Morality and Adaptation

When adapting old stories that included prejudice or other unfair products of its time, to what extent should the adaptation be altered? Should the adaptation include the biases of the original (even if they are critiqued or showed to be flawed), or is it better to remove the biases altogether? On one hand, including the biases may be seen as a confirmation of them. However, it may also be seen as a way to renounce the flaws of the past while still valuing important stories. Avoiding the biases altogether may imply that the biases were not important, but it may also be viewed as a way of ‘updating’ an outdated story. Does the decision to include (or exclude) biases change depending on the original story’s context (e.g. how well known it is today, how old it is, etc.)?

  • Super interesting topic! I think, perhaps unhelpfully, it ends up being a creative choice that ultimately depends on the adapted work and the intentions of the adaptation. Naturally, any adaptation process will involve changes. Some "flaws," as you say, can be "updated" without changing the original context. For example, the language may be updated (though I also acknowledge certain vernacular may be characteristic or plot-driven). The way we are first told a story shapes our impression of it, and an adaptation that changes too much (even if for moral reasons) can be severely disappointing. Moreover, the idea of morality often spirals into issues of censorship—which is another fraught topic because it demands who has the right to decide what can (or cannot) be censored? Furthermore, while I am in favour of honouring the original work and its creator's intentions, I believe that ultimately every adaptation must diverge from the original and become its own iteration. Each adaptation, after all, is an interpretation of the original work. Within this context, "updating" ensures that the work is relatable and may enable it to reach a wider audience. However, I waffle again, with the contention that every work is in and of itself a cultural artifact, and changing them simply for the sake of "updating" risks devaluing cultural values and mores that original creators may have wanted to preserve or speak to. In conclusion, I am obviously torn, but this topic is really thought-provoking and relevant given the number of adaptations that are coming out. Hopefully, I've given some more ideas to consider—happy writing! – carmenxbd 4 years ago
  • An interesting idea for an essay. I am of the mind that any adaptation of an old story is a reflection of the time in which the adaptation is produced rather than the one in which the original material is situated. So, in that sense, it is reasonable to take liberties to update or revise material as necessary to make it relatable and accessible to modern audiences of the day. – John Wilson 4 years ago

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