Monday, August 20, 2012

But his Eyes were Blue: Character Genetic Alterations

Good Monday,

Welcome to another Media Monday and another week at the Lockbox.

Today is going to be a bit different. I’m going to rant a little. It’s nothing major, but it’s something that’s media related and been bugging me for years. Why a rant? I’ll be honest. I haven’t seen any new or new to me movies in the last week, and I’ve been feverishly reading George R. R. Martin’s “A Game of Thrones” for class. That will most likely be next Monday’s topic. So, if you have any interest in the book or know someone who does, remember to stop by and/or spread the word.

Right, my rant. As you may have gathered from the title, this is about the appearance of our characters and what media does to them. I first noticed this with the acclaimed video game Mortal Kombat.

Children of the 90s, step back in time with me for a moment. The year is 1992. Sega and Nintendo are primary gaming systems. The first Mortal Kombat game is on shelves boasting 7 playable characters and a fighting game worth your time. Three of said characters—Scorpion, Sub Zero, and Reptile—are identical except for their color—yellow, blue, and green respectably. The game is in 2D—awesome graphics. There is a limited amount of button combinations—many of which overlap between characters. To top it all off, the arenas are simple backgrounds, and the characters look like little more than cardboard cut-outs of people. Oh, also, the letter C is practically non-existent.

Fast forward to 1993—MK2 is on shelves. Now, there are 12 characters to choose from. The graphics are a bit better, the arenas are slightly more detailed, and the characters look a bit more like people.

Okay, now fast forward to 1995. Mortal Kombat the movie has been made. Actors have been put to the test of portraying the cardboard cut-outs that we’ve enjoyed beating one another’s characters to a bloody pulp with.

The next game to come out—MK4 (or MK Gold on Sega Dreamcast)—did so in 1997. Up until this point, the characters have been portrayed by actors—the basis for their looks. MK4/Gold, however, is computer generated. What does this mean? It means that, if you look at the 1995 movie and the characters of the 1997 video game, they look remarkably similar. The movie had a profound impact on the appearance of the MK characters. Now, in this case, it wasn’t so bad. I’m confident that the movie actors were picked and made to look enough like the game characters to keep players happy. Also, it’s a video game. The characters don’t have to look exactly the same as they did in the movie. That doesn’t negate the fact that the character’s appearances changed with the making of the movie, though.

I’m willing to overlook this because I love the games, and the character’s looks really aren’t that important. It’s just something I’ve noticed.

There are situations, however, where the change of a character’s appearance is, in my opinion, more important.

I got my DVD of “The Hunger Games” this weekend. I saw it in theatres—see my post about it—but I was focused on the deviations from the book’s storyline. Thus, many things went over my head. Looking at the DVD cover, though, I don’t see how I missed this. It’s more likely that I didn’t overlook it but just forgot.

Either way, Katniss Everdeen looks very different from book to movie.

In the book, Katniss describes Gale as having black hair and olive skin. She then says that she and Gale looked enough alike to be siblings. Katniss of the movie has light brown hair and skin more reminiscent of the shade her mother and Prim are described as having in the book.

I’ve seen this happen so many times. The character is described one way in the book and looks totally different in the movie adaptation. A part of this is—I’m sure—due to acting skill. No one can argue that Jennifer Lawrence’s portrayal wasn’t stunning. The sad part—and the part that bugs me about people who won’t read the book and will only watch the movie—is that Katniss will be remembered as having the movie, rather than the book, look. Not for nothing, but the similarity between Katniss and Gale’s looks becomes a bit of a plot point in “Catching Fire,” when they are depicted as cousins because they look enough alike for the lie to be believable.

It also hits home for me as a writer. We create our characters. Many times, we give our characters a certain appearance for a reason. Whether we want them to stand out, blend in, match the normal look for their region—we invest time into appearance. And, for many of us, it’s something we want to see kept true.

All righty, that’s my rant. And, to be fair, it’s not just “The Hunger Games.” I know I already said that, but I want to repeat it. I bought the movie despite Katniss’s changed appearance after all.

See you out of the box,

P.S. If you haven’t, stop by last Friday’s interview of romance author Rachell Nichole. Have a read of a bit of her new contemporary erotic romance novel “An Affair Across Times Square.” If you like what you read, leave a comment and be entered into a drawing to win a copy. The book comes out tomorrow, and a winner will be chosen on Wednesday. Don’t miss out!

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