Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Frightening Villains

In some stories, it becomes necessary to introduce one or multiple villains.  There are various types of villains, but the ones I find most intriguing are those that are frightening; there is something unnatural about them.  They are chilling.  I don’t want to identify with such a villain or perceive some hidden heart of gold.  I fear them as I would fear a rabid dog because there is something not quite right in their thinking – something not quite right in their being.  They cannot be reasoned with, and we cannot empathize with them.  And though they may have changed from good to evil, they can never change back.

One example that comes to mind is Orochimaru from the manga/anime Naruto.  Orochimaru is a ninja from the Leaf Village who goes astray.  In order to learn as much jutsu as possible, he experiments on people, killing them in a secret hideaway within the village.  He later forms his own village and has his own following, but he doesn’t care about anyone but himself.  On the surface, Orochimaru seems like the typical power-hungry villain, but there’s something almost perverse in how he interacts with other characters.  His jitsu always leans toward the macabre, and he transforms his body into repulsive, serpentine shapes.

The second example that comes to mind is Satan.  Not the sit-on-your-shoulder guy in red with a pitchfork.  I mean Lucifer himself – the highest archangel who decided he was above God and led a third of the angelic host with him in rebellion.  Here is a person who was the greatest created being of all time and turned into the most menacing threat mankind has ever known.  In fact, the word Satan comes from the word “accuser” because he accuses men before God, yet he tempts humanity into utter depravity.  I think a lot of people are frightened by the demonic based on the popularity of films where the characters struggle against a demonic opponent in various forms.

A final example is zombies.  With zombies, all vestiges of humanity have been stripped away, and all that remains are remorseless beings with insatiable appetites for living flesh, especially that of humans.  Even their appearance is a twisted form of normalcy, often to reflect their undead status (assuming they are undead as opposed to alive and infected).  There are times I wish "The Walking Dead" wasn’t so compelling because it really creeps me out to watch it.

There is a time and a place for villainous characters, and I think there are also times when we should turn to frightening villains.  We are not excited about their appearance in the story; not because they take away from the story (in fact, they may be the story), but because our fight or flight reflex tells us to run.

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