Representation in Adaptations

Throughout the many forms of entertainment, original works inspire adaptations but are those adaptations truly accurate adaptations?

From original works such as short stories, novels, poems to movies, TV shows, and animation, adaptions exist and can bring that original work to the eyes and hears of a larger audience.

Many original works or actual events have been portrayed differently as being a creative choice rather than honoring the original work as it was written or the actual event as it being historically accurate. Whether it is from the portrayal of the story or the portrayal of the characters, adaptations exist that take liberties without representing the source material.

There are reasons for adaptations to take creative liberties with the original work, whether it is because of time constraint or the translation between the two different works. For instance, the Harry Potter films are quite different than the books.

Many secondary characters from the books do not appear in the films, perhaps it was due to a time crunch or because the inclusion of the secondary characters would deviate from the focus of the main storyline.

Subtle changes or complete exemptions, many book to movie adaptations have to cut sections of dialogue or trim down crucial moments in order to make the movie fit into the desired time length. Countless book-to-movie adaptations have done this, but does this misrepresent the original source with an adaptation that leaves out many contexts from the original.

Even with these changes and exclusions from the original material, the adaptation represents a separate creative homage to the original.

Other adaptations in the form of Japanese light novels and manga are adapted into anime or live-action movies.

Take a light novel and a manga as they are both books, at times the manga leaves out sub-plot, character growth, and even plot details. This is usually chalked up to translation between the written word and written artwork between the two.

Then there are many times when a light novel or a manga is adapted into an anime. The adaptations vary regarding their accurate portrayal. Soul Eater, a fantastic manga and anime, has differences between the manga version and the anime adaptation.

Sometimes an anime catches up in the story to the manga and then the studio is presented with a choice: deviate from the original story, or go on a hiatus until the manga progresses further.

Some studios go the hiatus route so to stay accurate to the original work, while in Soul Eater’s case, they created an original ending to the anime different to the manga.

There is some controversy when a studio deviated from the source material to an anime, movie, or TV show. The representation of the original through the adaptations is still there, but it can feel like a misrepresentation if the adaptation is received poorly.

In recent years, adaptations have come under fire through their misrepresentation when it comes to the racial portrayal of the characters. There have adaptations where a studio completely changes the ethnicity of the character. Usually, at least done more often, the portrayal of the character is changed to a Caucasian/white person. This is referred to as “white-washing.”

Though many examples exist of white-washing, a particular movie that is a popular cult hit series as well as movies is Ghost in the Shell. In 2017, Paramount Pictures and Dreamworks produced an adaptation based on the Ghost in the Shell manga.

The main character, Motoko Kusanagi of whom is of Asian decent, is portrayed by a Caucasian/ white actress, Scarlett Johansson. The reason for her casting was believed to be due to her popularity at that time and the hope that she would draw a wider audience.

An argument can be made that these are actors and actresses playing a fictional role. That role made be a depiction of the creative minds of the creators or the adapters. But, another argument can be made that the characters adapted from the original source should be regarded in their original form.

In the many different ways of adaptation, individual creativity plays a crucial part in the differences between the original and the adaptation. People imagine the characters, the world, and even the story plot in many different ways, so when an adaptation is made, the original concept of everything in the story can be skewed.

Now if we are talking about proper representation between original and adaptation, does that pertain to original languages and dubbed versions of a TV show or movie.

For instance, anime is, usually, made with Japanese voice-over, but then it can be dubbed in many other languages. Those characters are of Japanese ethnicity, voiced by Japanese voice actors and actresses, but when that anime is dubbed into other languages, English for example, those characters are voiced by other ethnicities.

Currently with how societies are going, especially in the United States, character representation is becoming a bigger deal than ever before. Many characters who were voiced by Caucasian voice actors are being changed to voice actors that represent the ethnicity of that character.

Most recently, an American TV show Family Guy has come under fire for having a black character voiced by a white actor. Mike Henry voiced Cleveland Brown for many years but will now be voiced by Arif Zahir, making the character properly represented by the same ethnic character voiced by the ethnic voice actor.

Family Guy' Taps Arif Zahir As The New Voice Of Cleveland Brown - SHADOW &  ACT

But, that begs a couple questions. Does it matter what ethnicity a voice actor is if he/she is playing a fictional character? And, would that mean that every character should be played by the same ethnic actor/ actress that the character represents?

Of course, as the many ethnic characters exist, it is wonderful to see those characters represented by the same ethnic person.

Honestly, it can be a tricky and touchy subject with no clear-cut answer as their are many opinions on the subject matter.

Please leave a comment and voice your opinion and let’s have a engaging discussion on the matter.


Thanks for reading.

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