Any notable examples of "insular" villians?

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

  1. Le Panda Du Mal

    Le Panda Du Mal Member

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    In the first Godzilla movie, he is awakened by nuclear bomb testing. It ends with a warning that continued testing could awaken more monsters.
     
  2. Oldmanofthemountain

    Oldmanofthemountain Member

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    Yeah, “reactive villain” actually might be a better term for what I’m looking for.
     
  3. making tracks

    making tracks Active Member

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    I think as others have said antagonist might work better here, even with the 'reactive' label. What struck me, similar to what @Matt E said about Goldilocks, is that often in stories animals become antagonists because of being in the wrong place, wrong time.

    For example in the Revenant, the bear couldn't really be said to be a villain as they are not doing anything morally wrong and aren't plotting. She is just trying to protect her cubs from a perceived threat - the protagonist - and her attacking him makes her the antagonist for the moment. Or using the Goldilocks example, the bears are the antagonists when they chase her out of the house.

    I think if you have a reactive antagonist, you also have to consider what happens after they have been provoked / intruded on. Are they just trying to get back to their solitude or do the actions of the protagonist set things in motion for them to be more active themselves?
     
  4. IasminDragon

    IasminDragon Member

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    Tom Hardy is the antagonist in Revenant.
     
  5. making tracks

    making tracks Active Member

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    Hmm so do you think something like the bear would count more just as an obstacle than an antagonist? (Maybe a better example would be one where the animals are anthropomorphised, I'll update when I think of an example!)

    But I suppose that does fit with the question - if there is an insular villain / antagonist because they are not pro-active and are stumbled upon, what makes them an antagonist rather than an obstacle?
     
  6. IasminDragon

    IasminDragon Member

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    For sure - the bear isn't a villain or an antagonist. It isn't motivated to stop Leonardo fulfilling his goal - it's following instinct and defending its babies.

    If a tree fell on him and broke his legs, would it make the tree a villain?

    now if the bear was hunting him down, and was the main foil to Leonardo's goals instead of being an unlucky encounter, it would be an antagonist. Notice how it becomes 'active' in that scenario though.

    I suppose you could still argue the bear is a villain for attacking him. But I say it's tenuous. Was the iceberg really a villain, just because the Titanic crashed into it?
     
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  7. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum

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    As @jannert said earlier, an antagonist can't exist without a protagonist and, crucially, a conflict.

    We can try a few other terms—bad guy, aggressor—but it becomes clear none of these can be insular, because that means to stay out of conflict, to not be aggressive etc.

    I think we can conclude that none of these types of characters can really be insular. It seems the very idea of being half of a conflict negates any possibility of insularity.

    A person can be mean, rotten and nasty and remain uninvolved, but that person is not an active part of a story.
     
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  8. Naomasa298

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

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    How about the cannibal family in Texas Chainsaw Massacre? They didn't go out looking for victims, they just ate the poor unfortunates who stumbled across them.
     
  9. Malum

    Malum Clanging Supporter

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    Kind of off-topic but I read a lengthy youtube essay somewhere about the first film being a metaphor regarding the consumpton of meat, with the close up on the cows at the start. I grew to agree even though it seemed like a massive reach.
     
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  10. IasminDragon

    IasminDragon Member

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    Ah yes, that common problem of accidentally stumbling into a chainsaw wielding maniac who was just minding his own business... :p
     
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  11. Naomasa298

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

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    That's Texas for you.
     
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  12. MartinM

    MartinM New Member

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    Texas Chainsaw Massacre in my opinion shows no insular villains. The cannibal family, #Naomasa298 is correct they don’t go out looking for victims. In much the same way a spider does with a fly and it wouldn’t be called insular.

    The family eat and share as a communal unit. When Leatherface is dressed as a woman and serves dinner he’s just replicating what Grandma and pa did (now dead upstairs) for the family unit. Each member I doubt were thinking they were doing anything wrong. Excited by the torture and eventual kill of their victims in just the same way your pet cat gets a mouse, plays with it before killing it. Kitty is not an insular villain.

    It’s hard to find one as a good example. Dexter’s dark passenger was mine, but a great subject.


    MartinM.
     
  13. Fervidor

    Fervidor Senior Member

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    I'd argue that one can perform immoral acts reactively - it doesn't have to be part of some long-term plan, that's just a very common approach to plotting stories.

    My own definition of "villain" is that it's the character whose job it is to be morally wrong, from the perspective of human society in general. They're examples of how you shouldn't behave, contrary to heroes being examples of virtuous behavior.

    So if the dragon in question turns out to be cruel, malicious and treacherous, I would qualify it as a villain of sorts. On the other hand, the dragon might be nice enough to let the heroes go without a fight, or make honest bargains with them, or lack the intelligence to make moral decisions in the first place.

    I know, but it's still a movie about a giant lizard emerging from the sea and wrecking Tokyo. Cautionary allegory aside, Godzilla still functions as an active threat.

    It can be argued that he was provoked, yes, but lots of very active villains are motivated by some form of provocation. I don't think that's quite what we're talking about here.

    You know, I've never actually considered the bears as the villains of that story, and I'm not even sure it makes sense to call them antagonists. If anything, a case can be made that Goldilocks herself is both the villain and the antagonist. This was a lot more explicit in earlier versions of the tale, where the bears are described as friendly and well-behaved and the home-invader is a particularly nasty old lady.

    Anyway, Goldilocks is really sort of a weird fairy tale in general. I always thought it was oddly ambiguous.

    Well, antagonists are obstacles. Specifically, they are characters who are in the way of whatever the protagonist is trying to achieve. They can do so directly or indirectly, and their morality and motivations are not actually relevant. Hence why "antagonist" and "villain" are different things, but often combined into the same character.

    So, technically, any character who obstructs the protagonist from reaching their goal could be considered an antagonist.

    That's a good example of what I was talking about before, I think. Villains can be a horrifically bad people while still just kinda minding their own business until the main characters happen to run into them.
     
    Last edited: Nov 20, 2020
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  14. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum

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    Agreed, I said the same thing in different words above. But that 'until' is a doozy! Once a family of nice pleasant cannibal psychopaths physically restrain a 'visitor', and especially once they cut through their skin, they're forcibly and aggressively violating that person's physical being, which no matter how you look at it is not being insular. It's a forcible invasion of their body.

    Even if a person is minding their own business and someone else violates their property, the moment they begin to punish that person they're no longer insular. They're taking direct violent action against another person, which may be morally justified, but which makes them an active and aggressive participant in a conflict, ergo no longer insular.

    In your statement, the 'until' is the borderline between insularity and involvement.
     
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