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  1. tcol4417
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    tcol4417 Member

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    Heroes and Villains...

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by tcol4417, Aug 4, 2009.

    What's your personal preference regarding stories that contain characters whose "alignments"[/nerd] are explicit as opposed to stories where everyone has their own justifications and flaws?

    I personally find the 1900's ideas of
    "BWAHAHA WORLD DOMINATION AND BABY PENGUIN GENOCIDE"
    "STOP RIGHT THERE, YOU VILLAINOUS SCUM!"
    a little... well, 1900s.

    "Villains" will always have some sort of justification (Sauron was bullied by hobbits as a young child... just kidding), but I rarely find that it's spun in a way that you honestly don't know which way the script will swing because there's no explicit "good guy"

    Examples of the first include almost everything MARVEL and DC, the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Harry Potter, you get the idea.

    Examples of the latter include Smokin' Aces (there are no good guys) and full-cast-crossovers (which are AWESOME): episodes/whathaveyou where characters from an entire universe are thrown together in a bizarre set of circumstances like Crazy Clover Club's rendition of the Nasuverse (If you don't know, don't look it up. TYPE MOON fans only).
     
  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I find the monochromatic view of heroes and villains boring. There are people with conflicting goals and motivations. The reader can identify more with some characters than with others. Some cannot be forgiven, even if you understand and even respect what drives theml
     
  3. NigeTheHat
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    NigeTheHat Contributing Member Contributor

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    Complex characters tend to make far more fulfilling reads, but a little baby penguin genocide now and then is a guilty pleasure. I don't always want to have to think when I'm reading.
     
  4. Kas
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    Kas Contributing Member

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    I've thoroughly expressed my views in other threads, so I'll just keep this brief. . .

    The latter is obiously better in most cases. (in limited doses for most people)

    Supreme evil characters only really work as symbols. . . As people, they are flat, boring and unrealistic.

    A lot of Christians don't actually believe in the devil as a physical entity. Sauron was the same deal. . It's been a while since I read LotR, but I don't think anyone ever actually met Sauron. He was never described. Thus, he was like the devil. On the most basic level, the story played out like a biblical conflict, black and white, simplified like condensed religious theory.

    So the question is whether you want to write something akin to a bible story, where the main elements represent theories or a limited perspective, or a story that is more directly relevant to or representative of life in all its complexity. .

    I think most people prefer the latter. However, if you stick to reality explicitly, the story and characters will almost inevitably end up somewhat on the dark side. Some people find it depressing; they read fantasy and scifi to escape into simpler world. So, (I think) for that reason, a lot of writers try to use a mix of both, with varying degrees of success. . .

    I'm sure I've said it a dozen times, but George R.R. Martin writes the most Human characters I've ever encountered in fantasy. That's the main reason I'm totally obsessed with him. I study his "Ice and Fire" series like holy scripture, because it's probably the best possible example of that rarity you mentioned.

    On the other side, I thoroughly enjoyed LotR and Harry Potter, but not nearly on the same level.

    Terry Goodkind's Sword of Truth is one of those that strike somewhat of a balance. . but the hero is still perfect, and the main villain is as villainous as can be. . (though, of course, he considers himself the good guy)

    I liked the first book a little. . especially when I got to the part where the Wizard's First Rule is explained. . but ultimately couldn't maintain interest. Tried reading the second book and dropped it halfway though. Which is really saying something; I nearly always finish what I'm reading.

    Fah, typed more than I wanted to.:rolleyes:

    Edit: I'm one of those who aim for balance. I've tried writing Martin style, but it didn't go well. I'm just not there yet; it's very challenging to maintain realism and keep the story interesting at the same time.
     
  5. Unit7
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    Unit7 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I like to have my badguys have a good reason for their evilness. I don't mind the occasional Evil just to be Evil kind of character, but it's nice to know they have some sort of reason behind it. I also love the type of Villian who believes he is doing the world good. I also like the idea of a hero doing evil for the good of the world. An example of this is Zero from the anime series Code Gease: Lelouch of the Rebellion. He becomes the ultimate evil. He commits this terrible crimes and makes everyone in the world focus all their anger, pain, and hate towards him.

    Kira from Death Note also sorta falls into this. He decides to use the Death Note to eliminate all evil from the world. Though he sorta grew a rather large ego and... well yeah.

    I love these kind of characters. Who may have good intentions, but either use evil to destroy it, or do not realize they are doing it.

    Though the occasional Evil to be Evil is always fun once and awhile.
     
  6. Kas
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    Kas Contributing Member

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    Agree. But the better the characters, the worse the ending, I find. . (in those stories) Death Note is the perfect example. The last few episodes were utter crap, because it seemed like they totally warped Light's character, suddenly and with insufficient reason, just to bring about a traditional ending.

    It would have been more interesting if the natural ending had been allowed.

    Light achieves Godhood, he succeeds in eradicating violent crime. . and then, eventually, he dies. Murders still happen, just few and far beteen. But when he dies. . the killers go unpunished. As an epilogue, you'd see people beginning to panic and doubt God. He eventually fades into myth, just like all of the others.

    Now that would be interesting. It's like, what if there were people with Godlike powers, who were worshiped as such, then died. . .? And now we doubt all of it. There's no absolute proof that people/beings with supernatual/metaphysical/spiritual power never existed.

    Why don't writers ever dare to allow a New Ending? I feel so ripped off when I think a story is heading for a seemingly original finsih, and then the writers say, "Nope, we're not doing that today. ."

    Why can't the villain have absolute victory? Villainy is in the eye of the beholder, and a lot of people sided with the supposed villain of Death Note.
     
  7. Melonman
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    Melonman New Member

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    The way I look at it, any way works out well depending on what you want to get across.

    for reference I'll take from my favorite symbol of all, batman, and two of his villains that stand out to me.

    as a character batman is flawed, but as a symbol he is justice incarnate. so depending on who is writing him he tends to switch between the two.

    the two villains I want to use as reference are

    The joker: because he is the symbol of all that is injustice. he's chaos incarnate.
    a great tool for expressing the endless fight of good vrs. evil.

    then there is Two face: his name says it all, he's got layers. He was a privet eye (or a politician, or a lawyer depending on what story you read) he fought evil with the law, but in the end he realizes that everything comes down to chance. Not only that but he was Bruce Waynes friend.
    His character is a great tool to express the reality of justice in the world, and brings out the more human aspects of batman, his flaws.

    both these villains play a role and they play it well. So in my opinion it depends completely on what you want to express through your villain and hero.
     
  8. Kirvee
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    Kirvee Contributing Member

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    When I read a story (be it book or manga) I like it when the "good guys" and "bad guys" are hard to read or distinguish.

    There are times when the monochromatic view of good vs evil works or is somewhat enjoyable (like in Bleach) but I find that stories with no clear definition are much more entertaining.

    Like in D.Gray-man, the mangaka/author has emphasis on the idea of everything being "gray" as opposed to black and white. That's why in the story the people you might come to believe to be the "bad guys" may actually be the "good guys" especially when the group of people you've come to believe are the "good guys" might not actually be all that good.

    It keeps a reader on their toes. Fullmetal Alchemist uses a slightly similar technique, although the good and bad guys in that manga are slightly better defined, but not very clearly.
     
  9. HorusEye
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    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    Stories of absolute good and evil are from another time. There was a time when people actually believed their politicians when they said they were the good guys, fighting evil personified in neighbouring countries. But humanity has become more enlightened and aware of the subjectiveness of motives. Nobody really believes in the good vs evil war, except former US president Bush perhaps, when he made the "crusade" slip of his tongue. If you put the west vs middle-east conflicts under the looking glass, you can find amoral, self-serving motives and actions in both camps. Once you've realized this is how the world really works, any fiction of good vs. evil does tend to feel like kids material.
     
  10. hawkedup
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    hawkedup Member

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    On a surface level, I agree with what everyone is saying here. But at the same time, sometimes it is fun to have a purely evil character. It's about redefining what evil is, though. A villain doesn't have to be an ugly orc from the underwhere to be evil. Nor do they have to be beautiful seducers. I like to think of the mayor from Buffy as one of the best examples of a purely evil villain. On the one side, he is probably one of the most honest politicians in history, he wants what's best for his town, and he truly loves and respects his friends. Except for the whole being evil thing, he'd be an ideal politician/citizen/man. Which, in the end, makes him far more evil, in my opinion.
     
  11. Cazaric
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    Cazaric New Member

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    Actually, if I recall correctly, he was described in Tolkien's The Silmarillion, where he was a servant of the villain, as opposed to supreme himself. He was at one point described as being exceedingly handsome and charming.

    Hard to believe, right?
     
  12. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    So was Tom Riddle, before he became Voldemort and began mucking around with dark magicks.

    Sauron was charismatic enough at the beginning, enough so to fool the High Elves and the Numenoran men and the Dwarves. Then came the forging of the One Ring, and the First War. His body and empiere fell, and he became naught but a spirit of malice. He became the Necromancer, and dwelt in Mirkwood before he returned to Mordor. None living returned to report his appearance after his defeat by Isildur.
     
  13. Kas
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    Kas Contributing Member

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    Dave, in light of your post, Christianity was even more of an influence than I realised. Thanks for that--very interesting.:)

    One of these days I'll have to read through his collective works.
     
  14. HPandtheMI
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    For the most part I disagree with saying Harry Potter's characters are straight good or bad. (The exception to this is Voldemort himself and Bellatrix Lestrange)
    Some examples:
    Snape
    Draco
    Harry
    Dumbledore, ect
    I think it's kind of fun to have both :) Though, it may be hard to make them as believable if they're clear cut
     
  15. jonathan hernandez13
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    jonathan hernandez13 Contributing Member Contributor

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    The first heroes were not the defenders of the good and the punishers of evil, they were the slayers of beasts/men, explorers, and rescuers of damsels.
    (Gilgamesh, Heracles, Perseus, hell even St. george killed a dragon, but that's a different age)

    It reflects an age (bronze typically) where man was fearful of nature because it represented the unknown when the world was largley unexplored by the cultures that made the myths.

    Heroes like King Arthur, King Sargon, or Moses are different. Even though accounts of their stories are undoubtedly exaggerated there may be historical truth to them (in the case of Sargon there is much better documentation then King Arthur though) Those heroes are heroes of Patriarchal societies/warrior societies that displaced matriarchal agricultural societies. Hence the phallic symbols like Excalibur and all the fighting.

    At some point the hero form became idealized, according to Joseph Campbell many heroes from many cultures in time display similarities, including a tutor, and a trial or rite of passage, etc. (even Luke Skywalker had his wizard/Jedi master who gave him magic/force and a special sword/light saber).

    The idea of heroes fighting against evil is a relatively recent thing and originates in the near east with the religion/philosophies of Zoroastrianism and the teaching of Zaruthushtra and in the Levant among the Jews. (I do not believe that either culture directly influenced the other in the independent formation of the concept of evil. Interestingly, in the near east the Chaldeans invented a monotheistic religion in the worship of Ahura Mazda seperate of the Hebrew YHWH).

    Hero depictions by the time of the Macedonians was idealized with Hero-ship even being granted much as sainthood is bestowed in Catholicism (after the death of the General Hephaiston Alexander the Great recommended him as a Hero). By the time of the Christians heroic acts were not limited to the slaying of beasts and other men, but also acts such as sacrifice (adorned by Christ himself through his final selfless act) were considered heroic.

    In the modern age a hero can be anyone who by their nature, moral, ethical, or other virtue, set themselves apart from the common lot. Taking up arms in service of one's nation (military service) is thought of as heroic. Firefighters and policemen and others who have dangerous professions and serve the public are thought of as brave and heroes. Even a good samaritan who prevents a mugging or a rape could be praised by press and public and branded as a "hero", maybe even officially thanked by the Mayor of a major city.

    It is no wonder that the term hero, as a blanket tewrm, has been used in film and in fiction. The star of the film is called a hero or heroine. Traditionally, the hero should be known as a protagonist, which is nothing more than the psychological extension of the self or group into a dramatic medium. That is why we gasp when the hero is nearly killed by the villain, it's a defense reaction.

    "What is a good man, but a wicked man's teacher?" - Lao Tzu, The Tao Te Ching

    In art, and in life, I suppose, the best way to define or show a force is to oppose it with its opposite. Long and short define each other. When the characters act, they act in accord with their own nature. By them acting as they would they explain themselves as a good or bad guy. It is when the two forces meet and invariably oppose that we see sparks and we become tidilated, we can live vicariously through the exhibitions of the charcters. Conflict is very old in us, older even than primate aggression, alot of it is very entrenched in reptilian thinking. We will not accept drama without struggle because subconsciously we all desire it. What struggle is more epic or exciting or poetic or romantic than good versus evil?

    We have, as a modern and post-modern people, not yet gone past symbolic good versus evil mentality society (just look at the cover of a comic book to see what I mean). We continuosly contrive situations and arenas where we can witness a moral fight and vicariously partake in it. We have, however, as a society also perceived how incredibly contrived and dated the idea is and rebel against the notion.(hence the birth of anti-heroes, morally ambiguous heroes, and revisionist westerns where the good guys and bad guys are almost unmistakable)

    Good versus evil is NOT as old as man, it began in a particular instance among certain cultures and the ideas spread. Loki was not an evil god, he was an adopted god and giant by birth who did wicked acts in his attempts to help his adopted family. There are no "evil" gods in Celtic, Greek, Roman, Aztec socities etc. Sin is unheard of in Hindu texts, it is particular to Judeo-Christian teachings that man in naturally sinful and must fight evil. In much eastern though nature and man are divine or manifestations of a divine force and struggle is to be avoided (interestingly, Buddha could be considered a hero by today's standards despite his inherit emphasis on nonviolence).

    Heroes and villains will be around for a long time, until we can outgrow tribal thinking, but as it turns out conflicts are excellent for storytelling.

    When it comes to your heroes and villains I would suggest that in their generation you apply the same building techniques that you would use whenever making any characters, you don't want squares, so they should be rounded off through and through.

    There is within us, however, a primitive side, a hunter-gatherer side that longs to hold a spear again and search for beasts to slay. Too, there is a side that can use that reptilian brain to imagine villains to fight, and there can be no greater fight than a battle between cosmic supernatural forces like good and evil.:p
     
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  16. tcol4417
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    tcol4417 Member

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    I suppose questions like that do become kind of redundant when you start looking at it academically. I'm surprised you didn't bring up Vladimir Propp and other scholars of storytelling (of whom I do not know enough to reliably quote).

    It just strikes me as kind of flat when we're told the good guys are the good guys and that's that - no questions asked.

    For all we know the "hero" is actually carving their way through a puppy training school with an abnormally well armed security detail but eh =S
     
  17. Marcelo
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    Marcelo Contributing Member

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    Laughed so hard... Damn you, Bilbo! :D
     
  18. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    Actually, in the Modern period (assuming we're talking literature here), the notion of hero can be applied to any main character. The underdog, the anti-hero, the reluctant hero, the apathetic hero. You don't need to be special or distinguished in any way, don't need any exceptional talent, don't need to be a man, or strong, or human.
    Hemingway in particular did a lot to subvert the traditional historical notion of the hero (which was largely in response to WWI, which changed all those ideals about violence, war and the hero in society as a whole).
     
  19. Cazaric
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    Cazaric New Member

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    That was the elves' greatest mistake, trusting the man who had been one of their chief enemy's top lieutenants. Although, I haven't read the book in a while, could you remind me? Was Sauron known only as Gorthaur during the War of the Jewels, or was he known by both names?
     
  20. Hillbilly
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    Hillbilly New Member

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    There are some stories where you don't have 'Heroes' such as.....

    ...you know what scrap that, I was going to go on about how zombie movies/novels don't have heroes, just survivors. But I guess to survive the zombie apocalypse long enough to be noticed in a zombie novel/movie you need to be strong/dexterous/lucky all being traits of a hero.

    Damn and blast it all.

    I guess to make a novel/film without heroes you need to write/film normal people, but even then they're the focus of the novel/film and so due to modernisation (the lack of dragons to slay) they're the heroes.
     
  21. Gigi_GNR
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    Gigi_GNR Guys, come on. WAFFLE-O. Contributor

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    I love the Secret Window approach, that there is a central character who is his/her own worst enemy.
     
  22. HorusEye
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    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    Godfather doesn't have any heroes. It only has various scales of villains.
     
  23. Carthonn
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    Carthonn Active Member

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    A story with a character that is pure evil can work very well. It can even work in modern times. It's the lack of basic aspects of human nature that a villain can posses that can fascinate us. An example of this is the villain from Fargo. That movie was excellent and there is no doubt that was pure evil and lacked all compassion.
     

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