Tales From the Hilltop
An intelligent, yet Devil's Advocate view of the world

Episode Twenty-Nine: A neccessary villain…

“Without evil there can be no good, so it must be good to be evil sometimes.” – The Devil, The South Park movie

Today I will comment on the constant struggle of light and darkness, more specifically, the dark side and why it’s needed and the villains whom make these roles so great.  Since I know someone will be reading this stating “what the hell is he talking about today”, let me explain.

In every great tale, every great story – starting with the Bible – there’s always two opposing forces. One represents the lighter, more just side of life. This side stands for what is just, fair, and right. This side is told that it must prevail to keep the world still spinning, and in virtuously every story it does. Then, there’s the other side: the darker side. The bad, malicious, maybe even pure evil side that represents pain, suffering, and in most cases, death.

So, what’s so good about evil anyways and the people who possess it, or the characters to act it?

Well, the first and foremost reason, it that more often than not, evil actions create heroes. Think on the majority of super-heroes origins. Had Krypton not blown up, Earth would’ve never known Superman. Had no one killed Bruce Wayne’s parents, Batman probably never would’ve created himself. If the Matrix wasn’t so bad for human beings to accept, The One called Neo would’ve still been “plugged in”. You get the idea. Sometimes – most times in stories – the villain inadvertently create their super good adversaries.

The next best reason: well, what’s a struggle without hardship? There’s an old saying that still rings true: True character is only shown through the presence of true struggle. Which means simply we as a people not only love to see anyone who perceives themself as a hero experience pain as we do, but we demand  for them to rise above it and succeed at whatever it is their doing: winning a championship, defeating an arch-enemy, conquering a fear, etc.

This is why villains – especially in cinema – are needed. They are there for if nothing else, to push the hero to reach their full potential in order to prove this is truly a hero. Take the movie The Dark Knight, for example. By now, you’ve probably seen this magnificent piece of film. And what made the movie so successful? With no disrespect intended to Christian Bale’s performance as the Caped Crusader, Batman, it was the performances both of the now departed Heath Ledger as the The Joker, and Aaron Eckhart as Harvey “Two-Face” Dent.

As we watch Batman face off and stop the The Joker from taking over Gotham, we see a villain side of the Joker character none of us saw coming. The fact that the Joker wasn’t committing his monstrous acts for money, glory, fame, or personal satisfaction was eeringly real. He simply was doing these things for the sole purpose of challenging the entire concept of good and evil; to see if deep down, everyone was just as cold and heartless, or would abandon the notion of good and evil as he did and embrace chaos, given the right situation. As for Harvey Dent, we saw his fall from grace as the nicknamed “White Knight” of Gotham, who only wanted to take down the Mob in the most noble ways possible and how his persona slipped when faced with losing his would-be fiance, only to watch him become just as ruthless, murderous, and remorseless as the criminals he fought to put away. Of course, these performances all made Batman rise, fall, and rise again to defeat them both, and even in final victory, Batman STILL had to make a sacrifice to preserve it.  A wonderful story of conflict (with all the special effects and action) made the Dark Knight the sixth-highest grossing movie ever, and easily won the title of  “Best Superhero Movie Ever Made” in the minds of the masses. Ledger, for his performance as the homicidal and sociopathic Joker, was posthumously awarded an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.

However, villains in real life make for great story as well, even in something as sports. Take the case of one Hulk Hogan. Now, if you watched pro wrestling in the 1980s, you know who he is. Hogan was the best of the “babyfaces” or good guys. He was muscular, strong, just, and a role model (always famously telling the kids to live by the four ‘demandments’ of Hulkamania: “training, saying their prayers, eating their vitamins, and believing in oneself”), always being pushed to the limits in his matches before he overcame his opponents and normally won matches and championship in the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) and later on, World Championship Wrestling (WCW). Hell, to us ‘wrasslin’ fans in the 80s, Hogan was a super hero, and for a while in WWF, he was often referred to as “The Immortal” Hulk Hogan.

Which is why his character’s path the dark side was so….awesome. In the mid-1990s Hogan double-crossed WCW, as well as every fan who ever believed in him, when he turned “heel” (or villian) and formed the nWo (New World Order). Hogan’s sudden villainous turn broke the hearts of Hulkamaniacs everywhere (which included me) – who didn’t care if wrestling was fake or not as night after night for a time – trash was thrown in wrestling rings whenever he came out with his nWo buddies. Hogan turned into the wrestler that he fought against: he cheated, he used illegal weapons, jumped other wrestling with his crew, but also won titles and become the super villain of the wrestling world. And you know what? The people tuned into EVERY week and were ultimately drawn into rooting against their former superhero grappler.

Such will be the case of one LeBron James this upcoming season for all the backlash he’s received due to his “Decision” to join the Miami Heat. Starting out being billed the NBA’s “Chosen One” for the last seven years to joining forces with Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh, he unwillingly became the NBA’s top “villain” outside of Miami’s fan base. It will also have Miami’s interest now going through the roof as the majority of the country will want to see them lose and the NBA’s version of Darth Vader get his comeuppance.

There are tons more examples I could use, but you get the idea. Villains – just like heroes – are a wanted commodity in the world. They help complete the story, and give the hero something to stand up for. Just remember: the better the villain, the beter the hero, and the more glorious his ultimate victory is when it’s attained.

Maybe the Devil in South Park Movie was right, after all.

8/5/10

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