Saturday, April 7, 2012

Know Your Archetype: The Villain

Warning: If you have been living under a rock since 1987, there may be spoilers. 

For weeks now, I have been intending to have Zep finish up her Firelands' dailies on the Molten Front, and complete Leyara's Locket. It's not that "she" needs anything from there, or gear, but that if I could have three wishes in WoW one would be that I could switch from Draenei to Night Elf without the race change fee, in a click and flick of a button. Alas, I cannot, and the locket is the next best thing.

But, there is something else. I have always felt empathy toward that sad, lost family. And today, Harpy's Nest posted this wonderful post about Staghelm.

To get at the core of a villain, it's all about choices.

But what makes a good villain? To me, it's about potential redemption.

Consider the robotic villain in No Country for Old Men, or Halloween: those villains are paradoxically static and terrifying because of their lack of depth. Their complete void of human empathy or narrative makes them simply killing machines. And though those are vastly different examples of horror genres, my response to the villains is the same. It really isn't about them.

To me, a "good" villain shows the audience that one moment when they had potential for redemption, when their humanity tripped them up, and their emotional losses took control. Static villains are only in it for some purpose that no one can claim resembles any part of being a human. It is pure sin. (Yawn.)

When thinking about this on my walk today, I thought of Voldermort, the ultimate villain in recent literature. And my theories on the "good" villain came to light: I don't really care that Voldemort dies. It is extremely anti-climatic. Harry looks around, and every one is kind of, well, shell-shocked. But the one we thought was the villain, and some may argue is/was, Snape, turns out wasn't such a bad guy after all. He did it all for love, too. Just like Harry.

Now, in Azeroth, I think what left folks somewhat in yawn-mode was the fact that Deathwing had none of these redemptive qualities. But, man oh man, Arthas sure did. And so does Garrosh. I realize Blizzard doesn't want to do the big, grand-scale epic sort of narratives anymore, but I cannot help but suspect that they can't get away from it, either, and nor should they. The protagonist needs the antagonist, no question about it. And so do we.

Right, Harry?



  1. I completely agree. I want my villains to be characters that I can identify with. Perhaps in their situation I would have made similar choices or at least contemplated that path. I want them to have agonised over their decisions. Not just woken up one morning and thought
    "Lol, I'm going to destroy the world today".

    Villains and heroes need to be flawed, but also rounded characters and even the most evil of evil villains needs at least one redeeming feature, even if it's just loving their cat.

    But then, my childhood was filled with crushes on the bad guys not the heroes.

    I dragged my friends to see Disney version of the Hunchback of Notre Dame a few times too many just for this bit.

  2. Dang, I forgot to put in the whole 'bad boy' thing - I completely agree. We think we can be the one to 'save them.' And that scene is amazing for a few reasons - many of Disney's adaptations are much more complex than a mouse with a squeaky voice would lead us to believe. One of my favorites is the witch Yubaba in Spirited Away, heck, she even has her own alter-ego twin sister, Zeniba.

    But, Erinys, I do wake up every morning and think, "How shall I destroy the world today?" mAHAHAHahhhaHAHAHaha!

    Excellent comment! Thank you!

  3. Guarf10.4.12

    The most interesting villains/antagonists to me are those that have become changed, if you will, by pain, loss and/or suffering. Then they become identifiable, and we can hope for a chance at their redemption (George Lucas 'got' this). Watching the flash video of "Creep" you linked, I came across: (which is an excellent use of 9 minutes of your life, in my opinion).

    This short film strikes me as an excellent back story for some strange steampunk villain in a story I'll almost certainly never write.

  4. Did you mean to link the same thing as Erinys? I think it was a control V thingiy - regardless, WRITE.

  5. Guarf10.4.12


    1. That is wonderful, Guarf - loved it.


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