Dumbed down for movies, TV, etc.

What are some examples of writers, producers, etc. taking something from the original source and simplifying it because they obviously didn’t respect their audience enough to think the audience would “get it”?

My example is the live action version of “The Tick”. In the cartoon version (and presumably the comic, although I never read it so I don’t know for sure), the Batman parody character is named “Die Fledermaus”. But for the live action show, they changed the character name to “Batmanuel”, obviously to make sure the audience “got” the Batman parody.

I enjoyed the irony of leaving the reference in the Saturday morning cartoon but changing it for a prime time show! But I hate when producers have so little respect for their audience.

Other examples?

Two examples I always recall that reflect this -

  1. The “Star Trek: TNG” episode with the planet that’s entire speech is based around mythological references. (“Darmok” is the title, I believe.) Troi is explaining to the bridge crew how their language works and says (paraphrasing)

Troi: "Whenever they express a thought, they refer to a work that is universally known to them. It’s like if I were to say “Juliet on the balcony.”

Crusher: “That’s a reference to Romeo & Juliet!”

Troi: “Yes. Anyway…”

That scene particularly rankles me because Troi mentions the reference as an example of a universally known reference to all Earth-born people. But the writers of TNG assumed that at least some of their audience wouldn’t get it, so they had to have Crusher inform them what Troi is talking about.
2. In the British mini-series the Life and Loves of a She-Devil, the self-absorbed romance novelist is on the phone with the manager of the rest home.

Rest-home manager: “You’re mother simply needs a little T.L.C.”

Novelist: “T.L.C.? What’s that?”

Manager: “It stands for Tender Loving Care…”

And then, in the Hollywood movie She-Devil that’s based off the mini-series, the dialogue in that scene is repeated almost verbatim, with a small change -

Manager: You’re mother simply needs a little T.L.C."

Novelist: “T.L.C.? What’s that? Is that some new kind of drug?

Manager: “It stands for Tender Loving Care…”

In the British version, the fact that the novelist doesn’t know what T.L.C. stands for says all you need to know about her relationship with her mother. In the American version, somebody decided the audience simply wouldn’t get it, and that it was necessary to add that extra little dig in there.

I just read a book in which the detective had to explain to the mother of teenagers what a blog is. Current book.

Hey, I like the name Batmanuel! That’s funny stuff!

I know this was in the movie, but I think it was in the book as well.

In Contact, One scientist tells another (who probably has strong math skills), “The aliens are sending us a message in prime numbers, which, as you know, are numbers only divisibly by themsevles and one.”

Obviously, the little math lesson was for the benefit of the audience.

I believe Batmanuel is the result of legal quirks and not dumbing down- the characters of Die Fledermaus and American Maid were created for the animated series and thus property of Fox Kids (now Disney), so the producers of the live-action series had to create characters with similar personalities who were legally not the same characters- hence Batmanuel and Miss Liberty.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

Dumbed down before it was even a movie! :rolleyes:

Most egregious example ever: “The Vanishing.” The original was a cool French flick about a young couple on vacation. They stop for gas. While he fills up the tank, she goes inside for soft drinks… and never comes out. The remainder of the movie alternates between the husband’s obsessive search for the solution to the mystery and the seemingly ordinary life of the man we presume knows the answer. The movie builds toward their inevitable meeting. It’s all very psychological.

The remake totally got the Bruce Willis action hero treatment. Bruce Willis had nothing to do with the remake, but it’s still the Bruce Willis treatment, if you know what I mean. Roger Ebert called it “a textbook exercise in the trashing of a nearly perfect film.”

The really awful part is that the movie and remake were made just two years apart, by the SAME DIRECTOR. The difference was, the remake was intended for American audiences. Because, you know, we don’t want psychological movies. All we want is the Bruce Willis treatment.

I don’t know if it’s fair to make the call yet since the movie hasn’t been released but the trailer for The Road has really been dumbed down.
The book being a slow, mood of dread, survival in the face of despair with ocassional sparks of stumbling across something horrific looks like they turned it into an action packed journey filled with adventure.
They’re either selling it to the wrong audience or they really did ruin it.

Not to mention Nestor Carbonell would have a much harder time convincing people he was German than Hispanic.:smiley:

Pretty much anything that wound up adapted to cartoon format in the 80’s was dumbed down severely. TMNT would probably be the worst hit. Even little things, like color coded bandanas and initials on their belts, because you know, it would be too hard to actually let them retain enough personality to tell them apart while still keeping them blandly safe for the kiddies.

Of course, then you had GI Joe, where every gun on the show fired laser beams instead of bullets (because ya know, even letting the military have bullet guns on kiddy shows is a no-no :rolleyes:) not that it mattered since no one ever actually got hit on the show, with maybe one or two notable exceptions. Further dumbing things down, Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow, who pretty much dominated the storylines used for the comics (written by Larry Hama who basically created all the characters and wrote the filecards that came with the toys) had most of their personality stripped and were left as fairly minor characters.

Guess there’s something 80’s network execs had against cool ninjas acting like cool ninjas instead of pizza obsessed clowns or minor secondary characters.

I never watched it, but I have to imagine the Rambo cartoon was pretty severely dumbed down.

I like to think that the scientist was just being incredibly condescending. It helps to think of all “explain it to the audience” scenes as someone being condescending to someone else.

We call this type of thing “exposition.”

[shoots ironic look in direction of fourth wall]

This all kind of sounds somewhat similar to the ol’ “As you know Bob” information dump.

TVTropes has (of course) a page on this, with many examples: Viewers Are Morons.

To be fair to G.I. Joe, Snake Eyes had (essentially) no face, and couldn’t talk. That’s kinda hard to write for without the benefit of lots of text.

I still don’t know why they seemed to have Storm Shadow’s primary rival be Spirit, though.

Bingo. The change had nothing to do with dumbing down.

It’s not dumbed down if nobody cares!

The movie-within-a-movie in Matinee (a cheesy sci-fi flick called Mant) had many particularly hilarious examples on purpose, but my favourite spoof of dumbing-down is this adaptation of Watchmen.

Define “nobody” in this context. I cared, and I am not the only one.

Note that a curious kid who read the book and wanted to find out more about the Philosopher’s Stone would have no problem doing his/her own follow up research. On the other hand, a kid who read H.P. and wanted to know more about the “Sorceror’s Stone” would find nothing but J.K. Rowling related sites.

THE SEA BEAST
From the story “Moby Dick” by Herman Melville
Devil-may-care ladies man Ahab Ceeley (John Barrymore) and his scheming half-brother Derek (George O’Hara) are whalers and rivals for the love of Esther Wiscasset (Dolores Costello), the minister’s pretty daughter. When a notorious albino whale comes into view of the brother’s ship, Derek pushes Ahab overboard and the whale takes Ahab’s leg. Adding insult to injury, Derek convinces Ahab that Esther cannot love a one-legged man, so Ahab goes to sea to avenge himself on the great sea beast. Which he does. Derek gets his comeuppance, and Ahab and Esther enjoy a long, passionate kiss.

Barrymore also starred in “Moby Dick” (1930), which stuck very closely to its source material – “The Sea Beast.”

I never saw the cartoon and only part of one episode of the live action one, but I still think Batmanuel’s funnier. It just sounds more awesome.