Villains – What makes a good one?

Alright folks, every good protagonist needs an antagonist. It’s just the way of things; the hero is portrayed as the solution to the problem which is personified as a villain. This formula has been used over and over again for hundreds of years, and quite frankly, (if I can speak for everyone,) this formula is not going away.

But today, the idea of a villain has changed. Dramatically.

Long ago during the days when big ol’ meanies would take the stage, dressed in black, armored, cape in the wind, laughing diabolically just looked bad to the bone. We had Darth Vader, Sauron, Klingons, Skeletor and other baddies that frankly we just wanted to punch in the face. But these days, it seems like the villain just isn’t really that bad of a guy anymore; we give them a background, investigate their story, and delve into why they were driven to such madness.

I admit that there is a spectrum when it comes to good and evil, and that everyone can change for the better (or worse for that matter.) That’s a good application for REAL LIFE, however when it comes to a story, book, movie, show or video game, do we really want to develop Stockholm Syndrome to the baddie we love to hate? Kind of ruins the whole point of one, don’t you think?

Let’s talk about the movie Jaws. Throughout the entire movie, we are given experiences of people getting swallowed by a giant man-eating monster of a shark. However, the shark is not revealed to us in full until near the end, where our group of heroes face off against the giant beast. Doing the movie this way instilled a sense of fear into the audience, as we did not have a clear face on what exactly was haunting the waters with such ferocity. Fear was an asset, and was used well.

The White walkers in Game Of Thrones can sort of be seen the same way. Throughout the books and TV show, we are given hints of the these creatures from the frozen waste lands beyond The Wall. When they appear, they show no mercy and are absolutely ruthless. It wasn’t until a most recent episode where we are given a partial explanation of where exactly they are coming from, what they are doing, and their (partial) motives. After watching this scene, I felt like the “veil of evil” was sort of lifted from the initial perception of them, and thus was given a less sense of fear of the ones portrayed as the main antagonists of the entire series.

But how about such beings like Jamie Lannister?. This pretentious, incestuous, cousin killing bastard of a man was hated by all, and then come the end of the third season (and book) we kind of feel sorry for the man. But why?

Let’s look at Darth Vader to avoid spoilers in recent entertainment. Gone are the days where we feared the all powerful Lord of the Sith, where we knew a villain to be absolutely merciless in his ways, took no crap from anyone (even from his own subordinates) and was just known as one of the greatest villains of all time.

That was, until the prequels RUINED IT!

And so we were told the tale of the one who would become Lord Vader, and introduced to us as a little kid who dreamed of getting away from his chores and exploring the galaxy, only to become a punk teenage Jedi knight with anger issues, stubbornness, and just down right annoyance.

Who is this guy?

This guy would become the most badass evil villain we would love to hate, except that we would not anymore. Our perception of this baddie was shattered, washed away, now lost in time of the unknown in which we all feared in him, and just downright felt sorry for the bastard.

And thus, the writers gave us Stockholm Syndrome for Lord Vader.

I’m not saying it’s a bad thing. I don’t really hate the fact that this is happening. However, I really do behold one’s perspective in storytelling where our main character comes to know of what he needs to accomplish in order to wrap up the story in the end: defeat the evil one.

In life, it’s a spectrum. But if one wants to be entertained, then maybe stick to the black and white?

Just a though jaunt…

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