Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Villains v. Heroes

I suppose the more correct statement is 'Protagonists v. Antagonists' but I like villains. The 'I'm here to, if not end, then seriously mess up, the world and here's my creepy laugh to prove it' sort. Maybe it's my religious upbringing but I like the dichotomy of Good and Evil, Right and Wrong. But that's not the point. This is the point: I like villains more than heroes because I think they're more interesting and take more skill to write.

Even in good writing, all an author needs for a hero is as character with a vague notion to 'do what's right'. Anti-heroes and whatnot aside, at the very basic level that is all that is required. If well written, this will not compromise the integrity of the story. Because you can just have a ridiculously idealistic protagonist.

Villains need a reason. No one decides to blow up the planet just because it seemed like a good idea at the time. Any story written with such an antagonist is either parody, or insanely simple. A villain that is villainous just because will automatically reflect poorly on a writer (except in cases of comedy) whereas a hero that is heroic just because will not.

Granted, I don't particularly like reading about people who are heroic simply because that's the way they are, but it's been done. Done well even. And there is a certain sort of appeal. I have no burning, driving force that would push me toward greatness but I like to think (even though I know I most likely wouldn't) that I would make the right choices if they were put in front of me. The very ordinary-ness such characters can posses can be a very powerful tool.

Anyway. You can argue for the case of the Psychopath / Anti-Social (Mel feel free to chime in if I'm getting my disorders wrong ) villain who was born that way. But I would argue back that even this requires a layer of complexity that the very basic hero does not. Such a character would require, not only a thorough understanding of such disorders, but the writer to demonstrate how this has manifested throughout the character's life.

 Villains necessitate complexity whereas heroes do not.

Of course, the best heroes are, in my opinion,  every bit as complex as their counterparts. But it isn't necessary.


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