Villain, Villain, Which One’s The Villain?

Good Morning! How’s Everyone doing today? How has Everyone been these past few weeks? It’s been far too long since I’ve had anything posted; the terrible affliction of Writer’s Block had made me its bitch. It still has a hold on me, but I’m fighting back! I know you folks are expecting the next part of the Croste story, but I don’t have it yet…

Instead, I’d like to talk about Villains- or the Antagonist if you prefer. This post started with an odd thought Monday morning while I was smoking a cigarette and having some coffee. Now I’d like to start with something a good friend of mine said to me a long time ago:

“Even bad guys believe they are on good quests.”

How true a statement. Now for the odd thought that occurred, funny enough it involved The Lion King. Don’t get me wrong it’s a charming animated movie and it has that great song about not giving a shit. But the villain isn’t who you think it is.

We all know the basic story: Mufasa teaches his kid, Simba, about the proper way to rule the kingdom. Mufasa has the grand notion of abiding by the great circle of life. Gazelle eats the grass, Lion eats the Gazelle, when Lion dies he returns to the earth and becomes the grass- circle of life where everyone is important… Except that Mufasa is really a racist dictator. In his circle of life, there is no room for the Hyena. It seems Mufasa can’t live by his own “Circle of Life” creed. That’s right, fuck those Hyena, you are banished to the wasteland of the Elephant graveyard to die of starvation.

That’s where the Villain, Mufasa’s brother Scar, comes into the mix. He plans a coup in true heroic fashion to overthrow the evil monarchy with the help of the Hyena. He promises them “Join me and you shall never be hungry again.” This doesn’t sound like an act of villainy at all. The poor Hyenas are only hungry working folks that happen to be hated by Mufasa. Why wouldn’t they back Scar’s play?

So Scar takes out his evil Dictator of a brother and runs Simba out of town. This doesn’t sound like the actions of a bad guy at all! Sure his management skills suck and he assumes the throne just as a crippling drought dries up the lands, but that’s nothing to do with him or the Hyenas.

Then Simba comes back and takes back the throne. Has he learned anything about tolerance in all his years of exile? Not a damn thing. Just like his Dictator father, Simba banishes the Hyena, the poor starving Hyena who only followed the hero Scar who tried to feed the hungry. So once again, fuck the Hyena! They have no part in the circle of life…

So this is our twist on the Antagonist. Which one, Mufasa or Scar, was really the bad guy in this tale? Mufasa was intolerant of only the Hyena; he let other predators, like the Crocodile roam free in the kingdom. Scar on the other hand was only guilty of trying to stand up for the little guy.

Yet Scar is the Villain in the story, and it’s true, he is the bad guy. Scar murders the king, thinks he has killed the prince, subjugates the rest of the noble families, and appoints his scoundrels as the ruling class. All of this he does in the name of righteousness- okay it’s really called jealousy, but freeing the oppressed and feeding the hungry seems like a good thing.

Personally, I think this is what makes a great villain. An Antagonist that can have a story told from his point of view that paints him a grand light is a well written bad guy. This is the type of villain that captures our imagination and keeps us reading. The kind of villain that could almost make us take his side.

I’d like to hear your thoughts. What do you think makes a great villain? Do you have a favorite bad guy who really seems to be a misunderstood hero? Please feel free to comment!

P.S. The next part of The Library That Whispered Murder is coming soon. I hope this Thursday, I just have to win this boxing match against Writer’s Block- I think I have it against the ropes. Thanks for stopping by!

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4 thoughts on “Villain, Villain, Which One’s The Villain?

  1. I will never look at Lion King the same! You mentioned some points most of us were trying not to pay attention too over the years. I don’t like to disect like this, because I feel as tho I will destroy peoples views, opinions and feelings – like it already happened to me in highschool when we had classes about “Antigone”. I was the sole person that got tasked to defend Kreont, versus 30+ more people, and I won 🙂
    I hope you beat that Writer’s block soon, your writing is dearly missed.

  2. I am quite taken with this brand of villains. One of the the biggest struggles I have is dealing with bad guys where their sole purpose is to “take over the world”. Because I always think… well, then what? For what purpose do you want to take over the world? And what are you going to do after you do take it over? I love villains who think they are heroes. I love when writer’s give villains a moral compass but it’s just kind of broken. It seems to wobble and point in directions that they think are good or noble (even if they are Machiavellian). I suppose the other brand of quality villain is when writer’s make their villains into real people. There was a writer (whose name I cannot recall I am ashamed to say) who always made sure when the heroes tracked the villain down in their lair, kicked the door in guns blazing, would find the villain with their feet in a basin of hot water, coughing horribly with the flu. The message – yes even Bond villains must have taken breaks to go off and take a leak. Except we don’t ever see that part.

    I think perhaps one of the most interesting villains in all of writing is Shakespeare’s Richard III. A hunchback and an outcast, embraces the role of villain in his asides with the audience. He knows what he is from the start: “I am determined to prove a villain.” One of the most chilling scenes in all of literature is the scene where Richard seduces Anne, and brags to the audience afterwards, having convinced her to marry him despite killing her husband and father, and when he’s done with her, he tells us, he’s going to discard her. This is a very different picture of a villain and one who knows what he is and embraces it.

    We must rise up against that dictator Mufasa and his son who just follows in his Dad’s hegemonic ways! What ever happened to free elections? I think the witch doctor Monkey Rifiki would make a good president of the savannah. He seems like a cheerful fellow.

    Look forward to the return of the Croste boys!

  3. Excellent point with an interesting illustration. I agree, villains shouldn’t be bad just so there’s a villain present. They need a reason to exist and it has to (at least in their mind) be based in a plausible reality. Why do they make the choices they do? What are the beliefs that drive them? If they’re fleshed out as real people, readers will be more willing to buy into them and the story will be more successful.

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