The Good Side of a Villain

By Brent King On June 9, 2014 Under Writing

“Man is not truly one, but two.” – Robert Louis Stevenson

alteregocoverSince I was a kid, villains have frightened me, from Queen Jezebel to Bram Stoker’s Dracula. In my youth, I didn’t understand why the bad guys scared me so much, but as I grew, I came to realize that it was because they reminded me of myself. I was the villain.

We Explore Ourselves in the Villain

This is why our stories need clearly defined villains. The heroes in our stories may hypnotize us with images of bravery and valor, but in seeking to be the hero, we too often become the villain. This is why we not only need to admire the hero, but also to examine the villain. Villains can teach us a lot.

Villains Are Not as Easily Defined as We Think

The only thing that separates a hero and a villain is context. Every life is a story, one where it isn’t difficult to see yourself as a victim. And if you feel like a victim, it is easy to justify retribution. It is only a matter of perspective that separates a terrorist and a freedom fighter. A villain is simply a misunderstood hero. Justice and revenge aren’t vert far apart.

A Vicious Cycle

We often label villains in our conflicts from our skewered perspective, and unless we see the villain in ourselves, we end up victimizing others. Our lives become a vicious cycle of self defense and revenge where we judge the actions of others and justify our own. When we attack others (even in self-defense) and hurt them, we become the villain. Too often we use violence to resolve our conflicts.

A Better Way

A better way is to lay the roles of victim, hero, and villain aside and listen with curiosity to the other’s story—to seek to understand them and lay down our need to be right or to control them. In understanding them we understand ourselves. It is in this way that we conquer the villain within and save the world from us. By looking the villain in the eye and seeing someone to love, we learn to love ourselves.

Villains Help Us See Things Rightly

Without good villains our stories aren’t fully woven into the reflection of who we are. A battle rages in us. The mystery of sin in our own hearts is depicted in every villain. We can see in them where we might go wrong if we were to make the wrong choices. When we paint villainy in this way we humanize it and bring it closer to ourselves. Aren’t the seeds of anarchy in all of us? Aren’t we capable of the most heinous acts if given the right stimuli?

The Power of a Well Written Villain

The villain in the story stimulates our understanding of right and wrong and helps us to distinguish good motives and actions from bad ones. The action in the story may be fixed but the story of our lives isn’t. We decide now how our story will end. The villain in us can change, and it is a well written villain that not only evaluates that change but inspires it.

How close are your villains written to your life?



1 Trackback

  1. What's the Good of Evil?
    February 10, 2015 3:57 PM

1 Comment Add yours

  1. AshleeW
    June 10, 2014
    10:35 pm #comment-1

    Great post! Villains, in my opinion, are every bit as important as the heroes. Learning from a hero, even a flawed hero, is a good thing … but seeing our own faults within an evil character is much more eye-opening.

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