1. Oldmanofthemountain

    Oldmanofthemountain Active Member

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    Any notable examples of "insular" villians?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Oldmanofthemountain, Nov 9, 2020.

    What I mean by "insular villains" are antagonists that don't have any plans for domination of any sorts, vendettas, or relish on inflicting any sort of pain on others. In other words, villains that keep to themselves, and are only threats because the protagonists "intruded" into their sphere of influence first.

    As a demonstration of what I'm talking about, lets take a look at this hypothetical antagonist. The particular hypothetical antagonist is a reclusive frontiersmen that is very abusive to his children, has no respect for hunting laws, and has a habit of shooting at anyone that trespasses his territory. However, he isn't a threat to anyone that leaves him alone. As long outsiders leave him be, he is content with doing whatever he wants in the solitude of his remote home. The only reason why he's a villain to the protagonists, is that he is enraged by their attempts to intervene in his life (which could include taking his children away from him or curbing his poaching practices).

    Are there any notable antagonists that match what I describe as an "insular villain"? Does my post make any sense to anyone in this forum?
     
  2. Matt E

    Matt E Ruler of the planet Omicron Persei 8 Contributor

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    If the antagonist is breaking laws or being abusive to other people, that isn't really insular. We can take as an example the typical hero in a detective novel. The murderer does not have a personal issue with the detective. The murderer just does his thing -- murder, and would keep doing that if the detective didn't stop them. Of course, people are affected by that murderer, just as that villain's children are, or the wildlife population. A hero comes to put a stop to it, just as a detective would solve a murder mystery.

    For a truly insular antagonist, we could think of the bears in the Goldilocks fairytale. They're just minding their own business, and someone is trespassing in their house! I'm sure there are also plenty of dragons, balrogs, bridge trolls, and elder gods that meet similar descriptions in fantasy.
     
  3. Oldmanofthemountain

    Oldmanofthemountain Active Member

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    You got a point and I totally see where your coming from on this, but I don't fully agree with that statement of yours. It's definitely morally reprehensible what he does to his own children (and he needs legal repercussions for it), but he mostly keeps his abuse within the confounds of his own very isolated household. He doesn't make any attempts to harm anyone else. In other words, if you’re not one of his children, he very likely won’t do anything to you.

    On a different note, I don't think him illegally shooting a deer in a remote backwoods some couple dozen miles away from the nearest town, really affects the daily lives of it's inhabitants that much. Unless their livelihoods are dependent on the ecosystem around them or something.

    In spite of my nitpicks (which you can totally feel free to disagree with me on), I do appreciate your contributions to this disccusion. Your citing of the classical goldlocks tale, dragons, trolls, elder gods, and other sci and fantasy creatures and entities are perfect examples of "insular villains" that I never even thought of. Thanks for taking the time to write out your response.
     
    Last edited: Nov 9, 2020
  4. IasminDragon

    IasminDragon Member

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    Yes, I think Matt covered the point above that there seems to be a contradiction of terms:

    contradicted by:

    So we've determined this man is not 'insular' in your definition, as he harms his children, is happy to murder without question and ignores law (sociopathy). There are at least three groups of people affected by his actions there; his children, the people he has shot who wandered too far near his land, and the park rangers/officers who are trying to protect the animals. (funny that he takes so much issue with people trespassing on his land, yet has no moral objection to trespassing himself).

    Unless you walk too close to his house. But isn't this the case with most antagonists that are not exaggerated comic-book villains?

    Here's an example. In most of Lee Child's Jack Reacher books, the hero Reacher happens to stumble into some nefarious plot, not because they are out to get him, but because he personally has to investigate. Sometimes a plot will unravel itself just because he was in the right place at the right time.

    Like Matt also said, in my experience, most villains don't want anyone to know what they're up to. Their motivations are self-serving and they want to continue doing what they are doing without anyone to oppose them, whether that is murder, embezzlement, fraud, sexual assault, or in your villain's case, abuse his children, defy hunting laws and shoot people. In nearly all cases, someone is getting harmed. That defies the concept of a villain being insular. An insular villain wouldn't be hurting anyone, but might still be a bad person - i.e. a closet murderer or child abuser that hasn't actioned their desires.

    But he is breaking the law. One could argue equally that him murdering his son or daughter does not affect the lives of the townspeople all that much. More important is his attitude and his defiance of the code that has been largely set up to maintain civility between human beings. His antipathy towards it hints at sociopathy.
     
  5. Naomasa298

    Naomasa298 HP: 12/210 MP: 0/130 Contributor

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    Are you thinking of someone like the Rev. Jim Jones or David Koresh? They just wanted to get on with their evil cults in peace.
     
  6. Oldmanofthemountain

    Oldmanofthemountain Active Member

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    Not what I was really thinking of, though I guess that could fit my description. However the hypothetical antagonist is much more of a loner type, and isn’t really interested in exploiting others. Just a hermit in the backwoods.

    If anything, he’s more comparable to the dude in Ruby Ridge and Albert Johnson (the Mad Trapper dude).
     
  7. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

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    In terms of a story, a person isn't an antagonist if he doesn't come into conflict with the story's main character or protagonist.

    In the case you cited, he's definitely hurting his children. And maybe stealing from people by poaching, etc? If a protagonist comes along intending to rescue the children or stop him from poaching then yes, he'd be the antagonist. Or if the protagonist is one of his children, yes. But if he just lives alone and minds his own business, then he's not an antagonist. An antagonist requires a protagonist to exist. Your character might have an unpleasant personality, but unless he comes into conflict with another main character, he's not an antagonist.

    I really don't like the term 'villain' in terms of writing. It not only conjures up cartoon setups with twirling moustaches, etc, but it doesn't set up a story situation. A villain is just a bad person. Whereas an antagonist must have a protagonist ...and there's the setup for your story.
     
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  8. Wreybies

    Wreybies Thrice Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I do agree with the preceding responses that there is a mismatch of dynamics within the paradigm you are trying to pin down. Your description bears a strong element of the American sentiment (in certain areas of the country pronounced obsession) concerning individualism. You describe a dangerous person, but dangerous only if others engage him, so the onus falls to them to avoid him. He's living the "fuck around and find out" ideal.

    The only character I can think of in my reading repertoire who comes close (and it's not very close) is Thomas Covenant from The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant. He's a literal leper who gets shunted/portaled to an alternate world known as The Land. Early on in the story, he commits a seriously heinous act that becomes the grain of sand in the middle of a destructive pearl that spreads through the narrative and also the location.

    He's not a likeable character (which is perfectly fine), but for the most part, he is described as being a jerk-in-solitude, his isolation (mostly self-imposed) being a consequence of his leprosy. When he gets shunted to The Land and does the thing he does, the most common explanation is that he does it because he doesn't think any of what's happening is real, so why not do the horrific thing? Doesn't really improve his standing in my eyes, but that's the usual explanation. So, he does mostly keep to himself and his crime is committed within the bounds of what readers assume is, to him, nothing but a hallucination.

    Told you - not very close, but the closest I can think of.
     
  9. Naomasa298

    Naomasa298 HP: 12/210 MP: 0/130 Contributor

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    Unless the loner happens to live in the way of some major construction project like a highway or a railroad, and he ain't gonna be moved off his land - and resorts to violence and guerrilla tactics to drive the interlopers off.

    Such characters tend to be portrayed as the protagonist in situations like this though - the little man fighting off the big evil corporation.
     
  10. Le Panda Du Mal

    Le Panda Du Mal Active Member

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    Godzilla? I think a lot of horror movie villains would fit.
     
  11. Oldmanofthemountain

    Oldmanofthemountain Active Member

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    Agreed
     
  12. Iain Aschendale

    Iain Aschendale Potatoes again? Supporter Contributor

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    [​IMG]

    The uninhabited planet, Cestus III, that the Federation established a colony on had already been claimed by the Gorn. When the colony was wiped out, the Gorn were simply defending their property. The Enterprise then engaged in a hostile pursuit of the Gorn ship. Had it not been for the intervention of the Metrons it could well have led to a war between the Federation and the Gorn. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arena_(Star_Trek:_The_Original_Series)
     
  13. Wreybies

    Wreybies Thrice Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Star Trek Discovery has the fandom up in arms after an episode where Michael Burnham mentions the Gorn, a people she should have no knowledge of given her place in the timeline. Those same people grinding teeth over this seem unaffected that Michael's hair apparently grew two and half feet in less than a year.
     
  14. Iain Aschendale

    Iain Aschendale Potatoes again? Supporter Contributor

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    I'm not sure how long it was between Lucifer season 4 wrapping and filming start for season 5, but Chloe and her kid aged one hell of a lot more than two months show-time.
     
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  15. MartinM

    MartinM Member

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    Ex-Wife... Energy Vampire... not interested in world domination just to exhaust my living life force.

    MartinM.
     
  16. Malum

    Malum Offline Supporter

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    Made me think about Gran Torino & Harry Brown, I suppose there are more examples like that. I guess Leon: The Professional is out of the question..A History Of Violence (2004) too. Specifically, maybe Denzel Washington's character in Fences (2016) bares semblance to what you're looking for on an emotional level.. That was an interesting scroll through my external.
     
    Last edited: Nov 13, 2020
  17. MartinM

    MartinM Member

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    Take this with a pinch of salt, I know nothing...

    I don’t think your hypothetical antagonist is correct as an Insular villain. He as cause and effect issues that’s externally triggered. An invasion into his territory or on his possessions are them triggers.

    His children (possessions) are abused in the protagonist’s eyes only. The antagonist I suspect believes he’s doing nothing wrong. Protects his land and Property doesn’t make him an insular villain, bad parent or anti-social maybe.

    Read or watch Dexter, a serial killer that kills other serial killers. The protagonist is Dexter, but the villain is his ‘Dark Passenger’ that compels him to kill. That’s an insular villain.

    Imagine your antagonist abuses his children and knows it’s wrong. That’s different to your OP. His Dark Passenger builds up to such an extent compelling him into action. Post abuse he feels an enormous release of energy with an endorphin rush, that then turns to massive guilt. That’s the addiction hook inn which he can’t stop himself. The Insular Villain now is a dark passenger no?

    The fact he knows it’s wrong, creates the insular villain.

    Take it a step further so it makes sense. When he drinks and his inhibitions drop, the mind wonders. His children start on the periphery to become more attractive or irritating to him. As he drinks more and he knows where this is leading, they the children become even more attractive or irritating. This till the compulsion overloads his restraint and he is unwittingly forced into action once more...

    Who or what is the villain now?

    Last step, this reclusive frontiersman is constantly reminded by his wife this was not the life they had envisaged when starting out together. Not necessarily nagging because that would be clique, but he himself feels anger, jealousy or rage of them lost opportunities years passed. Unable to control that resentment or inner self-loathing he starts hitting the bottle... and so on...

    Again, just my view, take it for what it is...


    MartinM.
     
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  18. Whitecrow

    Whitecrow Member

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    Traun is a Star Wars general on the side of an empire with a very positive reputation. Who was out of the system during the victory over the Chancellor and Darth Vader. But on his return, he entered into open confrontation with the rebels.

    He is known for not only not punishing his subordinates for failure, if it was not their fault, but on the contrary, sometimes even promoting them if, after examining the report on their actions, he decided that the officer had won the maximum out of the existing situation.

    A clever tactician who set out to explore unknown parts of space. But he had to return to keep the empire from collapse and fight the rebels. In principle, if the rebels had not crushed Palpatine and Darth Vader, then Traun would not have returned and would not have become an enemy for the rebels.
     
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  19. IasminDragon

    IasminDragon Member

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    The Gorn weren't villains, they were the good guys!
     
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  20. Oscar Leigh

    Oscar Leigh Contributor Contributor

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    If a person has the desire to murder or abuse but hasn't, why are they a villain at all?

    But wouldn't that definition any villain that really does anything to anyone count as non-insular? That would rule out most or all villain surely, if having people suffering consequences of your actions make it non-insular how is any villain able to do villainous deeds? Doesn't seem like a relevant distinction at that stage. Unless you aiming to specifically describe antagonist figures who are in fact not villainous in the moral sense, like Goldilocks.
     
  21. IasminDragon

    IasminDragon Member

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    Because wanting to abuse and murder people makes you a bad person... at least, according to my moral compass.

    N.B., I'm not talking average every day intrusive thoughts which are just a passing annoyance. I'm imagining sustained desire to cause harm, perhaps limited by some level of rationality.

    There are many people who openly admit they would commit theft, rape and murder should the world descend into anarchy (or if they found the remote from the movie Click). They're villains.
     
  22. Fervidor

    Fervidor Senior Member

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    Perhaps a better word is "reactive"? Heroes tend to be reactive while villains tend to be active, in the sense that heroes are typically defenders, champions or enforcers of virtue, whereas villains are usually perpetrators who aggressively pursue a specific goal. In other words, the villain tries to do something that causes trouble and the hero tries to stop him.

    It's definitely possible to do it the other way, or have both sides be active and reactive on different issues. Can't think of a lot of good examples off the top of my head, though.

    Well, Godzilla is usually characterized more as a sort of living natural disaster that you need to get out of the way of - he doesn't target humans specifically but also doesn't care enough to avoid harming us or wrecking our cities. When he's the antangonist/threat of the story, the conflict will normally center on him intruding on our territory. (Same goes for most monster movies.) So I'm not sure it's a perfect fit.

    You do raise a good point, though: I think villains of this type are often monsters, acting more as dangerous obstacles and situational hazards than agents whose actions drive the plot. The classical example would be a dragon guarding a treasure hoard, or something similar.

    So... Smaug? At least until they pissed him off, anyway.

    Perhaps Gollum too, in lesser way, since he really just wanted to be left alone with his ring.
     
    Last edited: Nov 18, 2020
  23. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum Contributor

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    But at that point would they even be considered villains?

    The term implies committing terrible acts —not just wanting to, and not sitting around minding your own business with a strong tendency toward villainy.

    @IasminDragon People who want to rape and murder but aren't doing it are not villains either. They just fantasize about it. There's a chance some of them will cross that barrier, but they haven't yet. What you're talking about is thought crime, and that leads to the thought police.

    When someone says they want to do things like that, it doesn't necessarily mean they would actually do it in real life. Their fantasies could be very unrealistic, built from movie tropes or video games, and if they would ever try it for real many of them would be horrified.
     
    Last edited: Nov 18, 2020
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  24. IasminDragon

    IasminDragon Member

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    I agree with the user above who wanted to come away from the term villain, as it overinflates some of the concepts.

    Just to clarify, I was not referring to passing intrusive thoughts - this is sustained desire to do bad.

    This is interesting and sort of leads into a whole new debate on morality which I'll try and avoid. But what I will say is that thought crime is real, and efforts have long been made to prevent crime by what you call 'thought policing'.

    You might now wonder if anyone has ever gone to jail for thinking of murdering someone. Let's look at a couple of examples:

    Man arrested for Facebook post to burn down building

    Another arrested for threat to kill MP

    Now granted. These folk openly and publicly (and very stupidly) posted their intention to cause harm, rather than keep their thoughts a secret. But the point is, they had taken no action at the time of their arrests. Regardless, in the eyes of the law, they were seen as criminals with an intent to do harm, and steps were taken to prevent them potentially carrying out those actions, or, as you put it, 'cross the barrier'.

    Society tries to do its best in policing 'intent' to that effect. Policing is the prevention of crime, and crime primarily occurs with intent, or malice.

    This is where you start to draw philosophical lines - if, like you have suggested, evil comes only from action, and that intent to commit evil acts does not make you a bad person, does that mean someone who commits manslaughter (killing without intent/malice) is evil - and more evil than someone who wanted that same person dead, is satisfied with their death, but did not action it?

    And in an effort to play devil's advocate and convey how this can't be boiled down to simple terms; what about people who stand by and take no action to prevent crimes being done? Are they good people, or bad?

    You mention thought policing - well, it's a term for what I've just briefly described. Thought policing exists and is completely necessary - it is just another way to describe how society at large incentivises good behaviour among its citizens. You can trace it back at least to Aristotle's concept of telos, the shared goal of a polis' citizens.

    If we did not police thoughts - i.e., if society did not provide enough deterrants for seemingly evil actions (such as threat of fines, jail time, the death penalty, etc. for committing bad acts) then in all likelihood the civilised world would descend into chaos.
     
    Last edited: Nov 18, 2020
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  25. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum Contributor

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    Ok, with that caveat in mind, and now fully explained, I have no problem whatsoever with what you said.

    But I do feel like you contradicted yourself somewhat toward the end of that post, in your examples. I suspect you and I just have very different ideas when it comes to issues of the individual versus the state. I'm an American, and agree with the ideas behind the Constitution, which makes it crystal clear that laws cannot be based on people's thoughts or feelings, but only on actions taken against people or property, because there's no objective way to know what a person is thinking or feeling.

    There's a clear distinction between wishing/dreaming/fantasizing about committing a crime and actually doing it. However, in some cases speaking or writing can be a crime, for instance inciting people to riot or to panic, such as shouting "Fire!" in a crowded theater. That's not protected by free speech because it's more than speech, it's incitement to panic that causes chaos and can cause harm, and at the very least comes under the heading of "disturbing the peace".

    There's also a clear distinction between posting something saying that you would love to see somebody do horrible things to a public figure (for instance), and actually saying that you plan to do such things. I was about to write this in the form of an example, when I realized it could possibly get me arrested.

    And the most powerful form I think of speech or writing that should cause immediate police action would be a post to the effect that you're about to actually commit a crime, or the planning of one. Or a confession that you just did. But of course problems come in because people sometimes make posts meant to be taken as sarcastic jokes or wishful thinking but they don't make that clear, instead it sounds like they're literally advocating for some heinous action.

    It's a fine line, and in fact there's a grey zone where it's impossible to determine someone's actual intent. They might be emotionally disturbed or mentally ill and say things with what seems like real malice that they don't really mean. But then, a crazy person on a rampage is dangerous, so it does merit intervention.

    But people should not be locked up for using certain words or expressing certain ideas in a philosophical or thoughtful way.

    As writers of course, we can have objective knowledge of what's in a character's head, or their feelings or intentions. But in the actual world nobody has this kind of omniscience.

    We're coming dangerously close to getting mod-hatted. Let's not get any more specific than we have, and in fact I believe I've said all I need to on the subject. At this point it really comes down mostly to differences in opinion anyway.
     
    Last edited: Nov 18, 2020

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