Does the villain have a journey?
With the new Star Wars, there has been a lot of rehash about how Lucas used Joseph Campbell’s “Hero’s Journey” when writing the original Star Wars, and how this new Star Wars has similar elements. Without going into spoilers and all the theories (and believe me there are enough theories to fill tombs upon tombs), I found myself contemplating something entirely different:
The Villain’s Journey.
Of course, this thought was sparked by Kylo Ren… and I too have thoughts on the arc of his story; my hope being that the writers will honor complexity over big budget… but I digress.
The villain’s journey.
I decided to look it up. I have extensive background in the Hero aspect. I wrote my master’s thesis, spent years reading and researching, etc. etc…
…but the villain; not so much, or not as a story arc itself, but only as a counterpart to the hero.
Googling it brought up interesting things; lots of comics, and fan sites for said comics but very little actual thought on the journey aspect. There is apparently one contributor that talks about the villain’s journey and that has made the rounds of different .edu sites, but the theory deals entirely with the journey from the point of power to the point of fall. In other words, the theory addresses the journey in counterpoint to the hero, something I already had some ideas on and have looked into for my own research.
What I want to know more about, think about, is the rise of the villain, not the fall.
There is a tendency in the last thirty years or so to look at villains as more complex than the destroyer of the world. Sometime in the 80s, during the height of the postmodern movement, “Watchmen” came out. This comic studied the role of “anti-hero,” a kind of individual that is supposed to be a hero, but the complexity of identity and person creates a hero that is not all good or bad, but somewhere in the gray.
This is not what I am talking about, necessarily, but the publishing of “Watchmen” was a first step towards a movement that started to look at villains as more than just a counter to the hero.
The backstory. Why and how did the villains become who they become?
I think of Loki as portrayed in the movies (not necessarily the comics or Norse mythology). Through the Thor movies, the viewer is given insights on his motivation, the reasons behind his turn, so by the time you see him in the second Thor movie, you sympathize with him.
There is backstory. But I want more than just a backstory.
The television show “Gotham” is one of the more thorough looks at the rise of a villain; in fact, it is the only work of any median I know of that approaches the villain’s journey in such a thorough way. There is Penguin, Riddler, and Cat-Woman, among others and you see them before they are anything, moving towards who they become (and who they are known for in the DC world).
The show is interesting and fun to watch, even if I am left flat on some of the characters, because the villain’s journey is an interesting one. Sure, there are the psychos, but even the psychos had a precipice, a series of something, that brought them to that point they become the bad guy.
I have not read G.R.R. Martin’s epic tale, but I’ve heard that villains are given more of a fleshed out back story, mostly because the story is so very massive. If I could get through the verbose that is his writing, I would try to read them; however, that is unlikely.
Are there others in literature that I am not thinking of? Seriously, I am having a terrible time thinking of literary villains that the reader is given not only backstory, but The Story. The Journey.
But, going back:
“The Force Awakes.”
It inspired me as I watched Kylo Ren at That Part I will not speak of. How? His movement to the darkside is sure not entirely based in his DNA. Though that does make me think of Star Wars I, II, III and the journey of Annakin and how that is kind of a study in the villain’s journey.
But. That movie. Blah.
And that leads me to my final thought in this meandering blog:
Writing a villain’s journey. How interesting. And exciting.
*mind clicks away in the way it does when something starts to move through it*
Do any of you, dear reads, have advice as to where to go to read villain stories… not the fall, not the hero catching the bad guy… but the rise? Any of you have thoughts on the villain’s journey in general?
Fun stuff, peeps, fun stuff.