Why Villains Matter More Than You Think

Day 7, and now at 25 posts of my own and 30 including my friends.

One of the reasons in which this blog was created was due to analyzing interesting questions when it came to storytelling, and I will not lie in saying that I have drifted away from this quite early into our time together. Interconnected and emotional storytelling are aspects that I find appealing and have quite a few flaws that may be overshadowed by good things, but are nonetheless present and perhaps more easily picked up by the more observant. This is why I come to an issue in many stories that may not hinder the execution of plot or characters, but is something that deserves to be so much better and amazing.

The villains.

As a counterpart to a protagonist, an antagonist is just as juicy in terms of storytelling opportunity if they are used effectively. They are not only a mere physical obstacle for the protagonist to overcome, but they serve as a character in a narrative. They have motives, backgrounds, power, and should serve as intelligent. If an antagonist in a film is just a bully at school, they may serve their purpose as an antagonist. However, a bully that has been neglected by their parents and forced his misery onto others makes a character with understandable motives and may even lead to something far more memorable than the protagonist, as many works have done before.

To begin, we will look at what doesn’t work.

the-avengers-loki

In the MCU, many of the superheroes are very compelling characters with complex backgrounds, conflicting loyalties, and are most of all flawed. While the above example of Loki is a very effective villain, (and overshadows the slightly duller Thor) it is no lie that the MCU has struggled to make its villains into compelling foils to its heroes. Why is that?

For starters, the motivations of antagonists do not venture beyond being simply evil or revenge. While revenge can be done very well in storytelling, we do not experience the grief and trauma that these characters go through, and they mostly come across as unfeeling. In the case of an antagonist such as Ultron, an alternate world-view is a very good idea in concept. However, the idea of making humanity better by destroying them and ‘rebooting’ evolution does not appeal to our human emotion and intelligence and also comes off as dispassionate. A character such as Loki serves as an important foil that compares and contrasts to Thor, but one such as Whiplash or Red Skull may be a match of might for their counterparts and ignore the other aspects that would make these characters far more compelling.

To contrast with these examples here is a very strong one which most of you will be familiar with.

darth-vader-crossed-arms-1280jpg-88461e1280wjpg-67c0c2_1280w

Yes, Lord Vader himself.

Whatever your opinion on the Star Wars saga as a whole, this is an absolute prime example of what an antagonist should be. Throughout the original trilogy, he is an antagonist which Luke Skywalker must train to defeat, as his imposing nature and indestructible wake make him a menacing villain that is proficient in many skills. His worldview may be twisted by manipulation and hate, but there is a glimmer of good and hope within him that is further elaborated in Revenge of the Sith and furthermore Return of the Jedi. He begins to have doubt, showing flaws that do not compromise his character and intimidating demeanour, but rather make him more human. The audience can feel emotion for this character, and his death and scenes with the Emperor serve as the emotional peak of Star Wars to this day.

While this post was short, I hope that you learned something about villains and that you enjoyed today’s serving. Tomorrow will be the last of such until the weekend, and there may even be a little surprise waiting on Saturday or Sunday. I hope you join us! 🙂

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