1. Alan Aspie

    Alan Aspie Banned Contributor

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    Objecting vs. bad vs. evil antagonist

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Alan Aspie, Jan 26, 2019.

    Antagonists use to have not so good tendencies and agendas.

    The "rule" says that antagonist should be a bit stronger than protagonist. It's hard to make interesting stories with overwhelming protagonists.

    But... If antagonist is strong and not so good... How bad he/she/it should be?

    One way to think about this is to divide "bad" to different categories. Like these three.


    1. Antagonist as an opponent.

    The dominant feature of antagonist is that he/she/it tries to get the same thing that protagonist is seeking. Or he/she/it is trying to prevent the suceeding of protagonist because of conflict of interests.

    Sport stories, competitions... Opposition is between agendas and goals.

    "We both want that ice cream and I'm gonna be there before you."


    2. Bad opponent.

    Antagonist has different value structures than protagonist. Good guy vs. bad guy. Police vs. criminals...

    Opposition is between different kinds of values and different means to pursue them.

    "I know it is your ice cream, but I want it and I'm gonna take it."


    3. Evil opponent.

    Antagonist is outside value structures. He/she/it is evil for the sake of evilness.

    Opposition is between is anything valuable or not.

    "I'm gonna destroy all but one ice creams and I'm gonna poison that only one and give it to that nice and kind toddler."


    Type of antagonist ≈ type of story?


    I think that the category of opponent is often the base under the story. The type of story rises from that base.

    And the type of audience you are seeking rises from that too.

    And you can find these typologies from real life, history and this day too.

    Comments?
    Examples?
    Other typologies?
     
  2. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

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    I suppose there is also the 'indifferent opponent,' such as an organisation, company, or state. An entity that doesn't even know the protagonist exists, or is mistaken about what the protagonist can do.

    This kind of antagonist is not hell-bent on obliterating or besting the protagonist. The protagonist is only minimally (if that) on the antagonist's radar. It becomes the protagonist's job to get noticed in the first place, and to be taken seriously—either personally, or for a worthy cause.

    This antagonist is not necessarily competitive, evil, or even 'bad.' It's just BIG. So big and out of touch that it's ignoring causes or people it's not aware of yet—or sees only in the most simplistic terms.

    I'm thinking in terms of movie here—specifically one of my all-time favourite movies, the Scots-made Local Hero. Once the BIG entity (the owner of Knox Oil and Gas) becomes aware of the actual nature of the small entity (the part of Scotland his company intended to exploit), and what the small entity has to offer (the beautiful, natural landscape, sustainable resources and interesting people), things change.

    Although the two movies don't have much in common, I'd say Pretty Woman is similar in that the antagonist is simply unaware. The Julia Roberts character has to get the 'antagonist' (the Richard Gere character) to notice her as a real person. Once he becomes aware that she is not simply her profession, he can begin to value her for the unique human being that she is.
     
    Last edited: Jan 26, 2019
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  3. making tracks

    making tracks Active Member

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    There is also the case where you have the 'anti-hero' as the main character, and the antagonist is actually a person who is trying to do the right thing by catching them. It can lead to some very interesting morally grey areas because you are so invested in the 'bad' person getting away, even if you like the antagonist.
     
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  4. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

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    This whole thread illustrates why it's not a good idea to refer to a story's antagonist as 'the villain.' They often aren't villains at all. Seeing them as the villain really narrows the scope.
     
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  5. EBohio

    EBohio Banned

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    I've never thought of antagonists as necessarily evil or bad, just a character that opposes the protagonist's goals, there doesn't have to be bad intent.
     
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  6. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

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    Yeah. But I'm always surprised at the people who talk about 'the main character' versus 'the villain.' Maybe their antagonist is a bad person, and deserves to be called a villain, but I worry that maybe lots of people think there has to be a villain in every story.

    The antagonist can, of course, be a bad person. But the antagonist can also be an obstacle, a problem, a situation, even a good person who is unwittingly making trouble for the protagonist. Anything that makes the protagonist's life difficult or challenging will do. The protagonist may even have a few antagonists ...a person who is working against the protagonist, a tricky situation the protagonist must deal with AND an obstacle the protagonist must overcome. All in the same story. None of this implies 'evil' or 'villain' or even 'bad.' Just difficult, and pivotal to the protagonist's future.
     
  7. LadyErica

    LadyErica Active Member

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    Just my two cents, out of boredom. Heavy wind here, so I can't sleep.

    When it comes to a good villain, I prefer the stories where the line between hero and villain isn't entirely black and white. I love villains that do evil stuff, but genuinely believe they are doing the right thing. That can make me question my own judgement, and it's not always clear which side I would have been on, if I was in that situation. For instance, there's the classic "loved one vs many strangers" scenario. One of the hero's loved ones (usually wife, girlfriend, boyfriend or whatever) is in danger, but the hero still has time to save them. However, there are also a bunch of strangers in danger somewhere else. The hero also has time to save them - but he can't save both. Either save his wife, or save a bunch of strangers. Which would you choose? Can you save the life of one person you love, at the expense of a bunch of strangers? Can you save a bunch of strangers, if you know that means your wife or husband dies?

    Now, the fun part is if there's a reason for this mess. Maybe the person who has to make that decision in the story is the villain. (Another classic, for that matter.) Villain's wife is sick, and is going to die soon, if she doesn't get the treatment she needs. But the treatment is very expensive, the villain is broke, and time is running out. Because of that, he became a villain and started doing things to get money quickly - bank robberies, burglary, even straight up murder. All in a desperate attempt to get the money he needs to save his wife. Is that really wrong? I mean, yeah, of course it is. He's hurting innocent people, and even kills some of them. But he's not doing it because he's evil. He's doing it to save his wife. What would you have done in his situation?

    Another hero/villain story I love is none other than First Blood. Yep, good, old Rambo. In the book, Rambo was a war veteran, and among the best of the best. But when he came back home, everyone hated him, he can't get a job anywhere, and has nowhere to go. He's homeless, and drifts from town to town. But no matter where he goes, they kick him out of the town simply because he's homeless. The idea is usually that if they let him stay, another homeless person will show up. Then anoter. Then another. But Rambo hasn't done anything wrong, so in the end, he decides he's had enough, and walks back into the town that just kicked him out. And why wouldn't he? Again, he hasn't done anything wrong. He's homeless, but that's not against the law. All he wants is a new start somewhere.

    However, the sheriff in town is a veteran from the Korean war, and wants to prove to everyone that he's in charge. So when Rambo walks back into town, the sheriff tries to kick him out again. Not because he's evil, but because he things homeless people only brings trouble, and he wants to keep the town safe. In the end, things doesn't go well, and they start shooting at Rambo. But he fights back, and people start to die. The problem is, who is the villain in the story? Rambo? All he wanted was a nice, quiet life somewhere, and he hasn't done anything wrong. The sheriff? He only wanted the town to feel safe, and prove to everyone he can protect them. Things escalated quickly, but neither are to blame. Or both are to blame.

    What I love the most is that it's not a clear line between hero and villain. Both are the hero, and both are the villain. If Rambo had left the town like the sheriff wanted, no one would have been hurt. But if the sheriff had listened to Rambo and given him a chance, no one would have gotten hurt. So they are both right, and both wrong. In this case, hero and villain are just words.
     
  8. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    I want my characters to be more complex than able to fit into these kinds of categories and labels. I get that this is probably what works in a lot of genres, but complex characters usually come with the best stories, in my opinion.
     
  9. Alan Aspie

    Alan Aspie Banned Contributor

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    I see that quite like antagonist as an opponent. Opposition is between agendas and goals - conflict of interests.

    Antagonist can also be protagonist. We can be our own obstacles, oppositions and troblemakers.
     
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  10. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

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    I think that's a very good point! Again to the movies for an example: Scarlett O'Hara in Gone With The Wind. She is her own antagonist, isn't she? Despite all the sturm and drang in the story ...war, etc ...Scarlett's own nature is the one she needs to 'beat' in order to 'win.' Which, of course, she never does.
     
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  11. Fallow

    Fallow Banned

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    I think that list misses a classic 4th possibility - the false antagonist. A simple example would be the cop who is chasing the innocent felon who is trying to clear his name. The US Marshall in the Fugitive, the investigative reporter in the Hulk TV series. They are trying to trip up the protagonist, but don't (initially) have anything to do with the protagonist's goal.

    A similar idea could be applied to a story where two characters come in frequent conflict competing for resources to pursue unrelated goals.
     
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  12. Alan Aspie

    Alan Aspie Banned Contributor

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    Good point!
     

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