Jackie 'The Heroic' Felger and Dani 'The Virtuous' Bertrand, is all about sharing our favourite good guys and bad guys with you today, so, without further ado, on with the sharing :).
I'm a big science fiction and fantasy fan, been watching the movies and tv shows, and reading the books since I was a wee thing, plus I also like the occasional horror story as well. Thus, I thought I'd present to you some of my favourite genre heroes and their nemeses (I had to look up the plural of nemesis ;P). Being a writer as well, I thought I'd finish by picking out some qualities I favour when I'm creating my own good and bad guys.
However, it is Luke's progression as a character through Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi that keep me watching him as an adult. His journey is difficult and painful. Empire does not give any of the 'good guys' an easy ride, but Luke grows up in that film, discovering as much about his own psyche as he does about Vader. As a child, I had difficulty grasping the fact that Luke actually loses in Empire, but as an adult, I can see how important that is to his development as well as the plot.
Of course, if I mention Luke, then my villain of the piece has to be Darth Vader: no conscience, no empathy, no mercy, all that matters to him is the glory of The Empire and his service to The Emperor. His is an example of power corrupting absolutely. Anakin embraced the Dark Side and became Vader, although Obi-wan, I think, was pushing a metaphor when he said Vader killed Anakin, he did bury what was left of the powerful, overconfident young jedi inside that bitter, black shell.
Vader is such an icon, a person only has to begin breathing heavily into their hand and everyone knows who they're imitating. He is a classic villain, not much depth in the original movies, he's just bad, bad, bad. And yet, he does not have a classic villain ending. Instead, thanks to a long-buried love for his son, he finds redemption.
Anakin and Luke, father and son, equally gifted in The Force and therefore maybe destined for the same fate, with father urging son to come to the Dark Side. I sometimes wonder what would have happened if Luke had turned and joined Vader, it's an interesting idea, but, then again, I'm a happy ending junkie, so I was very glad when Luke wins out. :)
Of all the films from my childhood, The Dark Crystal has villains that still make my skin crawl: the Skeksis. In particular, the villain I will pick from the crowd is The Chamberlain, with his shuffle and whining mew and his ability to change allegiance in a heartbeat. He's the perfect example of the oily villain, the back-stabber, the turncoat - the creature with his own agenda and damn everyone else. This type of villain is the most dangerous, in my opinion, because they cannot be trusted even to follow their own dogma. Vader is a merciless despot, but he has his reasons, his goals, the glory of The Empire. The Chamberlain has an ultimate prize in sight, to be master of the Skeksis, but his deviousness along the way puts everyone in danger.
SPOILER WARNING FOR SKYFALL
Let's start with the fact that he's ex-MI6, one of M's favourites and she betrayed him to the Chinese. It's not that simple, but that's how he sees it and, plain and simple, Silva wants revenge. His petulance is childlike, stunted, his ingenuity staggering. He is more than merciless, he enjoys the power he has, he revels in ruthlessness only matched by his cunning. Silva has gone through madness to the other side, where his clarity of hatred is as raw as it can be. We see this in the scene where he, a prisoner, meets M once more. We see the child/man whose hero-worship has turned to bitter loathing and he is spitting mad. Silva is driven by his need for revenge, but also, he has a need for M's approval, still. He is complex and twisted and just plain nasty.
The beauty of Skyfall as a movie, for me, are the parallels between hero and villain. Bond, as the hero of the piece, is as grey as Silva is mad. In a fight, he can be as ruthless as Silva, but whereas Silva has thrown out all rules, Bond has his principles, his duty, keeping him in check. Silva is convinced that, given a little push, Bond could be exactly like him, but, to believe in Bond, the viewer has to be sure he can't be. Maybe it is merely the approval of their matriarch that is all that is keeping Bond from going rogue, or maybe it is more, the question is not one that is answered, but it is a tantalising proposal - what would Bond be without M?
Heroes and Villains, My Own Take
The heroes and villains from my favourite films and books have always inspired me in my own writing and have always helped me understand how these classic tropes can drive on a story.
There are many different types of hero, but the one thing that a hero mustn't be is perfect. This is where a writer can get into the realm of Mary Sues, where the hero/ine is loved by everyone, has wonderful powers, so wonderful no-one can beat them and, of course, is totally sure of themselves. There's one word for a protagonist like this: boring. A hero/ine has to have flaws, make mistakes, be human (or whatever race they happen to be). It is the fall Luke takes in Empire Strikes Back that is the making of him, that gives him depth in Return of the Jedi.
Death In The Family, where my protagonist, Tom, discovers his father was of the supernatural persuasion. What drives the plot here is Tom's need to understand what that means and find out what and who he really is.
It's not only heroes who need to be believable, though, villains do too. They have to have their raison d'etre. I can't remember who said this, probably lots of people, but even a madman has his reasons, and they make sense to him, so, however dark, however twisted and monstrous a villain is, he/she has their reasons for doing what they do and being who they are. The quest for power is a good start, be that political, or magical, and this can be seen in a lot of classic fantasy, like Star Wars and Dark Crystal. Revenge, as in Skyfall is also a juicy place to start. However, what evolves from there is not a cookie cutter villain. Silva, with his mummy-hate is on the edge of being a pantomime villain, just like many Bond Baddies, but his conviction is what made him 'real' for me.
There is a villain in the Haward twins' back story in Sacrifice of An Angel, Francis, an ex-partner of Theo's, who betrays both brothers when he tries to bind Theo to him. His motive for this, is, on the surface, very simple - power - since controlling Theo would give him access to a lot of magic. Yet, Francis' ideals, at least in his own mind, are not so simple. He claims he still loves Theo and he believes he was acting for the greater good in binding him. It does not make what he attempted to do any less barbaric, but those motives are much more obtuse than simple craving for power. Francis is quite a juicy character for me, I enjoy working on his plot lines, and we'll be visiting him again in further books in The Haward Mysteries series.
So, there you have it, my brief journey through my favourite heroes and villains. What makes a good hero, or villain for you?
If you want to read more about heroes and villains, hop over to some of the other blogs joining in this fest. :)