by Diana Black
Come on, fess up, who amongst us have ‘loved’ and desired the rebel/bad guy/gal – in school, College, University, on the big screen or in the television show? Be careful what you wish for. You might have married one (or were): daily having to tread a fine line between exhilaration and fear, between violence and bliss. Funny, neither gender seem to be liked/suffered nobly in the workplace – but in that arena, it’s all about being a team player not the lone rebel/psychopath.
So why do they ‘reel us in’ – involving us in their complicated, often dysfunctional lives? And what makes them especially compelling when we view them on the big screen or ‘little box’?
From a biological POV, rebels tend to take risks, live precariously, face danger and either through luck or sheer ‘ballsyness’, often reap the rewards of their daring – but not always. Failures can be spectacular and collateral damage is a given. They live and die by the sword – but they live and life on the edge is strangely intoxicating – if you survive.
Perhaps, the ultimate pay-off is the sense of superiority and accomplishment that comes from having survived the ordeal and beating the odds. The rebel has won – this time and, so have you, if you’re inextricably caught up with one. There is of course, the ‘dark side’ to rubbing shoulders with their ilk – scrambling to put food on the table when the money has run out, taking the kids to a shelter until the wave of drug-fuelled violence subsides or, dodging a bullet meant for them…such could hardly be considered enticing.
But rebels are interesting – rarely boring, safe or predictable. Do they enjoy being bad or are they simply ‘damaged goods’ perceiving no other choice…beware… don’t fall…one’s maternal (paternal) instinct is sure to seal your unpleasant fate.
We get ‘enjoyment’ in exploring their ghastly lives and deeds via proxy – an almost tangible thrill in witnessing dastardly deeds, even when we know it’s bad. At some barely conscious level, it satisfies our hideous, gluttonous desire for violence – not something that we own up to the next day over coffee in the break room. But like it or not, physical violence is intimately associated with power and power with sex and for us as a social animal, that’s been a modus operandi for over a million years.
It resonates at some gut level because it’s ‘hard-wired’. War (at the stat- sanctioned or street level) is after all, simply ‘grand theft’ of resources – the woman, the gold, the country etc. that happens to belong to someone else. Violent behavior remains the dark side of our time and perhaps will be the defining characteristic of our species when we have all too briefly obliterated ourselves; geologically speaking.
But, what about us in our respectable living room – most of us, if not 99.9% of us, are unlikely to murder and dismember the guy in the next apartment no matter how often we watch this crap yet we experience ‘viewing pleasure’… “Oh, look there’s someone who’s really bad… oh, for shame… makes me feel so darn good about me.”
So, as aspiring, emerging writers, we can expect to have a long and hopefully illustrious career in inventing the ‘bad guy/gal’ – but only if we do it well. The villain must be complicated via multi-layering – they become interesting and thus compelling to watch. We’ll have to make some critical decisions – while they may be villainous they must also have a semblance of reality to them with behavior ‘justified’ in accordance with their character profile and/or ‘back story’ – in order for us to identify, albeit guiltily, with them. BTW, when creating the villain, how much of ‘you’ is under their skin?
Taking a look at just a few of the current offerings provides us with ample opportunities to do a character analysis of ‘the villain’ – Gotham (Fox, September 2014 – ), Empire (Fox, January 2015 – ) and Game of Thrones (HBO, 2011 – ). Enjoy!