Altering Beloved Characters
It's a bad idea to change characters that fans are emotionally attached to. This means it is never a good idea to make female characters male, male characters female, blonde characters brunette, or any possible swap imaginable. There are a few reasons for this. But they aren't necessarily political.
Politics and social justice are only sometimes the reasons that these types of changes are made in the first place; they aren't necessarily the reason why the changes are bad. People get attached to their characters and they spend a lot of time learning about them and reading or watching their stories. Characters in media become like friends or celebrities to their fans; announcing that a woman is now the new Iron Man is about as strange to the fans as a tabloid announcing that a wild raccoon is now Johnny Depp. Changes in characters don't work because the fans are attached to the original characters. Even if the goal is to reach new audiences, the result is likely not going to work, as the specifics of a character within their "universe" are what made him or her click with the audience in the first place.
Let's look at two examples of obviously non-political changes to characters that were received very poorly by the fans and then later redeemed. They not only demonstrate the intense hatred fans have for their characters being changed, they are also perfect examples for illustrating the financial rewards of sticking to the original characters as closely as possible when adapting them to a different medium.
Tale of Redemption 1: Deadpool
When Ryan Reynolds was cast as Deadpool in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, people were pretty excited. Deadpool was a humorous character people wanted to see onscreen, and Reynolds seemed like the perfect man for the role. But for whatever insane reason, they completely ruined the character in the movie. Deadpool has a very particular personality, and he has a very specific set of abilities, with the main one being his healing factor. In the X-Men Origins movie, however, his mouth was sewn shut, removing his personality altogether, and he was given every ability belonging to other mutants encountered throughout the film. Why name the character Deadpool at all? The fans hated it, and ever since that movie they had been begging Fox to make a "real" Deadpool movie with Ryan Reynolds.
Compare the fans' hatred of the X-Men Origins Deadpool to the character's reception in the "real" R-Rated Deadpool movie. It was night and day. The real Deadpool was embraced by the fans, because that's the character they already loved in the first place.
Tale of Redemption 2: Sonic
Sonic's appearance may have changed subtly over the years, but no one could have been prepared for the reveal of the original design for the movie Sonic. There was almost nothing good about the original Sonic design for that movie. Fans hated it so much that the studio had to redesign Sonic and animate every scene he was in all over again.
And what was the result of returning the character to his original appearance? Sonic went on to become the highest grossing video game movie of all time, until it was beaten by its own sequel. That's what sticking to the character design can do.
No Redemption: Taskmaster
Taskmaster is not as popular of a character in Marvel Comics as Deadpool, but he is an interesting villain for some characters to fight. His unique ability is that he can instantly learn and copy any fighting style from any opponent just by watching them. This makes him tricky to fight as going against him will often feel like trying to beat a wall at tennis.
In the Blackwidow movie, however, Taskmaster ended up being a female cyborg, completely removing any attachment fans might have had to the character. It's disappointing to see, and what's worse is that it doesn't make much sense.
In the Future
The future will bring changes to Tinkerbell, Little Mermaid, and Lord of the Rings. If an argument is put forth that these changes are being because the goal is to appeal to the younger generation who doesn't have the attachment to the original characters as older generations do, look no further than the example of Sonic to counter it sufficiently.
Who knows if kids would have loved Sonic's original design for the movie? I have a feeling they wouldn't have appreciated it as much. The video game Sonic design is just good.
But even if it were only the parents who complained, the parents are the ones spending their money. Maybe the studio should focus on appealing to the generation who feels some nostalgia for the character and might want to share that with their kids?
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