Monday, April 27, 2009

Victims and Villains, Pt. 2

The greatest villains of all time are simply are mirror-reflection of the hero. They both have similar qualities, similar goals and even perhaps a close friendship: father/son, mentor/disciple, partners in work/play/life, and then - KABLOOIEEE!

Something explodes or fails and one can take it and the other cannot.

It is one of the most used dramatic tropes, and I never tire of it. I loves it, precioussss.

But why does a hero's story arc turn out so good and a villain's so bad?

I think Robert McKee said it in his book about Story, but I could be wrong. It may be just a proverbial rule of storytelling. It goes like this:

Always give the audience what it wants, but never the way they expect it.

What does that have to do with villain origins? This mirror-reflection of the hero? This other side of the coin, as it were? Simple.

The same loss or temptation happens to both the hero and the villain; they both at some point, get what they want, BUT NOT THE WAY THEY EXPECTED IT. The problem is one can accept the weirdness and loss, because they believe it can be used for good, in time.

Tragedy will be transformed into something powerful.

The villain refuses to accept this. He wants it the way it WAS or the way he thinks it should be ON HIS TERMS. He becomes cruel as he begins to control and demand control over other lives. He will not be a "victim" to "the fates" again!

You see, the villain cannot accept a change in plans, a change in fortune. First they are victims - and that is understandable - but then they become villains.

I have seen loss of a spouse make men crazy. I've seen divorce embitter souls. I've seen betrayal after betrayal turn decent men into robots, their spirits crushed by injustice.

But to go from victimhood to true villainy takes something special. A level of self-rightness (not self-righteousness - that has too many religious connotations) but a level of "My way was right! I was right! You did me wrong! Life is unfair!" and so on and so forth until the anger and rage and bitterness coupled with pride explodes outward in "I'll show you! I'll show you ALL!!"

The "audience" did not get what they wanted and they will make the "director" pay.

The Director of Life that permits loss and failure and bad things to happen. It is unspoken and in fiction we say "the fates" or "the cosmos" or "the gods" but we know Who they really mean.

The Creator of the universe. God. El-Shaddai. YHWH.

He also, however, permits miracles and wonders and guarantees eternity for those who accept and trust Him.

A villain cannot see past his own pain, and a victim is still experiencing it. So how do you prevent a victim from becoming a villain?

By helping them. By saying "I understand. I know how you feel. I too was beaten up by a family member. I too was betrayed by a Christian/pastor/minister/priest. I too lost all my money, my friends, my wife. I too am a stranger in a strange land. I too have an alcoholic brother/father/mother, etc. I too have a family that rejects me for my lifestyle."

You see a villain believes he was used by others. His plans were stopped by men. With no faith in God (or even karma or a source of metaphysical justice), he believes he must wring out what is just by his own two hands, his own words, his own power, etc.

The hero aids the victims and confronts the villains. That's their job. That's their calling.

Having suffered, they understand what is needed. Having survived, they can give hope.

But both sides live in us -the hurt who became a hero, the victim who became a villain.

How do you know the difference? I mean isn't the hero for the Conservatives the villain for the Liberals and vice-versa?

Sure. There's a way you can know.

How they treat their enemy when they are on the ropes.

The villain will chortle and laugh and make snide remarks, dehumanizing their opponent further.

They did not want their foe stopped as much as humiliated.

Strangely, this is their goal - not just a tactical victory, but an emotional satisfaction. It is seen perfectly here, in the humiliation of Jesus Christ:

Mark 15:16-33
The soldiers led Jesus away into the palace (that is, the Praetorium) and called together the whole company of soldiers. They put a purple robe on him, then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on him. And they began to call out to him, "Hail, king of the Jews!"

Again and again they struck him on the head with a staff and spit on him. Falling on their knees, they paid homage to him. And when they had mocked him, they took off the purple robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him.

In the Pixar movie, The Incredibles, Frozone and Mr. Incredible are laughing at the need of their arch-villains to "monologue". To exposit for several minutes on the failure and weakness of their enemy, the hero.

I think we understand it. I think we see the rage and anger that literally possesses the villain. They need something bubbling in their soul to be lanced. They want the hero to feel the despair and alienation they have felt; the humbling and humiliation they have let simmer in their proud heart.

They didn't become super villains for any rational reason. Why should they end the life of their foe with cool dispatch?

Why were these Roman soldiers beating Jesus like this? Because they were stuck in Judea dealing with rebellious Jews and insurrectionists and were sick and tired of it.

They poured out their rage on this ugly itinerant preacher; the self-proclaimed "King of the Jews"! (I know Jesus was asked and simply told the truth - but how ARROGANT He must have seemed to these soldiers!) There were over 200 men in that Praetorium that Jewish holiday (some commentators place the number up to 600). They beat Jesus so badly they needed another man, Simon the Cyrenian, to carry his crossbeam for him as they left the city.

They were insane -enraged and merciless.

And they fulfilled prophecy.

Villains do not care who they hurt as long as they get what they want.

Heroes do not care how much they ARE hurt as long as they achieve their goal.

That's what Jesus did.

"For the joy set before Him, He endured the cross and its shame."


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