It’s a fact that heroes are overrated, but nobody realizes this, because the audience sees the heroes through the pink goggles of awe and adoration. Point to be noted here is that heroes become heroes when they overcome difficult situations in their lives and fight nasty villains to find their ‘happily ever after’. Otherwise, they’ll just be the average Tom, Dick and Harry, like you and me. With their struggles, and triumphs, heroes give us hope to fight our own little battles in our lives and to hold on just a little bit more to find our own ‘happily ever after’. That’s why we see ourselves as the heroes of our lives, and that’s why we love our heroes.
We all are struggling in our lives on a daily basis, and it helps to take our frustration out on someone, some time. That’s where villains come in handy. We can blame them for everything bad that’s happening, we can derive pleasure in their defeats, and we can simply hate them without a lick of remorse. With the villains, it’s a given that they will be deplorable and fiends. You love to hate them. You want nothing more than to get revenge, make the villains pay, and have the heroes prevail one way or another. But have you ever noticed that the stronger the villain, the better you like the story? Think about it – Batman, Spiderman, Superman; on the Bollywood side, we have Shaan (with Shaakal), Mr. India (with Mogambo), Sholay (with Gabbar Singh), Don (both Amitabh Bachchan’s as well as SRK’s) and Gajhani (with Gajhani). All these are epics. Wonder why?
Simply because we love how much stronger the hero has to become to defeat them, and how much these villains raise the stakes. We love the twists, the suspense, and success becomes even sweeter if the struggle to achieve it was not easy. Meeting a strong challenge and succeeding always gives more satisfaction than getting something easy. Imagining ourselves in the hero’s stead, we gain the satisfaction of a battle well-fought. And that’s the magic of the villains.
There are various different types of Villains we come across in our lives:
There are your usual, run of the mill villains, who simply hold a strong grudge and do everything possible to give the heroes a hard time. Here, the story holds importance. An event X happens, which leads to the villain going mad with rage, and then he does Y to get back at the hero, but the hero fights back and prevails. End of story.
Next, there are those crazy, irrational, cruel and violent villains like the Joker from Dark Knight. Simple. Plain. Bad-ass. Their background or why they are that way doesn’t matter; what matters is that they have to be stopped and stopped now. Every lost minute costs the hero something new – something unexpected and brutal. Completely unpredictable! Such villains are the agents of chaos and just want to see the world burn. No sense of morality whatsoever. Even if they’re dead, the audience (or the readers) hold their breaths, expecting them to come back to life and create havoc all over again.
Then there are those villains who are pained, full of anger and hate, because of the experiences in their past. They were the victims once, and now they’ve lost compassion for the others. Here, their background story is important and plays an important role in the making of the villain. Every decision he/she makes is guided by his/her past experiences and the learnings from them. The readers/viewers can predict the villain’s reaction to any particular event and thus, sometimes, they lose the thrill element.
Also, there are villains who stand for something, a cause, and who don’t want to see the world burn, but want to build a new one in their own image. These are the villains who firmly believe they’re the good guys. Even the readers/viewers can’t decide whether to tag them good or evil. These villains are determined, they’re driven, and they want to make the world a better place. These villains are difficult to hate, but raise the stakes nevertheless. Hence, the interest of the audience is piqued. How a guy with good intentions does something that turns so destructive?
However, it’s just a matter of perspective that defines good or evil, hero or villain, or protagonist and antagonist. Take Harry Potter for example. We all know that Harry Potter was the hero and Lord Voldemort was the villain. Now let me tell you the story from Lord Voldemort’s perspective, with him portrayed as the hero. A young, bright boy with an ambitious dream in his life – to be the greatest wizard of all times. Will he be able to achieve it? Let’s see. With his talent and hard work, he learns quickly and becomes better than everyone around; even the teachers are afraid he is better than them. The world starts looking at him different; he becomes lonely because everyone is afraid to be his friend, or is simply jealous. Thus, socially isolated and shunned for his hard-earned achievements, he decides to stop brooding about it and start focusing on achieving his goal. Soon, he is recognized as the greatest wizard the world has ever seen. Yet, the situation doesn’t improve for him; it deteriorates even further and less talented people either want to be his friend to bask in his glory, or simply hate him because he’s achieved more than what they have. He takes what he is offered – friendship in exchange of benefits. He knows he’s being used, but he doesn’t have a choice, because no one is being a friend out of the goodness of one’s heart. He learns an important lesson – the world is selfish and you can either succumb to their hate & selfishness, or rise above the rest and achieve greatness. He moves on to the next part of the goal – be the greatest wizard ‘of all times’. How could he achieve that? He knows that breaking records is easy; once a target is set, people can make a beeline to achieve it. Thus, there will always be someone new to break the records of the geniuses of the past, including him. What if, after his death, a new wizard emerges and breaks his records? He would be reduced to just a memory and would be lost in the dust of time. Someone else would take the title of the greatest wizard. How can he overcome this challenge? How can he ensure that he retains his title for all times to come? Simple: by ensuring that he lives forever. That way, he would at least get a chance to better his performance and have a healthy competition with these future contenders. Maybe one of them would become his friend for what he is and as he is. He does a little digging and finds that the only way to live forever is by breaking his soul into pieces. Until any one of those pieces remains active, he remains alive. Unfortunately, in order to break his soul into pieces, he has to kill. It would kill him to take someone’s life – his conscience will never let him be at peace. But hasn’t “nature” taught us the concept of ‘survival of the fittest’? The stronger living being hunts down the weaker ones in order to survive? He just wants to survive! So, he goes ahead and gets this over with. But he hadn’t known that when the soul is broken into pieces, it creates coldness inside – fueled by ruthlessness and cruelty. He doesn’t like what he’s become, but wants only one person who could keep him onto the right track, and for whom he would want to be a good person. He waits and waits and waits, but doesn’t find the one who is willing to see the good in him. Then one day, some crackpot prophesises that a boy will be born to kill him. Why? I say, why? All he ever wanted was for someone to love him, and all he ever got was hate and fear from others. Worst thing was that people were happy to hear about the boy. Angry, Voldemort sets out to kill the boy – why wait till he attains adulthood; the boy may become powerful enough to kill him then. Unfortunately, the villain of his story, Harry Potter, turns out to be stronger even at the age of one and Voldemort is reduced to a spirit form. That’s a major setback, and the villain has won this time. But everyone needs his ‘happily ever after’ and Voldemort is no different. He has a strong will to prevail and tries to outsmart and overpower the villain at every chance he gets. But every single time he gets defeated. The villain is strong and very difficult to defeat, but our hero, Voldemort, never loses hope and keeps fighting his righteous battles. After all, if somebody wants to compete for the ‘best sorcerer of all times’ title, he/she should do that based on his/her capabilities and training, and not some super-powers he/she has since childhood as a ‘free gift’. It’s an unfair competition. Voldemort has worked really hard and sacrificed & suffered a lot to reach this pedestal. It’s unfair of the world to love the boy for his achievements, while shun Voldemort for his. And then, the final battle is fought and Voldemort emerges victorious; the villain is killed. But lo behold, Harry Potter comes back from the dead, some unfair miracle, and kills Voldemort! To top it all, people rejoice! Why only Potter gets the miracle and Voldemort doesn’t? Harry Potter also killed, didn’t he? Then why shouldn’t he be the bad guy?
So, who really is a villain? Villains and heroes are just like us normal people – sometimes they’re good and sometimes bad. But whoever is telling the story and knows the reasons behind the good or bad behaviour, becomes the hero whereas, the person whose reasons aren’t known to the story-teller becomes the villain. Human history is a testament to that. In India, Ram is considered the hero and Ravana the villain, because Ravana abducted Ram’s wife, Sita. But in Sri Lanka, Ravana is considered hero and Ram villain, because Ravana was taking a revenge on the brothers, Ram and Laxman, because they cut off the nose and ears of Ravana’s sister, Shurpanakha. And even while taking revenge, Ravana never touched Sita, though she was held captive with him for months. Now you decide who the hero was and who the villain.
I believe that hero is the one whose story is being told. A hero only has one advantage over the villain – he has the right reasons and justification for his acts, while the villain doesn’t.
The host of the International Author’s Day blog hop: http://www.b00kr3vi3ws.in/