Thursday, 6 June 2013

Heroes & Villains Blog Fest - My Favourite Good & Bad Guys

The Heroes & Villains Blog Fest, organised by 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.

So, let's start with a classic, Star Wars. Now, I've always been a Luke kinda gal, so, sorry folks who prefer Han - it's all the mystical power stuff, y'see, I'm a sucker for it (there might just be a running theme among my favourite heroes, and some of my favourite villains). Luke is young, naive, wounded - he is 'the fool', just starting out on his life-journey in A New Hope. I identified with him in A New Hope, he was the blue-eyed, cute hope for the universe, and that is pretty much all that first movie is about - good against evil, good triumphing over evil.

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.

My favourite incarnation of Luke is from Return of the Jedi: he's darker, more sure of himself and he's on a mission. He carries the secret of who Vader is with him for much of the story, a shadow that has made a boy a man and he is determined to save his father. With his conviction in the face of imminent death, Luke comes of age.






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. :)

Returning to heroes, I've always had a soft spot for Jen in The Dark Crystal. He's another in the same vein as Luke, young, protected and thrown in at the deep end of an adventure. What I particularly like about Jen, though, is his vulnerability. If you want a strong character in The Dark Crystal, it's Kira, much more worldwise and sassy, and Jen follows her lead much of the time. I like that about Jen. He's not go-getting and chest-beating, he's just trying to do what he has to and he'll take all the help he can get.

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.

My choice of heroes and villains have been pretty black and white, so far, which is understandable, since I've been talking about children's films. However, a recent villain I like very much was Raoul Silva in Skyfall. On the surface, he's a classic Bond villain, out for power and money. Yet, from the very beginning, there's much more to Silva.

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.

'The fall', as I'll call it, is an important part of any hero/ine for me. This doesn't have to be a literal calamity, or failure, but something that gives them their colour and depth. Anything from self doubt, all the way through to discovering a parent was a 'xyz'. 'xyz' translates to 'vampire', in my book, 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. :)

24 comments:

  1. Great choices! I'm a big Star Wars and Dark Crystal fan, so I'm with you on all of those choices!

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    1. I keep telling folks they can't go wrong if they like SW or DC :)

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  2. Star Wars definitely has some very heroic and very villainous characters, great picks there!

    I'm almost ashamed to say I've never seen The Dark Crystal, but will have to rectify that soon :)

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    1. Dark Crystal is definitely worth a watch, Jim Henson had such a way of making things magical and totally absorbing.

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  3. Classic and perfect!! Thanks for the nicknames and joining our fest!!

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    1. It's a fun fest, thanks for organising it :)

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  4. I loved the Dark Crystal! The story and world Henson created was so lush and beautiful.

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    1. It was incredible, wasn't it, and all without CGI to help?

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  5. Loved the Dark Crystal too. But Luke and Vader are the archetypal hero and villain. Great choices.

    Tim
    The Other Side

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    1. Yeah, Luke and Vader are classic archetypes :) Thanks for commenting.

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  6. Aww. Thank you for the nickname! :) Love it!

    I heart Star Wars, and love that someone mentioned them in this fest. Woot woot!

    Thanks for joining our blogfest, Sophie. :D

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    1. The fest was a lot of fun :D Thanks for organising it! I've found some good blogs to follow!

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  7. Javier Bardem did such a great job in that movie. Classic villain.

    ~MPL
    PepperWords

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    1. He did. He took his character to the edge and then charged gloriously over it, as all good Bond villains should :)

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  8. Love every single one of these, Sophie! Original Trilogy (though I admit my pick for hero would be Yoda. Bot, oh- Vader! Love him!), Dark Crystal (also a childhood fave) and Skyfall (when he pulled off his wig and teeth my jaw dropped- that was such a great reveal into his madness!)

    And really important points- Donna was saying today that the only difference between a hero and villain is that a villain hasn't overcome their stuff yet. Heroes? Traumatized, sent to the depths, climbed their way back up. Villains? Traumatized, sent to the depths, trying to pull everyone down there with them. All good or all evil doesn't exist.

    Great post!

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    1. I like that description of heroes and villains. Does that mean a character can't be a real hero unless they have been traumatized first, though? Hmm, I shall have to think on that, but definitely, all good and all evil doesn't exist, or if it does, the writer has got their characterisations wrong! ;P

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  9. Great picks, all around. I love The Dark Crystal. Glad Jen is one of your favorite heroes:) Thanks for following my blog! I enjoy meeting new people through bloghops like this one.

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    1. It is fun finding new folks through these hops, isn't it - I like the smaller hops too, because I get a chance to visit all of the blogs.

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  10. Some really great choices here. I always preferred Vader as the ruthless villain. That's why I don't like episodes 1-3. They took this bad ass and turned him into an emo mamma's boy. I love Dark Crystal. Everything about that movie was just genius. I agree that heroes need their flaws and I do love a villain with complex motives.

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    1. I so agree with you on Vader, I really dislike eps 1-3, they just didn't work for me, not on any level, from Anakin through to Jarjar Binks!

      Dark Crystal is one of my go-to movies, if I want to watch something I know I am guaranteed to enjoy that will leave me feeling like I spent a worthwhile 90 mins, I'll go get it out of my DVD collection.

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  11. Very cool tie in with your own characters! I also enjoyed the Luke/Vader analysis. Makes me want to watch the movies...again. I think a summer marathon is in order. ;)

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    1. I must admit, this whole fest has made me want to go revisit collections of movies I haven't seen in a while. I have the Indie box-set (not including #4), which I might sit down to watch again. :)

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  12. Great choices :3 I've been a fan of Star Wars ever since I've first seen the films ^^ Luke is definitely my favourite hero from the movies too, just because he has to deal with the fact that Vader is his father.

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Thanks for stopping by - I'd love to hear from you. :)