The Power in Villainy

by , Sunday March 26, 2017
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The Power in Villainy

The Power in Villainy

Examining the different sides to being bad and why villaineous characters are among the best

 

 

Villains. They're bad, they love it, and for some reason we can't get enough of them. Why? Well there's some allure to villainy. These characters get to do what they want, they have emotions, motives, and vendettas like any other person - and they're hellbent on getting their way. In some sense, perhaps we want to be the villain, perhaps we want to get to know them instead. Either way, the appeal is there, and the flawed evilness is endearing.

 

But there's more to it than just that. Take my favourite villain for example, Castor Troy from the epic 90's film, Face/Off. If you haven't seen this movie, make it your last feat in villain feature week, and watch it. Castor Troy is the epitomy of bad. He wants to hurt people, carries twin golden guns strapped to his back in the chance that he does, and appears to be on a higher level of elation that could come accross as, what's the word I'm looking for? Insanity. He's everything we like in a villain - clever, resourceful, with a wicked sense of humor and addictive charm, and then he's everything we hate - being an otherwise sexist and disparaging human being with no real morals or conscience.

So this is why and how the movie gets interesting. Here's our witty and unstoppable antagonist and of course we have the law-abiding protagonist set on defeating him. In this case, it's the nice "good guy" Agent Archer who, in order to infiltrate Castor's persona and stop his sinister schemes, must take - yes, literally - his face off. And when, by some fluke, Castor wakes up faceless, he then takes Archer's face as his own and the havoc begins. The hero becomes the villain, the villain disguises himself as the hero, and the transition is not such an easy thing to pull off. The very title Face/Off is used both explicitly and metaphorically, and the relationship that plays out in this version of good versus evil accounts for many of its cringe-worthy moments. For humans, being bad comes easily and naturally so we can identify with villains at the same time that we understand the importance in the fight between good and evil. Moreover, we can relate.

 

But is there more to villains like Castor Troy than meets the eye? In lots of blogs with writing tips, good villains are those with a story, a history if you will, and this backstory is what drives them to vegeance or greed, or whatever other devious motives they gravitate towards without pause. And much like these well-written characters, Castor Troy has an interesting back story as well. He's not just a bad guy, he wasn't born hating and taking and owning everything imaginable, his life - be it upbringing, environment, or personality - made him that way. He is still a human being so he cares about things, feels pain, wants what he so justly deserves and a third of a way into this movie, he wants his face - and essentially all that comes with his life - back. And you can't blame him.

In Greek mythology, Castor and his brother Pollux were twins (not necessarily paternal, don't ask me how that makes sense), and likewise in the movie they share a familial bond bordering on affection. But in the ancient versions of this relationship, Pollux is the divine one and Castor, the mortal. And in the end when his brother dies, Pollux asks Zeus to share his immortality so the twins could be together, forever. And thus they're transformed into the constellation Gemini. It's a cute story, but a little twisted if you think about it, much like the relationship of these two brothers in Faceoff.

 

In the end, good truimphs over evil and Castor goes down like the dog that he is. It's a little sad but hey, that's how it usually goes. The fact that the hero then adopts his arch enemy's son as his own speaks to a higher sense of responsibility and detracts nicely from the fact that this hero is the one who orphaned the child. They're one big happy family, and while the ecstatic joy is there, it's also lost that element of surprise, the unnerving spontaneity Castor Troy brought to the scene as the villain. And so while we regained safety and stability as well as a sense of justice, what we lose when the villain is taken out of the equation is much more. For there is a power in villainy, a power in the struggle, the daring endeavors and the form evil takes when it comes to humans. Films and stories alike would not be the same without it.

 

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