Day 20 – Dear Villains

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Dear Villains,

 I have a confession to make – I’m a teensy bit obsessed with you. Ok, maybe a little more than a teensy bit. Anyone who has seen my Movie Geek pinboard knows that Loki is a constant fascination of mine, as are every single of Christopher Nolan’s villains. I feel the need to explain myself a bit on this subject, so that people in my life don’t start having interventions in fear that I may be developing some dark, sadistic tendencies.

It’s not a fascination with evil. If that were the case, I’d just sit around watching terribly violent news stories all day. That’s depressing. What gets me is the search for something redeemable in these fictional, albeit terrifyingly realistic characters.

My faith has taught me that everyone is redeemable. Everyone.

And that creates this constant tension in this optimistic mind – can I find something redeemable in anyone? Even a fictional character who is written to have zero humanity (read: vulnerability).

Even that thought process walks a line with me, because while I love this challenge of finding redemption for the most evil characters we can dream up, I also love a well-written character, especially one with depth. I find myself on edge in every new movie, wondering what the final consensus on the villain will be. Will he be perfectly strong and unbreakable, but have a cliche backstory, revealed at the twist, that makes you feel sorry for him in a way that flattens his character? Will he continue to morph and grow as a dynamic and twisted character, drawing you deeper onto “his team” as the film reveals who he truly is? Will be be a classical villain or a redeemable anti-hero? Will he be written in such a way that he is on a different playing field than humans, and seem to have no predictable characteristics? Will the movie end with the audience internally hoping he will get away?

I’ve written about this before, here, and the interest I have in what we are all looking for in a hero, and a villain, and I deeply appreciate how these shifts in contemporary culture reflect the attitudes of the world we live in. It gives me hours and hours of pondering to do after every film, no matter how many times I’ve seen it, or how many times I’ve wondered whether I really want the “good guy” to win when facing characters like these….

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(Side note – I am always intentional about my gender pronouns, and you will notice an abundance of “he”s in this letter. I believe that there are very few strong female characters in our cinematic culture, and even fewer strong female villains, and I look forward to a day when they will be considered and acted at the level of some of these current classics.)villain 6

Sarah Rose


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