Real Life vs Fiction: Faces of a Villain

Recently, I’ve been watching a thoroughly enjoyable crime drama. There’s always quite a number of them floating around: cop shows, superhero movies, episodic thrillers and the like. However, when it is really riveting – I’m reminded of the crucial aspect which makes them work.

A story with only an awesome protagonist lacks the essential element of a solid drama. Good art requires having an antagonist who’s a capable match with strengths similar to the hero, but riven with his or her own demons. Otherwise, we’re bored by the exploits of a leading man easily able to defeat his challenger.

I’ve seen my share of shows where the focus concentrates too much on the internal struggles of the hero. I believe that mostly works for a good book.

In a movie, if the only battle a hero has is against emotional despair, anguish, then recovery, essentially in a vacuum – well, to me, that’s not enough. That is why Superman Returns was a flop. Yes, it made decent box office bank, but it was not a good film. Superman’s most debilitating enemy was a rock, and a bit of emotional distress. The problem with film were: a lead actor who didn’t have the chops to pull off the emotional aspect, and a movie which couldn’t decide whether to be a cartoon, semi-serious comedy or both. And that’s not a good mix for a superhero like Superman if it’s not done well.

Here’s my list of villains that come to mind, whenever the show is sufficiently entertaining:

1 – The anarchist – He brings chaos from the jump, because he is chaos. Like Batman‘s Joker, sometimes his background – revealing the depths of a childhood trauma that made him what he – is told. In most cases, all we see is a character without a past, just a full-tilt off-the-walls bad guy. There maybe times, when he’s dying, he finally divulges who he really is. This happens when the writer(s) attempts to plug plot holes or present comforting resolutions.

Overall, this is a character who’s basically in it for the thrill of disaster and destruction. There is no other reason for it. He may provide excuses, but that’s because he likes the sound of his own voice. He doesn’t believe a word he says. And he’s the ultimate nightmare for the hero, because he’s unpredictable and doesn’t live by a rule book.

In real life, he’s the guy who blows down or shoots up places that are open to the public. Sometimes he leaves a bizarre manifesto, sometimes he offs himself after executing his evil deeds without a word. His true goal is infamy. And thanks to our media, he achieves it, with many copy cats ensuing.

2 – The disabled, disfigured, underestimated guy – The best villain I’ve seen in a while was the character, Roger ‘Verbal’ Kint, in The Usual Suspects. This film had the feel of a classic Albert Hitchcock movie or Agatha Christie novel. This bad guy hides in plain sight and you never consider him one, because his disability disarms you. Everyone treats him like a less-than and as a character we regard him as such. Yet, he’s hiding a cunning mind beneath the simpleton’s facade.

Update:

Shakespeare had fun with writing about King Richard III, an English monarch, one of the best known historical villains of all time. He wrote about a man who preceded him by 100 years, but that didn’t stop him from speculating about his morals, motives and machinations. There is hardly a movie I haven’t seen about this man. At one place I worked at, I recommended a co-worked watch any Richard III film to get an idea of the mindset of the people around us. She laughed at how accurate it was. Hey, people do not change.

Recently, the remains of King Richard III have been located, by the Richard III Society – who are also trying to reform his image. Yes, that’s the problem with bad guys, they’ve just misunderstood. They had to commit their deeds for the greater good. It’s all justifiable. Hmmm.

3 – The well-meaning scientist or professor who takes his theories a little too far. He meant well, but starts to develop a  messianic zeal to wipe the planet free of human beings in order to save it. Unfortunately, in this day and age, it’s hard to separate the nut job environmentalists making these kind of pronouncements – the human population  should be whittled down to 500 million, by any means – with the bad-guys scientists in Hollywood films. Spiderman (2012) had one of these characters.

One cannot blame doomsday preppers for their anxiety when supposedly sane, rational and well known scientists are making ending-the-human-species-is-good-for-the-earth kind of statements. We are animals, no different from the insects and mammals that are here. We are no worse or better than them in affecting the environment or the earth. People who talk about wiping off most human beings from the planet should just jump off the highest bridge they can find.

4 – The alpha male – He’s the perfect top flight above reproach male – as seen in the classic The Manchurian Candidate (1962). On the outside, he’s guileless: the man everyone respects, loves and adores. In reality, he’s been turned inside out. He’s often portrayed as a predictable and unassuming character, because he’s the first guy we often see in a film, but he’s a little too smooth and slick to believe.

Overall, we enjoy seeing that he is as corrupt as we initially suspected. The above reproach guy is the one we never liked that much in the first place.

5 – The beta male – He’s the disrespected sidekick to the alpha male. He feels he’s been hiding his true self while laboring in the shadow of the top dog male. He covets everything the alpha has: women, power, respect or fear and an almost extreme level of worship for his incredible prowess. In some stories, he wants the same woman, or women, of the alpha male. In the animal kingdom this happens all the time: the alpha male always has to keep the beta males in check or they will take his “throne.”

Good writing can make these story lines the best of all.

6 – The femme fatale – She does it because she’s bored, like Catwoman. She’s aroused by the pandemonium she causes, which serves to distract others from her real goals. She enjoys the havoc, but there’s no epic story here. She’s initially introduced as this retiring, shy, church mouse kind of person, when an earth-shattering event transforms her into a “dangerous”, sex-hungry, man-eating type of woman.

As is often the case, since men write this character, they show that they haven’t a clue as to how the female mind works. Rarely, are they accurate. But when done well, by the right actress, she can be fun and amusing to watch. Would be interesting if someone came up with a completely believable malevolent female villain. Although it was a comedy, The Devil Wears Pravda came close to how some women operate.

7 – The bent bastard – I was watching a British program, Line of Duty, and I grew to like this epithet. I heard it over and over again. At first, I wasn’t certain by what they meant. Then I realized it was a rather clean and clear expression of contempt. They meant someone corrupt, easily bought, with no morals or scruples. This is not a complicated villain with a higher calling or any of the other aspects we find in a typical one. He is the embodiment of the “good man” who stays silent, and does nothing, in the face of evil.

His sole objective is to get more by taking short cuts: shave the edges to make things go smoother, skim a little off the top. He has no ethics, so he’s easy to bribe and buy off. This character is a small time thief who usually ends up in trouble reaching far over his head.

What makes him a mark in the first place is that he’s a cop or a “good guy” who bends the line one time too many. His firm “rule of law” is a wet noodle. Eventually, his luck starts to run out, because he lets greed take over, unless the writer(s) decide to redeem him.

This was the case with The Shield, but I didn’t watch enough of it to see how far the writers went with the main character crossing the line into corruption. I suspected he went far enough at times.

8 – The antagonist – He’s the spiritual twin of the hero, in that he has an inflexible, unyielding moral code. He feel he’s too good for the world and must fix its flaws. He’s a highly intelligent and logical man, but he’s the worst kind of extremist. He rigidly abides by his own rule book, which leads to devastating consequences for everyone. He’s not someone satisfied with half-measures.

And he is truly the worst of the lot, yet an exquisite match for the hero. Think of  Professor Moriarty for Sherlock Holmes.

The hero is the one who has learned to accept the world as it is. The antagonist is the one who cannot. Hence, the eternal conflict between good and evil.

Ancient Parables

The original source of heroes and anti-heroes have their roots in ancient literature or religious documents. Our modern day superheroes are re-imagined demigods.

People have always hungered for a savior….

Update

Does anyone care to speculate which character-type Christopher Dorner would fall under?

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Black Magazines, Black Fashion: Burt-Murray Goes White and Vogue Africa is Fiction

Total Fiction: Vogue Africa

Vogue Africa by Mario Epanya

Vogue (Africa) doesn’t exist, but the pictures circulating the web are fascinating, intriguing, and perplexing. The photographer is Mario Epanya. He wanted Vogue (Conde Naste) to have this magazine showcasing Africa.

I’m curious and would like to ask: couldn’t he find investors in oil-rich Nigeria, diamond-rich South Africa, or booming Botswana to help out? I think his idea is outstanding. We can see from the cover and many more on some blogs – he obviously has the models and the talent.

Why must black men always go to white men with a cup in hand begging for something when he already has all the resources he needs to get started?

Vogue Africa Images

Angela Burt-Murray Prefers White

The Editor-in-Chief of Essence Magazine decided to go interracial, but only for her hiring decision(s). This appears to be the one time she believes in quality and the philosophy of “may the best wo/man win”. She wouldn’t dare encourage black women to seek men (of any race) that’s best for her. She saves the philosophy of seeking quality for herself.

Burt-Murray prefers to suggest black women go to strip clubs to find that purple unicorn “good black man” tucking $1 into LaFlowanda’s g-string. Great idea, Ms Burt-Murray. You gonna keep it real for those young women who are S.O.L. as they face a 2 million black male deficit.

Angela Burt-Murray wrote this stunning, articulate and brilliant essay explaining that the “White editor won’t diminish our love of black women.” The people who run Essence claim they have love for black women.

Oh, yeah! Dis must be love. Is this the kind of love, where your broken bones and black eyes are a result of love taps? That you complain too much, otherwise he wouldn’t have to hit you? You should be grateful he loves you, because no one can love someone such as yourself? Yeah, that kind of love.

She can keep it.

Who Should Replace Her

Don’t get me wrong: I don’t care about the fashion editor hire. I feel her comment about “quality” could apply to the following.

  • Encourage black women to be open to men (any race) who are quality as opposed to any-black-male-with-a-pulse worship. Stop encouraging their involvement with baby daddys, men in relationships, men in jail, ex-cons, men seeking FWB / hookups, and actors who mysteriously cannot find a “date” in Hollyweird.
  • As to her position as Editor-in-Chief, I said it on Huffington.com and I’ll say it here:

Next hire: a white woman to replace Angela Burt-Murray, because that white woman will have the vision and understanding of black women’s issues. Good hire, Time-Warner!

Her replacement can be those white women who sleep with black men featured on the cover of Essence, are given a black pass by blacks who put them on their blogs, defended by blacks who say silly things like “they’re not white”, and are called “black” due to negro-proxy*. That way Burt-Murray’s replacement wont actually be a white woman, but the modern-day black woman replacement we see featured everywhere. We wont even notice the difference.

It’s Not About Diversity

Folks can chatter about the importance of diversity in Burt-Murray’s hiring decision. Yet, I know this: one could literally find hundreds, if not thousands, of unemployed black women desperate for a job. She could have rotated the gig and given many of these black women a chance. Instead we get a high-school level snark essay about issues she think we should protest and boycott. She took the safe bet. I get it. Her bosses told her who to hire; she couldn’t come out and say it. Diversity is a catch phrase for: I don’t write the checks.

The case with Vogue in Africa and Essence is this: de boss man is de white man. But he’s not the villain here. His priorities are different. His focus is on money: advertisers, distribution, expenses, and circulation. Multiculturalism and diversity are the least of his concerns, but it makes a nice cover when you are forcing negroes to do your bidding.

However, black folks have nothing to complain about. If you want to showcase “black fashion and black beauty” in a high-end fashion magazine put your money where your mouth is.

I will tell you why it doesn’t happen: do black people really believe black women are as beautiful as white women?

Are we able to produce (without begging anybody for something) a first rate magazine? Yes, of course.

The reality is this: the effort has been tried and tried many times in the past, and you know what happens? No one bought the magazine(s).

*theroot.com – has this mess. the “blackest” white people around. this site is dr. gate’s brainchild.

Linky-Loos

  1. thegrio.com: why-africa-vogue-is-considered-out-of-fashion
  2. thegrio.com: essence-one-white-editor-wont-diminish-our-love-of-black-women
  3. thegrio.com: essence-white-editor-caught-up-in-off-color-controversy
  4. clutchmagonline.com: hires-white-fashion-director-leaves-loyal-readers-asking-why
  5. huffingtonpost: essence hires white fashion editor
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As a Child

I used to decapitate my dolls.

I used to set things on fire.

Today, I’d take the shortcut and set my dolls on fire.

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I Wish I Was An Artist: Having a Hobby Would Be Nice

Curiosity and Open Mindedness

A friend called me the other day looking for advice. I’m flattered, and slightly amused by these calls, because the person asking for the advice is older, and has many more college degrees than I do. I know it’s not always an indication of relative common sense, but the degrees she holds aren’t trivial.

I admire her, because she is very intelligent. She’s always curious, and rarely forgets anything. I often wish I had that type of recall. I see our relationship as being one where I’m the one asking for her opinion, because she has such an interesting take on things. Plus she’s managed to stay curious, is willing to pursue hobbies, and even go back to college, or take classes for a certificate, or obtain another advanced degree.

She possesses somethings that are great and wonderful: curiosity and open mindedness. I think it is better to have several interests, hobbies, and explore your curiosity as opposed to ignoring or suppressing it.

I wish I was even half as motivated as her. I feel I have done my time. Although sometimes I feel the call of obtaining another degree. Yet, I cannot tolerate a class longer than 2-6 weeks; I don’t care what the class is about.

I get so jittery, I want to smoke (and I don’t).

My Waning Attention Span

I don’t allow myself to be curious about too many things these days. The reasons why are rather lame, but I use them as my cop-out. I feel hobbies take up too much time. They cost too much money, and ultimately are a frustrating and short lived endeavor. I cannot pursue a hobby, because of my flagging attention span.

I used to be a free wheeling individual when it came to – say – art (painting/drawing) and writing. When I was a kid, I’d just get some water color paint, and commence with painting the walls of my bedroom. How did my folks react? They’d stop by, offer their criticism, or simply admire it. When I got tired of my artwork and I wanted the walls repainted with another of my favorite colors, my father would oblige me and repaint the room.

Yeah, I know, I was something of a Princess growing up.

A New Attitude Required

I cannot focus long enough on my interests anymore. I used to sew: I can make dresses, skirts and blouses, but I don’t have the patience. I used to write. I could finish a book, and I have. However, when it comes time to go back and re-edit, I’m done, I will do no more. I’ve got a ton of finished and nearly completed stories collecting dust. I can’t even muster the interest to finish my last masterpiece of a bookshelf. It’s just sitting there in the dining room, cluttering up space.

I hate clutter.

I’m also turning a blind eye to the news. I don’t follow the release of movies anymore. I don’t plan on seeing any films – in the theaters – this summer. I’ve cut down my evening entertainment to two hours a night, and I plan on cutting it down to one night per week.

I have decided to follow the formula of another friend of mine. She plans most of her weekdays, and every weekend. She makes sure she is always occupied and busy. I’m a last minute kind of person, but I want to follow her example for a period of time, and see if that’s a better way to function. I will plan my entire spring, summer and fall. The free-floating Miss Mellow thing will be gone for a while.

Well, after my pep-talk my friend felt better. She made me think of asking the advice of someone I used to ask for help, but I haven’t done so in years. I think I will now.

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