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Let's Talk About Villains

kawaiidaigakusei at 12:00AM, May 5, 2014

I used to take the side of the cheerful, positive, and heroic protagonist in films and comics when I was much younger. As I got older, I wised up to the idea that being a protagonist is relative to biases of the storyteller. Now I rewatch those same films with a renewed perspective of what constitutes “good” and “bad”. Lately, I have been finding that more and more, I am a fan of villains.

Some of the best characters written are villains! Supervillains are more exciting, more dynamic. A villain needs to be charismatic in order to amass a large number of henchmen followers. Villains are intelligent, granted they usually meet their demise by the end of a movie, a villain can brainstorm an elaborate plan, invent a new device, or strategically manipulate or corrupt another individual to achieve some Machiavellian rise to power.

I believe the reason we are seasoned to differentiate heroes and villains at a young age is to train our super-ego about rules and societal expectations. It teaches every Goffus that they should aspire to be more like Gallant. But living a hero's lifestyle by-the-book can be as boring as vanilla. For the record, I love vanilla, it is GOOD, but it does not make it any less boring. Emulating the characteristics of a supervillain feeds our id. It just feels good to break the rules.

Give villains a chance. Afterall, without a villain, there would be no need for a hero.

Which supervillains are your favorite throughout books, film, TV, and webcomics? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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Abt_Nihil at 5:56AM, May 10, 2014

Hmmm... I wouldn't have thought you were significantly older than me... @_@

Ozoneocean at 10:23PM, May 7, 2014

My age is a secret, known only to Ayesinback... but she's probably forgotten. ...MYSTERY!

Abt_Nihil at 6:34AM, May 7, 2014

Really? But I'm soooo old :p (33)

Ozoneocean at 9:33PM, May 6, 2014

I remember that scene Abt. Wow, you must be a lot younger than me...

Abt_Nihil at 1:46AM, May 6, 2014

Also, everyone who mentions Arnold's portrayal of him gets knocked COLD. Ba-dum tsss!

Abt_Nihil at 1:45AM, May 6, 2014

Sometimes, villains just need to be good threats for the protagonists. But as far as engaging, compelling villains go, I can only opt for Mr Freeze. When I watched "Heart of Ice" for the first time as a 13-year old (or so), it changed my whole concept of what a great comic-book villain could be. If you don't have the episode at hand, this five-minute video has everything you need to know:

meemjar at 3:00PM, May 5, 2014

Of all the Marvel villains in the movies I liked Magneto of the X-Men. Unlike Dr. Doom whom I saw as a mere tyrant with delusions of grandeur and the Kingpin whose just a overblown Mafioso thug Magneto is someone I can understand and would want to reason with him rather than destroy him. Another is Loki who from his point of view feels betrayed and left in Thor's shadow. If it were not for his arrogance towards humanity I would have approved of his ruler ship of Asgard because Thor would have been like King Richard to Loki's Prince John. In real historic records Richard was perhaps more benevolent but he lacked the desire to have ruler ship responsibility. When John returned from exile after Richard died he was a wiser man and ruled England competently and even signed the MAGNA CARTA to prevent further abuse of authority among England's nobility. So maybe Loki will gain that humble wisdom now that he IS king of Asgard.

Gunwallace at 1:42PM, May 5, 2014

Currently watching the animated Justice League with my kids and the best villain is always Lex Luthor, because he can best Superman. The one we watched last night had him tricking Supes into destroying a device that was actually beneficial to humanity, and thereby gaining a PR boost in his attempt to run for U.S. president. Most other Superman villains are just uber-strong monsters that enter into a slug fest, or things with or made out of kryptonite. Luthor uses his intellect, and he always has plans within plans (when written well). He knows Superman real weakness is his personality; his desire to be good; his boy scout-ness. That's what Luthor attacks.

ayesinback at 1:37PM, May 5, 2014

I'm reading a fictional biography of James the 1st of Scotland, which (if you know anything about him) brings in Henry IV and V of England. If you want to talk villains, pretty much any king would fit the bill -- which is not something I would have believed as a young child. We're taught that authority figures are good. But when you read about the devastation greedy royals have created for the masses, generation after generation ... Actually it's not easy to come up with many heads of state that could be considered a heroic. OK, maybe Abe, maybe a few others, but it's a relatively short list.

bravo1102 at 7:49AM, May 5, 2014

Hi Bob. I know the image is that of Max Schreck is 1922's Nosferatu but it is also the figure I used for my villain Grey Guy Bob in Attack of the Robofemoids. I pretty much echo what Oz said. Psychology may be pretty accurate in the pathology of "evil" as psychosis but that is only one tool in a writer's toolbox. A writer is totally untrammeled to create a villain outside of current definitions of sane or insane who is simply "other" They have their own (a)morality and they enforce it. It is entirely consistent and logical, but it seems horrifically cruel and evil. And there's my favorites doing all the right things for all the wrong reasons and doing all the wrong things for the most righteous of reasons. One man's cruel revolutionary is another's freedom fighter. Villain as do-gooder, good-guy as villain. Lots of possibilities here.

KimLuster at 6:29AM, May 5, 2014

As OO said, the best Villains, in my opinion, are ones you can identify with - the ones that have many of the same dreams, desires, and goals we do. What makes them 'villains' is that they're willing to hurt other people to achieve them. I'm not sure about 'evil' not being a motivation for some 'Villains', though. Some Serial Killers, Molesters, and Rapists seem to desire to inflict pain and suffering on others as their goal. Modern psychology like to 'soften' this by saying their brains are 'messed up', but I'm not so sure. I really think people can be perfectly sane yet want to hurt others for its own sake. To me, that's evil motivation... and I can't stand those types and don't think I could write a story with such a one as the villain.

Ozoneocean at 2:03AM, May 5, 2014

But... Their goals and motivations always tend to be either petty, stupid, myopic, selfish, childish or meaningless. I think the Joker is a good example of a dumb villain. And "evil" is NOT a motivation, nor is "madness" or "chaos". The best villains are the ones with the "good" intentions, who are heroes in their own minds but Hitler to the rest of us. That's why I find a well written Hero more interesting these days, because if you get right into it their job is a lot more complex and they ARE a villain at the same time- or at least always on a knife edge from being one. That said, Breaking Bad is a fantastic portrait of a super-villain in the making.

Ozoneocean at 1:54AM, May 5, 2014

I used to love a good villain because they usually dress better, they're generally more intellectual, they're clever, crafty, not all about the physicality and brute force like many traditional heroes, they're often slighter and more realistically built bodywise, they speak in a more cultured way... BUT...

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