Recently, with the release of Hocus Pocus 2 and The Rings of Power, a divisive discussion has arisen once again on Twitter. Not that it ever really goes away…
Villains. Bullies. Douchebags.
Do we want to know why they are the way they are? Do we care about their origin story? Should we bother to find out what led them down the path where we first found them traveling?
It’s The Tragic Backstory.
Many a consumer of media and art gets their panties in a twist if a creator fleshes out a villain’s story. If someone attempts to explain why a villain turned into the evil shitbag they are, some consumers spew vitriol like crazy.
In Hocus Pocus 2, we learn how the Sanderson sisters became witches and why. In The Rings of Power, we see a more in-depth explanation for why Orcs/Uruk began and why Galadriel has a touch of darkness within her. I could write a dissertation on how social media is treating Galadriel’s character, but we’re all familiar with misogyny at this point.
They’re evil! They’re a villain! They did a bad thing! Why doesn’t matter! Stop trying to make villains sympathetic!
Sure. Yeah. Okay. They are evil. They did bad things. Knowing why doesn’t change that.
I agree completely. Not all evils can be forgiven or even explained well enough to consider forgiveness. Sometimes evil is just…evil.
In my upcoming book, THE BEES AND OTHER WILD THINGS, the bully from A SURPLUS OF LIGHT, Carson, gets put in one of the two spotlights. And we find out his tragic backstory.
I’m sure some people will scream. I welcome it.
The thing is, providing the tragic backstory of a character is not necessarily an invitation to feel sympathy for a character/villain. It’s simply an invitation to learn the origins of evil.
What you do with that is up to you.
Forgiveness is not required. Sympathy is not required. Understanding is all that is asked. Understanding, forgiveness, and sympathy are not the same things.
In knowing where evil originates from, it becomes possible that evil may be averted in the future. Evil is part of the human condition, whether or not someone is evil depends on what they do when presented with an opportunity.
Do they step into the light, or do they embrace their darkness?
Knowing why someone chose the darkness is fascinating.
And who doesn’t find a purely evil villain delicious?
Let’s not forget…these are fictional stories about fictional characters. It’s been made possible for consumers of media to examine evil and its origins in a safe environment. When the book, T.V. show, or movie ends…we’re all safe. We touched the darkness, experienced its beginnings, and we’re safe.
But we’re left with a better understanding of the other side.
Because everybody is the hero in their own story. Just as you feel as though you are better than the villain for staying in the light, they feel they have good reasons to embrace the darkness.
Heroism is determined by perspective. Not action. I’m not talking about right and wrong here. What is right and what is wrong is crystal clear in many situations. However, what makes a hero a hero is how the people on their side view them and what the popular opinion is at the moment.
Those perspectives change through history. What was once reasonable and preferable is later viewed as evil with growth and more perspective. More experience with life and all those that inhabit the world around us.
A story is not a complete story without evil, understanding it, and where it came from. Because evil is part of the human condition.
Whether or not you forgive a villain is totally up to you
But in media, this entire situation is entertainment. It’s not to be taken so seriously as to have people screaming on social media about how “problematic” the tragic backstory can be. Save the label “problematic” for actual problematic, real-life situations.
Sometimes…and stick with me here…you can just enjoy a fictional story without dissecting every little thing and correlating every aspect to the real world.
Don’t we all have enough of that in real life?
Sit back, enjoy the story, don’t enjoy the story, but save your social justice for real life. And try to remember that what you’re consuming is not real. It’s not advocating for one way of thinking. It’s simply explaining both sides.
Tremendous Love & Thanks,