial crisis caused by his charity failing, bullied a guy with mental health problems and sacrificed him to Satan, restarted a drug trade in Casau Blodaua, and escalated The War by eating all the peaches. Another notable example is Carbon, who goes from a well-meaning but nervous kid to a manic psychopath who wishes to kill all fathers.

    Web Videos 


Video Example(s):


Mystery Inc.

In this incarnation, Mystery Inc. got wrapped up with the Mexican cartel and ended up becoming deranged drug dealers, before ending up in prison.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (2 votes)

Example of:

Main / AdaptationalVillainy

Media sources: