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?
The feeling curls around my neck. Starting somewhere in the shoulder blades, moving upwards towards the shoulder muscles, then sneaking, slowly, stealthily, along the edges until wrapping around and around the neck column to that indention at the base of my skull.
It stabs at that throat chakra, restricting communication, shutting down the ability to express myself. The controlling aspect of my personality — the ultra logical, precise aspect of myself — likes to examine the stress as if it were a lab animal. Poking, prodding, adding stimuli to create reaction, I work my way through the restrictive tentacles.
This morning, the experimentation and the poking are not really required. I know exactly where the stress stems from, and other than attempting to distance myself from the outcome of the cause, there is not much I can do about it.
My logical self hates this kind of stress. “Nothing can be done!?!?,” my logic screams at me, and then doesn’t believe me and thinks I am lying for fun, and then goes in to the corner for a good sulk.
But truly, and honestly, sometimes there is nothing that can be done.
I mean, there is yoga, deep breathing, meditation.
All of these are ways of coping with the symptoms. And yes, those things often help; but occasionally it doesn’t matter what you do, or how you try to handle it; sometimes it can’t be handled.
And then, you have to be okay with that too.
My mom has cancer.
Now wait, before you wonder where I am going with this, trust me.
My mom has cancer. She has chronic myeloid leukemia. If you’ll notice, the chronic suggests that this is something she will have to deal with for the rest of her life. My mom is young, super young (we are only 16 years apart), so to have a disease that will dog her step forever is a scary, mind-numbing, hard thought to process through.
She wakes up every morning and the cancer is still there. No amount of treatment or therapy will get rid of that chronic disease.
There is nothing to do but deal with the symptoms.
And I not only speak of the physical symptoms of exhaustion and migraines, but the emotional ones as well. These symptoms include defeatism, pessimism, and depression. She deals with sadness, frustration, and paranoia. Every day she has to prove over and over that she can do her job, be a mom and grandmother, and be a friend. Every day she has to remind everyone else… and herself, that she is not cancer.
And she does. Every day.
Are there days that it is harder than others? Absolutely. Sometimes she wakes up and doesn’t want to deal with any of that shit. Sometimes she wakes up and wants to go back to sleep.
But she doesn’t.
She wakes up. And keeps going.
And that is what we all have to do. Keep going.
The stress this morning is choking me. I actually feel it like a pressure in my throat, pushing down at my windpipe, closing expressions, words, thoughts, and ability.
And what is causing the stress is entirely out of my control.
I treat the symptoms. I will get a good workout in today to add some happy-hormone. I will make sure to get extra cuddles from my little man. I will do things to decrease the pressure of that python squeezing the living breath out of my body.
And I will keep going. Because, in the end, sometimes that is all you can do.
So, friends, here’s to the process of moving through the day, despite what that day brings. May you find peace, contentment, and the ability to put one foot in front of the other.
Lacan spoke of a space in language that exists between the point a word is spoken and the point it is heard. The speaker talks… there is a space of existence… the listener hears. This no-man’s land is where the language exists as itself. There is no meaning because it no longer has the meaning the speaker gives it, and has yet to receive the meaning the listener assigns it.
A point of no explanation. Of no identity.
As humans, where does this point exist? Where is the point of no identity? Is it what we project; the point the projection is received by others; or the point in between, the point which neither projection nor reception exists?
There are so many aspects of identity. We are any random thing at any random moment. Sometimes we are a child. Sometimes we are the parent. Sometimes we are a stranger, and yet sometimes a friend. It seems, as I write this out, much of identity exists as a way to define our role in the world.
We are a child in relation to another person; the same for a parent.
Those examples, among thousands, are identity structures that exist because the definition is in relation to someone, or something else.
But what if I turn that around?
I identity as heterosexual. Is this in relation to another? Or a way of separating myself from those who identity as homosexual, or bisexual?
And what about identifying as female?
Or identifying as Caucasian?
All of those things are to create an understanding in how I am different from others; or what my relationship is to others. Do these things, or rather, do these methods, help me to understand WHO I am, and if they do so, should they?
Should I identify myself with a method that separates me from others by assigning characteristics that are in contrast?
Our world is focused on how we are different. I am poor. He is wealthy. I am intelligent. She is stupid. When we identify, rarely do we identify in relation to similarities. Sometimes we do, when surrounded with the same identity structure — writing groups where everyone is a writer, or a church where everyone has the same belief system — but even within those social structures, we set ourselves apart.
Why is that?
It makes me think of that point in language, when no meaning is assigned. Is there meaning at that point? I don’t know; it is kind of like the question of whether or not a falling tree makes a sounds in the forest if no one is there to hear it it.
Philosophically, there are many different arguments and answers yet no truth in so much as there is no ability to prove anything.
Same as identity.
We spend our lives trying to figure out who we are, and where we fit in. We assign roles, identity structures, but for what purpose and reason? To limit ourselves? Or to create guiding principles?
Where does your creativity come from? What inspires you to write, dance, paint, or play music? What is that spark, and how does it come to be?
Last Sunday, I participated in a Shamanic journey. The facilitator — a wonderful woman with a light soul — explained that she cannot schedule these journeys on a regular basis because she has to wait until she, herself, is inspired to take the journey. Once undergoing the journey herself, she in turn schedules the same journey to facilitate for others.
Inspiration. Where does it come from?
Through my many years (past years) of writing, the overwhelming consensus of published writers offering their advice, is that inspiration is a myth; or rather, the need to be inspired before creating is a myth. Through hard work, due diligence, etc. etc. creativity will flow and there is no need for this slacker’s excuse of inspiration.
I get why published authors push the inspiration bullshit line. I really do. Most writers barely write because they are waiting for that divine moment, and that is a no good state of affairs. One must write if one wants to be a writer.
I wonder though.
Obviously, in my past I wrote even when inspiration was but a flicker. I am not talking about the non-fictional writing I did as a journalist (which is often times lacking any sort of anything resembling inspirational); rather, the fiction that I delved into and explored.
Between the time I graduated college and today, I have written six complete novels. I’ll also throw in the novel-length fanfiction I did back when HP fanfiction was The Thing To Do.
Seven then, seven complete novels.
Of those, I would say there were hints of inspiration in all of them. Even the romance book I wrote in an attempt to “f*cking get anything published for f*cks sake,” had a bit of inspiration to its story line.
I am not going to go in to the whole FAILING MISERABLY thing… but, it does make me wonder about the creative process and being inspired. There is writing and there is Writing… just as there is music, and then there is Music.
Is inspiration the defining line between the two?
Back to my Shamanic journey. For many, these journeys are powerful and can be life-altering. Me, myself, I always feel like what happens is 80 percent bullocks and 20 percent of something True. But that my is my logical self talking, and my logical self really dislikes anything mythical (though, adversely, understands the deep importance of Myth).
However, for many, these journeys are religious in context and in importance. Is it true and right that my facilitator waits until she is inspired… I think so, actually. But then, it makes me wonder if art (and as a consequence, the influence of art), should also be contingent on inspiration.
I don’t know, obviously, just a thought for today.
I have his blog entry in The Guardian saved to my favorites. Every few weeks I go back and reread it; remind myself of what true artistic passion looks like, sounds like, is.
Sometimes his words inspire me.
Sometimes they are a terrible reminder of what I am and have become.
Passion. What does it look like?
“Admittedly I went a little extreme – no income for five years, six hours a day of intense practice, monthly four-day long lessons with a brilliant and psychopathic teacher in Verona, a hunger for something that was so necessary it cost me my marriage, nine months in a mental hospital, most of my dignity and about 35lbs in weight.”
He let his passion bring him to the brink of death.
And then let it save him.
Thanks in part to Oprah and her bigger than the universe presence, there is a lot of buzz about finding your passion and about finding Your Purpose in life. The result is an interesting tension between a need to find Purpose, and the realization that searching for Purpose is not how one does it.
What makes you fire up in your fingers? Makes your heart beat a little faster?
Those are supposed to be the guiding signs of finding Purpose. The problem I have found, and of those friends I have talked to, is those indicators only work if you have stripped the bullshit far enough down to even pick up on them in the first place.
So much bullshit.
Even Rhodes, who’s passion took him down the dark path, worked for years in corporate muck before shoving it all off. His passion is obvious… but only in retrospect.
Ah, retrospect. The 20/20 vision of looking back on our lives. The irony is always so obvious. We are so obvious.
While talking to my friend the other day about twin flames (a new interest of mine), she made a comment about being your whole self. This is a lovely thought, bringing all the pieces of the puzzle together, but what does it mean, and more, how is it done?
For Rhodes, music is a piece of his soul. A hugely important, all encompassing piece. He denied the existence of that piece into misery.
Isn’t that what so many of us do as well?
This then is the question; what are we denying?
The path of finding a whole self is a twisted one, often walked upon in the dead of the night when no moon shines and the stars are lost in clouds. We trip. We fall. We skin our knees and cut our palms. And then we get back up and keep walking. Every once in awhile the light shines through, the sun glimpsed through the murk, and we see the mountain ahead, glimmering white and snow capped… the mountain that we still must climb.
And in the beauty that is the mountain, the glimpse of our future weighs down at our already tired feet, leaden legs, bowed shoulders, and though it glimmers in the sun, the prospect dogs our steps.
And yet, we keep going. Because there is hope, I suppose. A promise of something so incredibly right that all exhaustion disappears.
One of the things I have read lately about this twin flame idea, is that according to legend, we spend lifetimes becoming whole before we can even exist in the same realm as that other soul. We must go through it all… the dark forest of our lives ala Brothers Grimm. Then we arrive.
A ton of negative comments, cartoons, and articles have hit my news feed today.
Here in the States it is Thanksgiving.
Traditionally, or at least how I understand it, this day is supposed to mark the generosity of Native Americans towards the Europeans that risked life and limb to settle in a “new land.”
Yeah. Not so innocent, of course. And my news feed today reminded me all about how those terrible, horrible Europeans (my ancestors) stole land and killed the native population, and were a disease on the continent.
It just… I don’t know.
Is there terrible history involved with the colonization of the Americas? Um, yes… what form of colonization does not include suppression and killing?
Should these things be celebrated? Absolutely not. And there should be recognition, teaching, and understanding of the horrible nature of the past.
For every person I know that lives in the States and celebrates this day, Thanksgiving has nothing to do with those pilgrims and has to do with three things:
And in that order.
Is it a holiday based in lies? Yeah, okay maybe, but as all things and everything, interpretation and association change. We change. Society changes.
Thanksgiving. Giving thanks. Being thankful. In the end, I think that sums it up, nothing more or less. So, I choose to make this day about being thankful, and I am purposefully ignoring those who would like to make the holiday a political bashing ground.
Happy Thanksgiving to all my friends and readers in the United States and around the world. I give thanks for you, because every single one of you deserves it.