Villains Victorious

So, I saw something recently that disturbed and intrigued me. There’s a page or post or meme or whatever you want to call it that is calling for Loki to have his own MCU film. I am of course talking about the Loki as portrayed by Tom Hiddleston, from the Marvel Thor and Avengers movies. I assume this petition was created because people want to see more of Hiddleston’s performance as a villain you love to hate.

What unsettles me about this, is it is yet another example of how much we as a society idolize or condone bad guys.

Now, before you go and poo-poo that statement, or laugh it off as a “well, duh, Dave… where have you been the last ten thousand years?” I’m just trying to wrestle with the human obsession with villainy, violence and the idea that a hero is someone that gets away with murder.

As an actor, villains are the most fun to play – they act out those things we may only fantasize about. As a writer they are awesome to explore because they incite a hero to action, or address an issue the hero has to examine and either support or change… we need villains. I just don’t think we need to see them as heroes.

I was going to write about the tendency to glorify the villain in entertainment but then started to get so weighed down by the thought of having to dissect why we as a species glorify violence in the first place… what is it about violence and violent characters that enthralls us? We are inundated with it our news media and our entertainment that we are on some level immune to it – its just something we accept or are so numb to that we just glaze over and accept as “normal”.

As a child I remember seeing the original 1954 Godzilla movie on some chiller-thriller movie show in the early 70’s and being enchanted and mesmerized by the thought of a gigantic monster lumbering across the landscape carving a path of destruction and breathing white-hot fire from it’s jaws. I enjoyed the 2014 version – as a popcorn-muncher it wasn’t bad, and given the history of the character/beast/monster from 1954 down through the how it is portrayed today, that version has Godzilla acting the role of hero, albeit not for our sake so to speak but for the earth in general.

But in the 1954 version, the beast was clearly the villain, the bad guy, the thing we are supposed to fear and fight against… but there I was, rooting for him to win. GODZILLA

Why?

On the television program Inside the Actor’s Studio, the host James Lipton asks a series of ten questions, the final one of which is: If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?

I would hope that it would be something along the lines of: Good job for not raising your hand to anyone.

I think if I were offered the chance to respond, to ask a question myself – today, at this moment it might be this:

Why this propensity for violence – why our duality? Why create a creature that has amazing ambition and creativity, and yet seeks to destroy every chance it gets? What is the purpose of that?

In the coming months and years we will get to see other super-powered villains take center stage as the subjects of their own movies or possibly even franchises – we will have The Suicide Squad and Deadpool, there’s probably going to be a Punisher Netflix series and of course there’s still the possibility of a Sinister Six movie and others too I imagine.

While its great that comics and the characters that have been around for fifty years or more are truly getting there due and are being treated with seriousness and respect – I have to say I’m not a fan of the ‘villain-as-hero’ trope. It’s not because I’m over fifty myself, its not cynicism or curmudgeonly dismissal of these characters… its just that I object to them being viewed as heroic.

In my eyes, they aren’t. You may disagree, that’s your right.

I had a chance to discuss this topic briefly with my friend Wayne, who is by far someone I consider to be a comics scholar. We both discussed our disappointment at the rise of the ‘guys with guns’ aspect of comic book heroes, and both of us are of the same mind that a gun changes things when it comes to superheroes. I guess there have always been heroes with guns, the Pulps were rife with them and in comic books from the mid 70’s through the 80’s and early 90’s this type of character sprang to the forefront. Before then, with a few exceptions, guns were used by the bad guys. Now, I’m not a comics scholar and I’m sure there are gaping holes in this take on the timeline or history what I’m talking about – or maybe I wasn’t reading those comics that came out that had guys with guns on the cover… they just held no appeal for because, guns are weapons and tools of bad guys.

We live for destruction it seems. When we gather in groups of larger than four or five, something happens and the psychology of crowds can take place – for good or ill. Its easier and more comfortable to laugh or sing in a crowd… just as it is to hurl an invective or chant a slogan or throw a punch or object — depending on the mood of the crowd we are in.deadpool

But why do we want or need to have villains portrayed as heroic characters? Looking at the image of Deadpool to the right – it’s shocking how violent and unheroic it appears to me. It instead invokes to me the image of one of the men from the North Hollywood Shootout in 1997 or a terrorist or a someone who just wants to shoot kill or maim… because they can.

We have a very violent culture here in America. We are the nation of the gun.

This country was founded by men with guns, wars were fought to protect it, to establish the freedoms that this nation is known for… and as a result, a lot of blood was shed to create this country. The gun is a weapon, pure and simple, and weapons are designed to not only to defend… they are very expressly designed to assault. And they are used each and every day in this country. We have tens of thousands of stores dedicated to providing these life-taking implements to those that can afford to purchase them — or desperate enough, angry enough or just plain mean enough to steal.

Our entertainment is rife with TV shows that involve the use of a gun or multiple guns during an hour’s episode. They are present in just about every show that airs between 7 and 11 every single night of the week – you cannot get away from them it seems. I’m sure a complete innocent to human society would think that every single human that walks the planet has an arsenal on them at all times.

I am not a fan of guns. I think they cause more harm than they prevent. Again, you may disagree.  That’s one of the rights that was fought for with guns – and which allows me to post a viewpoint that derides the gun. The argument that it isn’t the gun, its the person wielding it just doesn’t fly with me. The gun was created specifically to harm and to kill. It was made to propel a projectile into something else… it was design to end something. Guns don’t sculpt anything, guns don’t paint anything, guns don’t build structures or “create” anything. What they do is threaten.

What they do is generate fear.

And fear is big business. So guns will not ever go away. They will just continued to be made, improved and refined and they will continue to kill, maim and wound. It’s just the way of the world.

Yet, posting this, I am painfully aware of how I myself am guilty of promoting gun use or gun attention because I watch or advocate entertainment media ranging from books, comics, graphic novels TV shows or films that contain a fair amount of violence, destruction or violent combat. A majority of which includes guns or firearms.

And, so it may sound hypocritical of me to speak out against guns, when I continue to consume (and will most likely continue to do so) entertainment and media that is violence based.

Take the new Avengers: Age of Ultron movie, or 2009’s Watchmen adaptation for example.

I’ve seen and Watchmen a dozen times or more and Age of Ultron twice now and will most likely see it a third and forth time – not to mention the number of times I will watch it on Blu-Ray when it arrives later this year or whenever the release date is… So, while I thoroughly enjoyed these movies, what I’ve picked up on during the each viewing was how terrible it must be to be a hero, let alone one with powers or whatever.

The constant idea or resolve it takes to seek out situations involving violent and brutal circumstances must be a form of mental illness. That’s not a new idea, in fact it was the underlying thread in Alan Moore’s Watchmen. You have to be crazy to don tights and a mask to provide protection or justice. But hell, masks and tights are really no different than a helmet and a uniform – from ancient times, man has dressed up to inspire fear and cow other human beings into submission.

Or maybe I’m the one who is insane for wanting to remain as far away from that type of thing as possible. Perhaps I am not a man. I’ve already been told a number of times I need to turn in my man-card because I have spoken out about guns and violent resolutions to situations before. Maybe I am some sort of aberration or lesser life-form because I shun fights or anger or brutality.

Perhaps its the translation to film and the fantastic quality of those MCU movies that we have seen, that really brings home the scary elements of what a world would be like to have beings that can demolish buildings with a fist or lift a million tons of earth up into the sky – or maybe its the hundreds of instances we see in the news over the course of year where some type of gun violence occurs in our streets and neighborhoods that has me sitting here sad, angry and frightened about the future… I’m not really sure.

What it feels like – and perhaps that is my problem (maybe I shouldn’t feel about it) – is that we are advocating the villain as hero character, that all of our superheroes are but one moment away from becoming villains. Though, aren’t we all?

I don’t have any answers to an issue that isn’t going away – all I can hope for is that the line between fantasy and reality stays that way — a line, a clear distinction between one and the other. But in the real world, guns are used and will continue to be used.

I still think only bad guys use guns to start or solve things. It’s sad to think that good guys need to use them too.

Advertisements

5 thoughts on “Villains Victorious

  1. Salutations, Mr. Fielding!

    I must apologise if I sound a little strange – I’ve never had the backbone to “post a comment” before now. That’s entirely my own blasted fault (Laugh at some slight hero worship later. I won’t be mad). I consistently read (or listen to, to be accurate) your words and I find myself compelled to face the duality on which you speak.

    I’m a martial arts student. I have been for some years now, even despite a good long hiatus in the past. I’ve encountered various forms of violence, both in “real life” and in the media. In every Dojo I’ve been under, there has been one rule that has remained the same. In my current Dojo, we say this:
    “We have three rules here.
    1. No fighting.
    2. No fighting.
    3. No fighting.”

    Yes, it’s redundant. And yes, it’s kind of meant to be that way, given what we are learning or teaching. Martial arts, or martial sciences as some say, are just that: Martial. However, there’s another side to that coin. I think my closest analogy would be in the representation of the sacred Mjolnir, the Hammer of Thor, Lord of Thunder.

    “It is either a weapon to destroy, or a tool to build.”

    Human nature seems to operate in the same way. T’ai chi can improve health, or it can take a combatant down. Running through the Five Animals improves my balance (Seriously, my balance was atrocious!), yet each one displays horrific blows when put in the context of combat.
    Medical breakthroughs bring new cures, new methods to deal with injury…yet they can bring unethical treatments, or even warfare.

    More than once, I’ve been reminded of a specific episode in that 1960’s classic, Star Trek. In an episode titled The Enemy Within, the vaunted Captain Kirk ends up split into a kind of Jekyll-and-Hyde duo. One man is the compassionate, “soft”, very non-violent kind of guy to the point of near-inaction at the most crucial moments. The other has violence on his mind 24/7 under the flag of “Survival”. “Kill or be killed”. Extremes, both of them.
    Now of course, the “good Kirk” and the “bad Kirk” must come together, or both perish. They must realise that without the other, the one cannot survive on his own.
    The “good guy”, the hero, and the “bad guy”, the villain must join back together as the full man, James T. Kirk, or cease to exist.

    Once again, the duality is displayed. Blatantly, perhaps, but still displayed. The violent against the pacifist. The hero against the villain. And then they fuse, creating that notorious gray thing we call the human, where “Black and white” seemingly cease to be.
    I’m guilty of the grayness, so guilty of it you’d think I was made of poi sometimes!
    …And here I am, reminded of yet another thing displaying human duality. And a penchant for possible violence. In 2001, Lionhead Studios released a PC game called Black & White. The object? You play as a god, a deity. Your goal? Gain converts to follow/worship you. Now, you could do this in any way you please – but beware. Your actions would then be reflected in the land around you, and even in your Creature, the animal avatar you train to act as your emissary.
    If you played as a “good god” (Which took a LOT of time and patience!) the land became beautiful, glorious and you were loved.
    If you played as a “bad god” (Which is difficult to do, given that you risk killing all of your followers!) the land became sinister, dark and forbidding. And of course, you were feared.
    I admit. I never had the stones to go through a “Bad God” run.

    When I listen to your words, I am reminded of all of these things, and forced to confront this duality I think we all struggle with. I don’t claim to have all the answers – I don’t think anyone could. The best I could come up with is finding a middle ground.
    “Never escalate…”
    I suppose that’s all anyone could ask. Explore our dark sides in the safe environs of a game, a book, a movie. Keep it out of the real world, where real harm could be done. “Killing” pixels, not people.
    Smack me later. I’ll understand. ::small smile::

    Blazes, but I think I’ve rambled to you quite long enough. I do apologise if I sounded utterly dull or only half-coherent!

    Much love and LLAP,
    –“Dan”

    Like

    • I understand all of your points, and I am heartened to know that the majority of martial arts and practitioners I know of avoid conflict and fights.
      I have never been a physical person — I live in my head, my reasoning is how I move through the world. Yet, there are times when the duality of our nature leans toward the violent aspect – and I guess we are simply wired that way.
      Even our own bodies are set up with “defense” systems to combat, fight and kill invaders and viruses and disease.
      The very nature of our existence in this dimension/universe or whatever word you choose for it is one of struggle and conflict.
      I am just too passive a person I guess… too tied to empathy or compassion to see the necessity of violence to solve issues or to exact justice.
      Perhaps its just me getting older. In my youth I wanted to be Jason or Hercules, I dreamed of playing heroic characters in plays in film… and still enjoy entertainment that has fights and conflict. I just have areal problem with the idea that a guy with a gun is a good guy. And I know how that sounds, considering the necessity of police officers to carry weapons and so forth.
      I played Black & White by the way and any number of God Sims or RTS RPG video games and so forth… I am able to separate fantasy from fiction.
      One of the things I think is overlooked about Zordon is that he is hands off, he can merely advise or educate. he doesn’t participate. He is impotent in a way… unable to fight. And I identify with that.
      If faced with a violent person, I generally do not do anything – I weather the storm and move on.
      Our reason is our greatest asset… yet we seem to be mired in a world that demands you fight for every scrap or be swept aside in favor of someone or something stronger and more willing to take a physical path.
      As I said in the post… I probably need to turn in my man card 🙂

      Like

      • You did? That’s awesome. I’ve not run across many who even knew the game existed. (I’ve met more who will go “How can you play that? You can’t see!” but that’s neither here nor there).

        As for seeing you as cowardly, I for one, don’t. It’s perhaps an irony, but I try to really take what you say to heart. I try more to “calm down” and yes, try to think as pacifistically as possible. You see, when I was growing up, I did face a bit of violence. An earthquake (1989 Loma Prieta. Yeah, that ugly thing), I’ve encountered abuse. But I won’t go into that.
        Violence became almost an assertion that I was *allowed* to be here, that I could prove myself “worthy to exist”. That I was worthy of protection by the law, even, after more than one, ah….failed response to calls for assistance. I became hardened, perceiving this very able bodied world in terms of “Fight harder, or the able bodieds will deem you unfit to exist”. “Fight harder, or you will be Aktion T4’ed or locked up in Pennhurst”. If you never learned what those are (which I kind of hope you haven’t), I’d be glad if that were so.

        Life became rather hard after a few years of that. I can’t see. Therefore, I can’t exist like others can. I took up martial arts originally, as part of this “quest” I guess, to take my place in the world, to prove that I deserved that place. And then it evolved from there into stating healthy, into discovering the meditative aspects of the art.
        I look back now, and there are times when I wonder how I didn’t have a blasted heart attack or something, what with how strung-up I felt. With how often I felt I had to bare my proverbial teeth at any perceived challenge. Now…now, there are times when I’ve kind wished I could think in a “Zordonian” fashion. Very hands-off, yet incredibly wise, so to speak.
        Ultimately, the pacifist.
        ::laughs:: And fear not. The line between reality and fiction isn’t doubted.

        I won’t claim to relate there, not in the way you do. I couldn’t, even though I will confess that I’ve tried. Very often, the “trapped” aspect struck me. Trapped in the time warp, or in my case….trapped in the dark.
        I resented the “trapped” feeling quite often. I’ve resented being unable to do as others do, being unable to do so much as cross the street without fear.
        As a result, well. I grew into that hardened figure. And you know…it kind of hurts.

        Recently, I’ve sought to take off the hardened shell. To “turn in my wo/man card”, as you say. To learn to not be strung tighter than a bow. I think that’s why I took to reading so much, your words included.

        Like

  2. I am sorry you had to deal with violence and abuse – perhaps my view point is naive as I never have had what I would call a hard road or real tragedy in my life. I’ve had no reason to be hard or to view anything through the lens of grief or hardship – pardon me for using ‘visual’ or ‘sight’ metaphors, don’t wan’t to be insensitive, but it sounds like those don’t bother you.
    I am just as blind though, in a way, because I refuse to confront violence or see its benefit. A world of my own fashioning would most likely not survive… kindness needs to be tempered by some hard or tough encounters. How else could we appreciate those moments of love and kindness if we do not have to fight for them?
    My major issue will always be with guns however – I just feel they are too easily used, too easy to get and too much a contributing factor to aggressive responses to everyday situations that do not warrant them.

    Like

    • ::grins:: They don’t, so don’t worry. I tend to joke about my own eyes anyway. “Given a choice between weeping and singing, which would you choose?” Honestly, I strongly doubt you could actually offend me. I’m…kind of weird in that, I guess. 🙂 And no need to be sorry, Mr. Friedling. In a way, I suppose it engendered another kind of endurance.

      Naïve? I don’t think so. The way things seem to me, is people are shaped by the world around them just as much as people shape themselves. I’m quite glad, to be honest, that you are the way you are. Harshness doesn’t somehow “sit well”, does that make any sense?
      Overall, violence itself doesn’t really seem to have a benefit to the world at large. “Violence for violence’s sake” is utterly destructive. It’s ugly, really ugly, and I’m glad there’s at least one in the world who “gets” it.

      As for guns? I despise them myself. Being shot at is scary enough. I could go on about the real statistics of various countries beyond our shores and how their crime rate is so much lower than our own due to some serious gun regulation. But, I have a feeling you know those as well as I do! 🙂 Plus, you know. “Who shot at you?” “Um. Dude. I’m blind…” “Sorry then, nothing we can do!” ::small laugh::
      I’ve not had to draw a weapon yet to defend myself or someone else (Thankfully!). I will however, confess to learning Iaido to the best of my ability — that is, an art of the sword. I know, swords are bloody archaic in this modern world. But, as I’m learning, the sword isn’t “just” a weapon, unlike the firearm. You pegged the gun right on — it’s an instrument built to kill.
      Weird as it sounds, I’ve actually encountered the sword used as a tool rather than a weapon. Monks in various Eastern sects use what many perceive as weapons, as tools. I can’t do that yet, not by far, but it can be done. 🙂

      Sending some love your way, hoping your week is going well and I do hope to communicate again. You’re quite an inspiration, I hope you know.

      –“Dan”
      aka The crazy one on Twitter

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s