I’ve put a lot of thought into Antagonists I appreciate. Previous to reading Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth series I didn’t think much of fantasy. I foolishly assumed all fantasy involved giant eyeball monsters on a tower ordering an army of nonredeemable assholes to die at the hands of a ragtag band of adventurers.
I remember growing up with things like the Justice League (Super Friends) and He-Man where we not only saw the baddies on the battlefield, but at home as well. I remember thinking to myself: “Wow, no wonder Skeletor is a jerk, I would be too if I was stuck on Snake Mountain!”
I’ve always played out the other scenario in my head, wondering if the guys on the other side of the fence might be decent people too. To be more accurate, I wondered what went wrong in this guy’s life to make him want to be a total jerk-wad to the hero?
I mean if acid melted my face off I might decide to bench the name ‘Keldor’ and try my hand at conquering the world. I mean, that just makes sense to me.
Even the most ridiculous of villains have their reasons, we just can’t relate to them because we’re too busy enjoying our non sucky lives.
Playing World of Warcraft on the Horde side cemented a thought process I’ve had for a while. Humans are kind of assholes anyone can tell you that. Ever really stop and think about why the Orcs are so bad in Lord of the Rings? You wade through the lore and you’ll learn they were banished to the really crappy part of town, left to harden in lands where you fight or die.
Is it so much of a surprise when they come back with weapons raised when some eyeball monster tells them they have a shot of taking back their lands? That seems fair.
Would we see animals as ‘evil’ when expansionist mindset pushes them out of their forests where game is bountiful? No. Ask the WWF (The panda one not the wrestling federation) we’re the jerks here.
I look at bad guys in the same light. They’re bad now and they need to be stopped, but it is important to consider they might have been alright people if society treated them a bit better. At some point, orcs might have been cool with humans if they overlooked each other’s skin color and decided to hang out for a bit.
When you shift things a bit, to a more friendly atmosphere, an enemy becomes a rival. Rivals better you by challenging you to new heights and through necessity they make you a better person.
I’m not suggesting you find you arch nemesis and invite them go-karting, but there is a lot to be said for learning why your enemies fight.
From a storytelling angle, peace is boring. So the next best thing is to show the people on the other side of the fence feel strongly about some things too. They aren’t just slathering beasts out to kill, they’re people trying to accomplish their hopes and dreams. The problem? The good guys are in the way.
Sometimes the Antagonist is just a propagator of hate, using the nature of prejudice to their profit, or maybe they’re just a good person pushed too far.