Marvel’s latest addition to its catalog of TV shows is Runaways, based on the beloved comic by Brian K. Vaughn and Adrian Alphona. While most teens believe their parents are evil, this is a reality for the show’s six L.A. kids. When they accidentally discover their parents sacrificing an innocent girl to demonic beings, they unite together — with a mission to atone for their parents’ transgressions.
The Hulu series is ensuring a comic-accurate depiction, but inevitably, we can’t expect them to deliver it exactly from the book, panel for panel. #Runaways will introduce many changes to its narrative and characters, some intriguing and some unwanted.
Regarding those unwanted changes, the backstory and events of Karolina Dean (Virginia Gardner) will be modified in a way that’s rather disappointing. The first episode of Runaways was shown at #NYCC17, and some elements raised a few concerns for the development of our favorite alien.
Note: This article contains moderate spoilers for Runaways.
Raised By Religious Extremists
In the comics, Karolina’s parents ─ Frank and Leslie Dean ─ were Hollywood moguls who gave their daughter a picture-perfect lifestyle, but the TV adaptation will abandon that. This time around, her parents are leaders of a cult-like religious group that worships the Church of Gibborim. As this religion has been instilled in Karolina’s upbringing, it could affect her decision to come out as a lesbian later on in Season 1. The first episode hints at this, where Karolina is intrigued by two girls kissing on a dance floor.
It was clear from the very first Runaways comic that Karolina is attracted to girls, but it wasn't until the second volume when she decided to reveal that she's gay to her teammates. While that was an inspiring story of self-discovery over time, bringing a religious aspect into the show now treats her attraction to women as an act of rebellion.
This is not to say that members of the #LGBT community who have a religious background come out to rebel against their families; it's about truly being who they are. But because Runaways deals with kids rebelling against their parents — and the Deans' worship is quite extreme — this could be depicted as Karolina's method of going against them, even though her being into girls is genuine.
Either way, bringing radical faith into her narrative turns Karolina into a clichéd, exhausted trope that her character never was. I'll always remember her as the compassionate hippie, not a replica of Carrie White.
An Unwelcome Change To An Important Discovery
To make matters worse, the revelation of Karolina's alien abilities leads to a very unwelcome incident in Episode 1. After defying her mother, something she has never done before, Karolina decides to sneak off to a party. She tries an unknown drug and takes off her Gibborim bracelet in resistance. Taking off this bracelet reveals her luminous, rainbow-like glow, but she misconceives this as a hallucination and passes out. Two guys at the party notice she's unconscious, and attempt to sexually assault her.
It's a brief moment that is ended by Chase when he walks in, and stops them by throwing a few punches. Karolina was unharmed, but this is extremely distasteful nonetheless. Not to mention, this moment now turns into a heroic arc for Chase, which ignores the original intent of telling Karolina's story.
Looking back at the Runaways book, the manifestation of Karolina's powers was a liberating experience for her; it represented the freedom of finally being her true self, becoming more than her parents' lies, and no longer hiding. When she first took flight, her feelings of being a freak had completely washed away; a girl once insecure became as radiant as the colors that she glows.
With the show's alteration, Karolina is being robbed of this important and beautiful experience. Instead, it's being replaced with something unnecessary, undermining and downright creepy.
It’s OK to deviate from the source material, but this revamp of sorts is damaging to Karolina thus far. There's still room on Season 1 for her to be the awesome, uplifting character she's known as. But at this rate, the bad changes being made early on aren't making a chance for redemption look bright.
The first episode of Runaways will debut on Hulu on November 21.
What are your thoughts on the changes being made to Karolina Dean on the show? Let us know in the comments!