Friday, November 14, 2008

Villains we love to hate

Not all stories need villains, but some stories demand them. The better (dangerous, threatening, more 3-dimensional) the villain, the better for the story.

Imagine an Indiana Jones story without his slew of villains. Even though he’s a sexy, fascinating man, how fascinating would it be to watch him dig in the dirt or teach a class? He’s at his best when he’s thwarting the bad guys whether they be Nazis or Russians or aliens.

One of my favorite movies is “The Mummy” with Brendan Frazier. Without “The Mummy”, the story would also fall flat despite how dashing and handsome the hero is.

In comparing the villains in The Mummy vs. any of the Indiana Jones movies, the mummy’s character is by far the best villain.

Why?

The mummy’s motivation and backstory are shown. The audience is allowed to become invested in the man behind the mummy. We don’t necessarily want him to win and take over the world, but our hearts go out to him when we find out he fell into his evil ways because of his all-consuming love for his girlfriend, and the wonderful love story behind the scenes. Indeed, the mummy doesn’t see himself as the villain, but as the knight in shining armor, riding in on his white steed to rescue the love of his life. We sympathize with his plight. The guy’s willing to risk the world to save the love of his life. That’s pretty romantic.

In this case, it shows the flip side, the dark side of life which is nicely foiled by the romance between the good guys.

The perfect villain is one who could also be the perfect hero in another setting. If he could be redeemed, he could be quite something. Indeed, there are instances in which the villain later becomes the hero, or is shown I his more heroic days in a prequel (think “Scorpion King”).

In fact, one of my own stories, “Eternal Damnation” published by New Concepts Publishing features a very evil villain, perhaps the most evil one I’ve ever created – Nikolai, an extremely evil vampire who does something so dastardly even the other vampires think him evil.

Do you know what?

I received fan mail for Nikolai requesting that he be given his own story, that he become the hero.

Guess what?

Finally, I wrote Nikolai’s story. It’s on submission now so my fingers are crossed. It took awhile to percolate in my mind just how I could redeem someone so evil and make him into a hero, but I did it. And again, love was the key.

Stephen King also writes wonderful villains. He introduces us to their background and how they were normal people (usually) who were so tormented in some way, that they turned to the dark side. At least those are his best villains. When we aren’t treated to the behind the scenes view, the villain is one-dimensional and the entire story suffers.

Who are other wonderful villains, people we love to hate? People who would be pretty awesome if redeemed? Lex Luthor jumps to mind. He’s definitely not a one-dimensional, evil dude, but a complex, compelling man.

Another famous villain who got his prequel, whom people loved to hate and then learned to love, is Darth Vader. Once we met Anakin Skywalker, got sucked into his timeless love story, felt his acute anguish, he became 3-dimensional and we learned to forgive him his transgressions – or at least to understand and root for his redemption.

Who do you love to hate? Who would you like to see redeemed? Who is your favorite villain?

You'll also want to see what Amarinda Jones, Anika Hamilton, Anny Cook, Barbara Huffert, Brynn Paulin, Bronwyn Green, Dakota Rebel, Kelly Kirch, Molly Daniels, Sandra Cox, Regina Carlysle, and Cindy Spencer Pape are up to, so make sure to visit them also. :)

4 comments:

Nicole McCaffrey said...

I admit, my all time favorite villain is Darth Vader. He's so much more complex than syrupy sweet, goody-two-shoes Luke. Even though I root for Luke to win, I still think Vader is more interesting.

It seems to be a pattern with me, LOL, because even when I watch Spongebob with my kids, I find myself sort of rooting for little Plankton.

Twice now in my own writing I have introduced characters who were supposed to be there to thwart my heroes or be the bad guy who finally trips them up. Sigh. Fell in love with both bad guys and gave them their own stories. They're so much fun to redeem!

As I said, it's a pattern with me...

Great blog topic, Ashley! I'm definitely keeping my fingers crossed for Nikolai!

Molly Daniels said...

OMG! You hit the nail on the head when you meentioned Vader. My hubby laughed at me as I SOBBED through Revenge of the Sith! Although I knew Anakin had to become evil, watching his agony over his decision just left me devastated.

Go ahead; laugh at me...

Ashley Ladd said...

I love Anakin, too. Even though I like Luke, I was in lust with both his father and Hans Solo, not with him. Good thing I guess as my son is now named Luke (hubby's choice). Although "Luke" fits my son.

Amarinda Jones said...

You know, I don't want to believe any can be redeemed as then there is no fear factor

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