The Trouble with Villains

Each week, a YouTube channel that I subscribe to called Digital Trends puts out a couple of different podcasts.  They are a tech-based show, covering Home Entertainment, Home Theater, Laptops, HDTVs, Smart Home/Smart Speakers, etc., so their content, including podcasts are mostly tech-focused.  However, one of their podcasts, Between the Streams is a fun, “end-of-the-week” look at the happenings in movies, entertainment, etc.  As someone whose 2nd Academic speciality is probably going to be Popular Culture, I find myself tuning in more often than not.  In the latest episode, BTS 093, they mentioned villains and how they “love” a good villain.

Generation Shift

Okay, so this is probably where the generations have diverged in culture.  Baby Boomers and Gen X’ers (like myself), tend to prefer heroes (John McClain, Han Solo/Luke Skywalker, MacGyver, Hercule Poirot, etc).  We like villains, but only in so much as we want things to be challenging to the hero.  For instance, Alan Rickman‘s performance as the villain in Die Hard was so tense because he was the smart enough to go toe-to-toe with Bruce Willis’ tough, no-nonsense cop John McClain, who had grit and determination.  However, in the past ten years or so, I’ve heard a shift where a cool villain seems to be the only requirement now for good entertainment.  They were discussing various incarnations of the The Joker, but they make no mention of various actors or incarnations of The Batman.  Batman is a non-entity in his own movies.  For them, it is all about the villains and the Rogue’s Gallery and that makes me sad.

“A More Wretched Hive of Scum and Villainy”–Star Wars: Episode IV, A New Hope

Let’s take Star Wars as a quick example.  There are people giddy with joy over Kylo Ren and the fact that the Last Jedi has a scene (no spoilers) where he and Rey meet.  They’ve even fashioned a name for the pair, “Reylo” in hopes that they will become a couple.  Really?  You want your hero character to become an item with someone who has murdered other people in cold blood?  And let’s say that happens, then what does that say about your main character/hero?  Are they then complicit in the act?  Rey knew about it and knew that the character escaped justice/consequences, so would she now be tainted with the same “blood” as her murderous “boyfriend” (again, assuming the producers follow up on the “Reylo” idea).  Luke is a “whiny kid” up until a turning point in his later into Star Wars and that’s all anyone ever cares to remember about him (esp. in relation to the cooler Han Solo character), but Luke’s arc is critical the successful revelation to the story because he has to deny evil in order for the story to work.  If he were anything like Kylo (whom the new SW) movies seem to dote on, the whole universe would be under the power of the malevolent Emperor now, with Luke standing by the Emperor’s side dealing out murder and injustice and bathed in blood like his father before him.

“There are Always Men Like You”–Marvel’s Avengers

Not to get all us vs them generational divide, but it is that denial that is at the center of it all.  Too many people today seem to want to be in power/have power even if that power comes at the expense of doing what is right.  In the mind of a villain, might makes right where as in the mind of a hero doing right is a struggle to be overcome.  Like Yoda said when Luke asked him about the Dark Side of the Force–“No. No. No.  Quicker, easier, more seductive.”  That is what villainy entails–a quicker, easier route to what you want and if that means crushing the life (sometimes literally) out of whoever is in your way, then so be it.  But that doesn’t mesh with our belief that all life is unique and should be allowed to prosper in their own way.  A villain says there is only one way: my way!   And shouldn’t we (especially as a species–older generations and new alike) stand up and say, we reject this and we reject you!

And that’s the role of a true hero.



Heroism, Not Hooliganism

So, as usual, this blog entry is REALLY late.  Apologies.  This has been a rough few weeks for me.  School has been “challenging” for me  these past three weeks, I’ve been ill, and I’ve had zero motivation to write since turning in “Ship of Shadows,” over a month ago.  What finally compelled me to write is the fact that I received a rewrite request for “Ship of Shadows” from the anthology where I sent it.  The editor gave me a week (7 days!) to rewrite the story and send it back.  Now, under normal circumstances, I would have gotten to work immediately and sent it back to her ASAP.  I mean, a publication is a publication, right?

However, after reading through some of the comments, I realize that the editor wants me to change my main character from a “hero” into a “hooligan.”  I’m NOT okay with that.  In  “Ship of Shadows,” I have my protagonist go back and save another character.  The editor believes that is out of character for her as I’ve mentioned that the protagonist is an orphan  and will do what it takes to survive.  This puts me into a situation is which I have to turn my hero into an anti-hero who is only out for herself and cannot be counted on when the chips are down–EXACTLY the same as Vin Diesel’s character in PITCH BLACK, a movie that I categorically DESPISE for its treatment of the Heroism vs. Anti-Heroism.



I’m (currently) a 6th Grade Language Arts Teacher.  On my door is a sign that reads, “HELP OTHERS.”  Of course, no one really follows that advice (although to be fair, sometimes I see those who get the mini-lesson help out others in the class who are struggling when I’m helping someone else) as these are sixth graders.  They still believe that the world revolves around them and their needs are more important than everyone else’s in the entire world.

In the past two or three years, I’ve come to understand that my core values are (in the words of Captain America from MARVEL’S THE AVENGERS) “Old Fashioned.”  In a time where BREAKING BAD, THE WALKING DEAD, and GAME OF THRONES are held up as the epitome of “good writing,” I can’t help but shake my head.

What would our world look like if we ALL were out for number one?  Would strangers take the time to pull people out of burning cars and houses?  Of course not.  Would you take the time to call the police if you saw burglars in your neighbor’s house while they were away?  Not my house, you’d say.  What about calling 911 if you witnessed an accident with injuries and neither party was responsive enough to phone on their own?  Not my problem.

So, then, whose problem is it?



Being a hooligan (anti-hero) is SO COOL.  You get to do what you want to, without anyone telling you it is wrong.  You get to be Mr./Ms. Bad Person without consequences.  You get to be “Number One” and no one can touch you, ever.  And if someone complains, you’re bad enough to BEAT THEM DOWN so they can’t ever complain again.  Right?

This is a fantasy that we have as kids, but it seems (to me) that more and more people are not growing out of this phase, but carry this type of attitude with them into adolescence and then into adulthood.

I see it both in the real world and in various mediums: various school fights being posted online (Facebook/YouTube), in video games (Grand Theft Auto series), TV (Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones), movies (Pitch Black, Looper, Jumper).

I’m constantly having to reread books in my collection because I can’t count how many times over the past couple of years that I’ve checked out a book from the library only to find that the main characters are jerks, or are detestable jerks, or are detestable jerks using the F-Bomb (even though it is a Fantasy story), or are detestable jerks using the F-Bomb who are mysogynists, or who are detestable jerks using the F-Bomb who are mysogynists who run around slitting throats because they aspire to be the next “Great Assassin” of whatever generic fantasy world the author has created.  I don’t think I’ve managed to get past the first three chapters of any book I’ve read in the past two years unless the author was named Brandon Sanderson, Diane Duane, or Elizabeth Moon.  All the other authors that I’ve tried in that time have had characters so UNLIKEABLE that I’ve abandoned them ASAP.


So, back to the topic at hand–what to do with “Ship of Shadows?”  I’m going to implement many of the changes that the editor asked, but I will NOT have the main character kill the other character.  When I send it to her, I will politely let her know my reasoning and politely inform her that it is okay to reject the story if it doesn’t meet her needs (which is what I expect to happen).

I will then take this as a learning experience and realize that I’m either writing 10 years TOO LATE or 10-15 years TOO EARLY and dial back my expectations for my writing career.  I am not and will not be the “flavor of the month” or the “hot new writer,” because of my insistence on heroism and my disdain for hooliganism–at least, not until the pendulum swings AWAY from the anti-hero and BACK to the hero.