The battle of good and evil has been going on for as long as anyone can remember, ancient societies all had a deity and a monster and have carried this mindset into modernity. Things aren’t always as black and white as many of these morality tales will lead you to believe however, the villain after all is a character too. In modern storytelling many of the antagonists are simply other people with a different motive and perspective, what makes them interesting is that we rarely get to glimpse inside the head of the ‘bad guy’. On the handful of occasions where we do get a peek at the other side of the coin it often results in great success as villains often by nature are more complex than someone simply doing the right thing. The following are examples of times when the villain really captivated the viewer and became something other than a symbol of evil.
The frightfully popular Broadway play takes place in the land of Oz, a place we all know and love from the story of The Wizard Of Oz. This time we aren’t following Dorothy and her dog but get to see the life of Elphaba, who eventually becomes known as the Wicked Witch of the West. What the shift in perspective does is show her origin from a much lighter side, we see why she would have a distaste for her peers and understand more about her demise. This interesting twist showcases how those perceived as pure evil can simply be misunderstood.
The HBO family drama about a mob boss in New Jersey stormed TV sets back in the late ‘90s and is still resonating with audiences today. What makes Tony such an unforgettable character is that underneath his façade of tough guy he is astoundingly normal. He eats a little too much, doesn’t understand the culture his kids adopt, loves animals and gets agitated quickly. Watching him tackle the monotony of family life really makes you think twice about him when the murderous mafia takedowns begin.
This is likely the most notable example of seeing someone slowly become a villain. Over the duration of its highly successful five seasons we see Walter White, a modest chemistry teacher who transforms into a deadly and remorseless drug kingpin. What makes this character so appealing is that Walter gets into the business out of pure necessity thanks to his cancer diagnosis. Immedietly we empathise with this struggling man who wants to leave a legacy behind, where his journey takes him however is far from most people’s expected path.
The latest outing to but the villain on a pedestal is Todd Phillips’ Joker. With one of the most recognisable and unforgivable antagonists in pop culture, the task of humanising him is no mean feat. However, in this non-canonical tale we are led through the depressing life of Arthur Fleck who struggles to make ends meet as an entertainer and carer for his elderly mother. With a mix of trauma, mistreatment and mental illness by the time the credits roll you will understand how a regular human being could become Gotham’s most infamous rogue.