Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Unnecessary Change in Popular Characters

     So this is a conversation that may, on the surface, seem to be an about face on a stance I have taken in the past, and will continue to take: Changing an established "non-diverse" character into a "diverse" one for no other reason than to show off how diverse a creator/publisher/company is. There are ways to change an established character to fit a "more diverse" classification so as to not disturb the fan base.

     This is an argument that has been going on for some time. I couldn't speak to where it began anymore than I can tell you where it will end. I can, however, provide examples of when, and sometimes why, it has worked.

     The side of this I stand on steadfastly is that an established character should be left as such. Fleshing out more of the character's nature and backstory is acceptable, and encouraged, but changing a basic tenet of the character is USUALLY a bad move.

     Let's take into example, first, Thor. Originally a Norse god, imported to the marvel universe, with most of the tent pole characteristics in tact. What was changed was only to adapt him into a comic book universe. Recently, though, Thor's gender has changed. In the story Thor loses his ability to wield Mjolnir. His sister then gains the ability to wield Mjolnir, and thus she becomes the Almighty Thor. This story aroused many negative reactions in fans, and as we have learned through poorly worded interview responses the sales spoke to that.

     My stance in the case of Thor? Poor decision making. With Marvel's Multiverse they easily could have introduced a female Thor from a different universe, much in the same way the did with Miles Morales' Spider-Man. 

     More recently we have the example of LeFou in Beauty and the Beast. There has been some uproar in different places throughout the country, and even the world, about a change made to the character's perceived sexual orientation. In the original animated movie, his relationship with Gaston was more of a hetero life mate situation, a la Jay and Silent Bob (in this example Gaston is Jay, which sheds a whole different light on the whole movie for me). There are no overtly sexual jokes made at the expense of LeFou, really. BUT one could infer that such feelings existed originally. In this year's live action remake there is very little denying that LeFou is not only into men, but very specifically Gaston.

     This change, if you think about it, isn't THAT much of a change. To a certain extent it isnt even a change at all. Let me explain. We don't learn much about LeFou in the original movie. He is a tertiary character who doesn't get much backstory or color. He is pretty one sided. For an animated movie at the time, that was totally acceptable. In today's culture of literary, or entertainment, "universes" that doesn't fly. We as a society NEED to know where everything came from and what it likes to do while not on screen or on the page. In response to this, the production team at Disney fleshed out the character more. I am absolutely sure it was a conscious decision to make LeFou gay, even if still semi-overtly, only for the new movie. I just can't buy that as a major change.

     This case, I feel, is a prime example of how to re purpose a character to fit, what a good portion of consumers see as a political agenda. Sure the re purposing is only of a tertiary character (though there was a much less noted change of ethnicity of another tertiary character, the bureau/singer has been changed from a historically more accurate white woman to a less accurate black woman... not that historical accuracy is exactly a goal of Disney movies... but now we are bird walking...) and not a primary character, so as to not upset the hardcore fans but to still keep the "diversity" crowd at bay.  But there would have been a great monetary difference at the box office had a primary character been changed in any such way.

     The point we should come off this with is simply that not all change is bad. Matter of fact, change is a fantastic way to give a story, or universe, more depth and points of interest. So long as it is done with tact and forethought. "Diversifying" without these things is just careless.

     But these thoughts are just my opinions. What do you think?

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