Dear 100 Hour Board,
What are your feeling on movie adaptations that change the race, gender, or other significant characteristics of the characters for no apparent reason?
-(*cough cough*) Artemis Fowl (*cough cough*)
On the one hand, if a book was good enough to be made into a movie, people probably liked it the way it was written. So like some of the writers below, it does kind of bother me.
That being said, how annoying this is probably depends on the situation and the reason for the change, and it doesn't always actually matter.
For example, in the Harry Potter series, Lavender Brown's race is never explicitly mentioned. The potter wiki points to an implication that she's white since the book mentions her and Ron's hands blending together. During the series she's played by both white and black actresses. To me this really doesn't matter at all. Lavender's character isn't at all impacted by her race. Even if there was some physical description of her, I don't think going against that to change something like skin color really matters. Movies inaccurately portray the physical looks of literary characters all the time. (For an obvious example: unless you're reading super Mary Sue literature, every single character isn't usually beautiful, but when you go to the movies, magically, there's not a single pimple in all of Hogwarts unless it was cursed there.)
By contrast, there are situations and characteristics where change would make a big deal. An adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, for example, that left every other character untouched but recast Elizabeth Bennett as Dwayne Johnson would make no sense because so much of the context of the book has to do with the social structure of a very specific group of people in a very specific time and place (daughters of landed gentry in Britain in the 19th century).
These may be exmaples on the extremes of the spectrum, but there you go.
TL;DR: Depends on the situation. While it may be initially uncomfortable for me to have my mental map/image/concept of the character changed, I think that there are some situations where the change ultimately doesn't matter and some where it does.
It really depends on the movie and the character. For instance, I'm really upset about Artemis Fowl making Root a female, because the books made a big deal about Holly being one of the first female captains, and how Root was constantly standing against her or holding her to a higher standard because she was female. This ruins that whole dimension of female empowerment where Holly, despite being mistrusted by her superiors because she's the only female, proves them all wrong and exceeds all expectations. Just imagine what Zootopia would have been like if Judy Hopps' chief was a rabbit. It would have changed the whole dynamic and dramatically decreased the significance of Hopps becoming the first rabbit police officer.
I wouldn’t have cared if they changed Root’s race, or Holly’s race, because that isn’t key to the story. Honestly, it would be cool to see Root portrayed as an Asian or African American man (though I still would like to see his face turn its signature beet red). But when they change a character’s gender or race in a way that changes the story, and ESPECIALLY in a way that decreases Holly’s radical position as the only female in the police force, I stand firmly against it.
-guppy of doom
I think a lot of authors make characters white or male by default, which results in a boring, unrepresentative cast. The real world isn’t all white and male. I think changing it often makes a better movie, at least in cases where the gender or race isn’t a plot point (like Commander Root).
A great example of this is Hermione being black in Cursed Child. Rowling herself pointed out that while she hadn’t originally intended Hermione to be black, her physical description of Hermione could apply equally well to a black person.
I like it when it's creating more work and representation for people of color or other underrepresented communities. White/cis/straight/etc.-washing characters that were pointedly a minority is messed up.
I'm still holding out hopes that the green ranger in Power Rangers 2 will switch things up and be a female Tommy :)
Dear Artemis coughy cough
Fidelity to source text is an overrated concern, BUT that doesn't mean just making a change is great, either. What is the reasoning behind changing a character's race/age/gender/etc.? That's where these decisions actually matter.
Hamilton proved you can do some VERY interesting things even when fidelity to actual once-living humans says you shouldn't.
Dear (*cough ~
Stop changing unnecessary things. It's unnecessary. I get that sometimes plots have to change slightly to fit a different media, but anything else, just stop.
~ Dragon Lady, who hates Harry Potter movies starting at #5
This may not be a popular opinion but I think it's okay when it is an old well-loved work that has been adapted many times. Some works just beg to be explored in every way possible. And I think it can serve to extend the impact of the work. People love messing around with Jane Austen, Arthur Conan Doyle, Charles Dickens and such and I have no problem with it.
I agree with some of the other writers. It has to make sense and it should bring something new to the work. Token changes are more distracting than helpful.
Once upon a time, when my brother was about 3 and my sister was about 1, they had split up a tray of ice cubes and started playing with them. My brother, being the older sibling, got eleven, and my sister got one, but my brother wasn't terribly happy about this outcome. "Mom, Jesus said to share, and [sister] isn't sharing!"
I'm not going to dig too deep into your actual question, because other writers with far more knowledge on the subject have already told you more than I ever could. But I do think it would be good if every writer, before making an adaptation, took a moment to think about this story.