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.
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.
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.
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.