Follow TV Tropes

Following

Culturally Sensitive Adaptation

Go To

Sometimes, certain story elements in a work don't transfer well between different people, because of differences in cultures or time periods. Because of this, an adaptation of a work may alter something to conform to the values of the time and/or place the new work is made in. This is similar to Bowdlerize, except when creating new works, rather than editing the original.

Compare Cultural Translation.

Advertisement:

This trope may also involve:

  • Adaptational Diversity: An adaptation has a more diverse set of characters, usually done for this reason.
  • Adaptational Modesty: A character's usual dress sense is less revealing than in the original, or tones down or cuts incidents involving characters being naked or partially-clad.
  • Pragmatic Adaptation: When it's unavoidable to make changes to the source material when adapting a work, some examples may include changing or excising content that would not be acceptable these days.
  • Reimagining the Artifact: The adaptation takes characters (particularly from Long-Runners) who were initially depicted as stereotypes and develops them to make them more appealing to the audiences that the adaptation is intended for.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: Not necessarily this trope, but can be if the result is to make the body count of an originally violent work significantly lower, or zero.
Advertisement:

Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Films — Animated 
  • The Frog Princess: In the original fairytale, it's Vasilisa who delegates all the tsar's tasks to her servants, while her sisters-in-law try to do them by themselves. To conform to Soviet values, the film makes Vasilisa the only one who works on the carpet the tsar has asked for by herself (though she does it with magic), while her sisters-in-law demand their nurses do it (who delegate the tasks to maids, then to servant girls, then to a retired soldier, and Hilarity Ensues with the results).
  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame: While the film still gets criticized for its sexualization of Esmeralda and use of the word "gypsy" to describe her, it does take steps to avoid the unfortunate implications from the book.
    • In the book, Phoebus is a womanizing Jerkass who gets no comeuppance. Here, he's pushed from being a loyal soldier into a revolutionary, who opposes Frollo whenever he can.
    • The film makes the gypsies/Romani more sympathetic than in the book, omitting the reveal that a group of them kidnapped Esmeralda as a baby from her French birth mother. This change is due to the gypsy stereotype as kidnappers of children.
    • Frollo's lie that Quasimodo's mother abandoned him as a child was actually the case in the book. Here, in her only scene, Quasimodo's mother flees when Frollo tries to take her baby and begs for sanctuary in Notre Dame and ends up being killed when Frollo overtakes her.
  • The Nutcracker: Because aristocratic and bourgeois protagonists were frowned upon in the Soviet Union and avoided whenever it was humanly possible, the protagonist became a poor servant girl who, for extra tear-jerking, isn't allowed to join the rich kids' celebration and has to watch it from a distance. It's quite the contrast from Marie Stahlbaum, whose parents are quite well-off.
  • The Snow Queen (1957), although generally faithful to the original, removes all the religious themes to conform to Soviet values. The Snow Queen, instead of the Devil, is made the owner of the magic mirror.
  • Teen Titans: The Judas Contract removes Slade and Terra's sexual relationship and treats her more sympathetically. However, it depicts Slade as grooming her even though he never actually sleeps with her.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Aladdin (2019)'s version of "Prince Ali" changes the line where Ali is said to have "slaves, servants, and flunkies" to just "servants and flunkies".
  • Gone with the Wind: Unlike in the book, some of the main black characters are represented decently and there's less sympathetic treatment for slavery, the Confederacy or the Ku Klux Klan.
  • The Inquest of Pilot Pirx: The Russian dub removes Brown's admission he believes in God and the discussion of whether robots can do it. Instead, Pirx and Brown discuss whether humans and robots have conscience.
  • The Invisible Man: The 1984 Soviet film adaptation completely turns the tables compared to the original, making Griffin a humble Tragic Hero and Kemp a greedy villain.
  • Lady and the Tramp (2019): In the animated film, the two cat villains are Siamese cats who speak in a stereotypical Asian way. The live-action film changes the cats' breed and voices.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • In Doctor Strange (2016), Wong is revised from being the Chinese houseservant that he was initially depicted as in the comics to a more competent and efficient warrior and Master of the Mystic Arts.
    • Black Panther (2018):
      • In the comics, M'Baku is a Scary Black Man who is one of T'Challa's enemies and uses the alias Man-Ape. In the film, M'Baku's scariness is toned down, he is subjected to Adaptational Heroism and doesn't use the name Man-Ape.
      • In the comics, the Dora Milaje were picked from rival Wakandan tribes to be trained from puberty to serve as personal guards to the king, as well as potential queens to Wakanda. The latter function was done to maintain the peace in Wakanda by ensuring that every tribe has the opportunity to put forward one of their daughters for the crown. In the movie, the Dora still serve as T'Challa's bodyguards but their status as wives-in-training is removed. This results in changes to Nakia's backstory; in the comics, she was a teenage Dora who was obsessed with winning T'Challa's love (though he was not attracted to her or any of the other teenage Dora) and became evil when he rejected her advances.
  • Mortal Kombat (2021): Scorpion and Sub-Zero are ninjas of Japanese and Chinese descent respectively and Raiden is based on a Japanese deity named Raijin. Despite this, they were portrayed by white actors in the original games and most of the previous live-action adaptations. The film has all three characters played by Asian actors and even manages to avoid Interchangeable Asian Cultures by having them match the nationalities and ethnicities of their respective characters. This applies to all other Asian characters in the movie as well. In addition, the female characters have much more modest outfits than in most of the games.
  • Power Rangers (2017): In the original show, Zack and Trini, the original Black and Yellow Rangers, were depicted by an African-American actor and an Asian-American actress respectively and were rather stereotypical; Zack was a dancer and Trini was into martial arts and was also Asian and Nerdy. The movie Race Lifts Zack into an Asian-American boy and Trini into a Latina-American girl while also adding some depth and complexity to them like Zack's humor being a coping mechanism for his poverty and his mother's sickness and Trini dealing with her sexual orientation.
  • The Secret Garden (1993): Downplayed. It keeps Mary being offended at being mistaken for black (before she was seen) but it deletes the part where Martha says, "There are a lot of blacks [in India] instead of respectable white people" and replaces it with her saying, "I have nothing against natives" when Mary throws her tantrum. Likewise, it still has Colin proposing to Mary, but it adds in Mary being grossed out by this.
  • The Scarlet Sails: In the 1961 adaptation, Arthur Grey renounces his aristocratic lineage and helps some random revolutionary terrorists who tried to kill some random mayor. In the book, he does run away from home to become a captain but keeps in touch with his mother, and there are no terrorists. His parents also get hit with heavy Adaptational Villainy, because in the Soviet world Aristocrats Are Evil and only evil.

    Literature 
  • The Count of Monte Cristo ends with the Count in a relationship with his slave/adoptive daughter Haydée (to be fair, she's a slave In Name Only, and she was the one doing all the work to get him to notice her). As this still smacks of Wife Husbandry to modern audiences, most adaptations will have him end up back with Mercedes instead of Mercedes joining a convent, and Haydée sometimes ends up with Franz d'Epinay, who otherwise disappears from the book long before the end.
  • In Real Life, Matvey Kuzmin, a Fake Defector who lured Nazi troops into a trap under the guise of helping them with a surprise attack, wasn’t a member of a kolkhoz and was in fact suspected by his neighbours of having counterrevolutionary views. In Boris Polevoy’s fictionalised account of his Heroic Sacrifice, The Last Day of Matvey Kuzmin, Kuzmin is made a devoted member of a kolkhoz, as befits a proper Soviet hero.
Advertisement:

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Baby-Sitters Club (2020): In the original books, the girls go to a summer camp known as Camp Mohawk. In the live-action series, rather than the potentially exploitative name of "Mohawk," it's renamed to "Camp Moosehead".
  • Black Lightning (2018):
    • In his earlier appearances, Black Lightning used Jive Turkey speech in order to conceal his secret identity as a schoolteacher. In the show, he speaks in a way a black man normally would, instead relying on a high-tech mask and a voice modulator to hide his identity.
    • In the original comics, Tobias Whale had the codename "White Whale", was a Fat Bastard, and embodied as many terrible stereotypes about fat people and people with albinism as possible. In the TV series, he is still large, but has a more muscular build, he is presented as a more intellectual villain with Faux Affably Evil tendencies, and has a more complicated motive - he's a black albino man who hates other black people because they shunned him in his youth.
  • Cloak & Dagger (2018): In the original comics, Ty came from a poor black family, while Tandy came from a rich white one, a dynamic which carried a lot of implications even back in the 1980s. In the live-action series, the writers put them on a more equitable socio-economic footing, with Ty coming from a well-off black family while Tandy came from a formerly-comfortable white family that had fallen on hard times.
  • Runaways (2017) made several adjustments from its source material:
    • The original series featured a scene where Chase uses his x-ray goggles on Nico and Karolina without either character's knowledge. In the TV series, Gert uses the goggles on Chase instead.
    • In the original series, Karolina remains in the closet until the second volume and has to endure casual homophobia from her teammates (who don't yet realize that she's a lesbian), and after coming out of the closet, she is Put on a Bus for several months to enter into an Arranged Marriage. The TV series significantly reduces the Gayngst; she comes out early on, is quickly accepted by her teammates, and starts dating Nico by the end of the first season.
    • In the original series, Xavin was a Gender Bender who would often default to a male form, only taking a female form because they were betrothed to Karolina, who is exclusively lesbian, which raised a lot of questions about whether they were really genderfluid or whether they were just pretending to be female in order to keep Karolina from breaking off the engagement. In the series, Xavin is only presented in their female form.
  • Star Trek: The Original Series has "Turnabout Intruder", an episode in which a crazy woman claims that women can't be captains. Later on, the writers gave this a Hand Wave by saying that it was only the woman's insanity that made her believe this and included female captains in Star Trek: Enterprise and Star Trek: Discovery, which were both set before Original Series. Also, a female captain was the main protagonist of Star Trek: Voyager.

    Theatre 
  • The Screen-to-Stage Adaptation of A Christmas Story, which aired on Fox in 2017, changed the Asian Speekee Engrish rendition of "Deck the Halls" at the Chinese restaurant to a perfectly eloquent rendition of the song. The change is lampshaded as Mr. Parker notes he "wasn't expecting that," and the restaurant owner judgmentally asks him, "What were you expecting?"
  • Company: The 1996 revival changed a lyric in "You Can Drive a Person Crazy" that went "I could understand a person if it's not a person's bag / I could understand a person if a person were a fag," to the more respectful "I could understand a person if he said to go away / I could understand a person if he happened to be gay." This wasn't consistent for all later productions, however.
  • Porgy and Bess used to have at least twenty instances of the N-word, but they aren't present in new versions due to a rewrite effort from Ira Gershwin in the 1950s.
  • RENT: LIVE edited the 1995 musical to get rid of dated or unintentionally problematic issues:
    • It changed a line in "Happy New Year" where Maureen sings about wanting to be Joanne's slave to her simply promising to be good to Joanne.
    • Due to a shifting understanding of gender identity since the 1990s, Angel's Ambiguous Gender Identity was updated to be more obviously transgender instead of a drag queen. Angel affirms during "I'll Cover You" that she feels the most like herself in feminine clothing, and Mark no longer refers to her as a drag queen during her funeral. Collins also consistently refers to Angel as "she" instead of "he."
  • Show Boat: The first sung lines of the 1927 musical contain prominent N-words, though they're being sung by a chorus of black singers working "while de white folks play." Subsequent productions and adaptations have replaced the word with "darkies" (the 1936 Universal film), "colored folks" (the 1946 Broadway revival) or just "here we all," eschewing the outdated language altogether in the latter case. The 1951 MGM film and 1966 Lincoln Center production just cut the first lines altogether.

    Video Games 
  • The trailer for Kirby's Return to Dream Land Deluxe shows that Wing Kirby's hat is redesigned to bear less of a resemblance to a warbonnet, owed to increased scrutiny towards cultural appropriation of Native American imagery in the decade since the original Wii version's release (especially in regards to the warbonnet, which in Native American culture can only be worn by tribespeople who earned the right to do so).

    Western Animation 
  • The Adventures of Tintin: For one scene in the original comic, Tintin wears blackface to disguise himself on a ship. In the episode adapting this comic ("Broken Ear"), Tintin disguises himself with glasses, a wig, and a fake mustache.
  • The DCU:
    • Teen Titans: In The Judas Contract, Terra is The Mole for Slade and is in a sexual relationship with him even though he's much older than her. When Slade decides not to go through with his plan to kill the Titans, Terra turns on him and ends up dying when she loses control of her powers and the story treats her as more evil than Slade even though the latter is the one who came up with the idea to kill the Titans in the first place and pursues a sexual relationship with a girl young enough to be his daughter. In the animated series, Terra is depicted as a young, scared girl who is manipulated by the older Slade. While Terra's crimes are not glossed over, she isn't depicted as the more evil of the two between her and Slade. Also, Slade and Terra are not in a sexual relationship.
    • Young Justice - Revival Series removes Slade and Terra's sexual relationship and portrays her as a teenage girl bullied and manipulated into being a villain by Slade who is depicted as unambiguously evil.
  • DuckTales (2017): The original show has some issues when it came to portraying foreign cultures, one such example being Dijon, a greedy stereotype of an Arab person. The reboot reimagines him as D'jinn, a poetic swordsman and total badass. However, he maintains a connection to the film, as it turns out that the genie's lamp in question once housed his ancestor. His genie ancestor was freed, would find love and start a family. He wants the lamp because it's a family heirloom.
  • Garfield and Friends: In one strip from the original comic, Garfield is telling jokes on the fence, one being that his car is so old it's insured against "Indian raids." In the show, it was changed to "dinosaurs", both removing the potentially offensive content and enhancing the joke by making the car even older.
  • Little Lulu: The theme song to the original animated adaptation said of Lulu "Though you're wild as any Zulu and you're just as hard to tame". When The Little Lulu Show was made in the 1990s, it was changed to "Though you're wild you know it's true, Lu, and you're very hard to tame".
  • The Smurfs: The story The Black Smurfs from the comic series revolves around a condition where the Smurfs turn black and start acting animalistic. For obvious reasons, the cartoon has the infected Smurfs turn purple.

Top