Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Traitor and villain, what wouldst thou?

We all think of ourselves as the heroes of our own stories. It is only through our own valiant efforts that the prize will be won, that the princess or prince will be saved (and thus married or actualized or whatever). We, the protagonists, are bringers or order, justice, and the restoration of peace.

And what good would any story be if other archetypes did not arise: Oracles, Benefactors, True Loves, False Prophets and, of course, Villains.

In fantasy and super hero genres the villain is pretty easy to spot. We like it like that. The center from which evil emanates is plainly marked with a handlebar mustache or giant lava filled mountain of Doom, it's tough to fight, but, as the sun sets our hero (that would be you) is cloaked in triumph.

(I think this is partly why Americans fetishize Hitler the way we do. A portrait of total and awesome tyranny, with a hot black and red logo that announced to the world "I AM EVIL". He even had a mustache. I worry, though, with our definition of evil using Hitler as the cartoon exemplar of villainy, that we might miss smaller, dowdier atrocities in our own back yards. Evil is not a Tyrant. It is the clock that got the tyrant to rally on time.)

As we get older ideas of villainy give way to greyer instances of persecution: a Jock who pushes you in the hall, a teacher who just doesn't get you, a co-worker consumed with jealousy. The punishments for these characters in our plays become more suited to the crimes against us: The Jock is punished with a beer gut and a longing that won't go away, the teacher is fired, the co-worker is found out for sabotaging your work and is openly reprimanded.

These are the satisfying fruits of our labor. Vengeance is meted out, we can rest easy now that our work is done. Cue indie love song. Roll credits.

But wait...

Lately I've been wondering...uhhhh...what if I'm not the hero? What if that's not the movie I'm in? Recently, past action has reared its ugly head in strange and unexpected ways. I keep having "learning moments" that bounce off me like a bucket of super pinky balls. What if I'm the villain...

I don't think I am. I don't sit around thinking about how I can stick it to anyone else. I don't shove the little guy in a trash can...but Villains don't think they're evil do they?

Can someone do me a favor? Tell me if I'm your villain. Maybe your feeling a little out of sorts yourself. We can work something out, I bet. Fisticuffs in the bathroom, pistols at dawn, intergalactic battle. I think we'll both feel a lot better.

If not, at least then I'll know upon whom to unleash my malfeasance.


Anonymous said...


All of your best villains have to be tragic figures...otherwise they are just two dimensional comic book types.

Trust me...I know of which I speak.

Ron K.

rebar said...

>>Fisticuffs in the bathroom, pistols at dawn, intergalactic battle.

Why do I feel like you're just baiting people so you can get them to wrestle you?

Because, I think that's the level of villany you're at...the wrestler the crowd loves to hate.

Once the mask is off, your villany gets hung in a sweat infused locker.

n. a person who indulges in sloppy seconds

Joe Janes said...

I'm on to your game, Ellison. Act all innocent and doey-eyed about being the evil warlord that you are. I'm not buying at and soon will out you to the world! For being evil, not gay.

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