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Why can’t bad guys just be bad anymore?

Horror and horror have made it into the mainstream. True Crime has become a consumable product, the horror film “Get Out” won an Oscar and the “Saw” franchise is in its ninth (!) Round this year. So it is hardly surprising that more and more antagonists are getting their own films or series: Whether Hannibal Lecter, Darth Vader, Harley Quinn, Loki, Maleficent or the Joker – almost every important film character who in popular culture understands the stamp “villain “Has been allowed to tell her side of the story in a prequel for some time now. That could actually work wonderfully – after all, the fascination with complex knitted antagonists was almost always greater on the inside than with softened Held: on the inside like Luke Skywalker. But what happens when so-called “bad guys” are no longer allowed to be bad in these prequel stories? You lose your charm.

How does an aspiring fashion designer become a puppy-slaughtering fury?

The most prominent example of this is “Cruella” – the latest live-action film from Disney. The blockbuster starring the fantastic Emma Stone works in many ways – spectacular clothes, a soundtrack that catapults you straight into the 1970s in London and one of the most exciting and mean villains Disney has ever created. But here’s the problem: The film tries harder to portray Cruella as a pathetic and personable person than to explain to her viewers how an aspiring fashion designer could become a puppy-slaughtering fury. And this makes it clear what the problem of many OG films about antagonists lies in: The focus is less on explaining their evil actions – but rather on excusing them.

The modern villain: Cruel acts are often based on good intent

The role of the “anti-villain” is a modern phenomenon. Where cartoon villains used to rub their hands diabolically when they came up with an evil plan, since the beginning of the 2010s the focus has been more on the three-dimensionality of the characters. That means: The cruel acts of the modern villains are often one good intention – they want the right thing, but have strayed the wrong way. A masterful example of this is the Joker: Both Heath Ledger and Joaquin Phoenix have created a reflection of postmodern society from what is arguably the most stereotypical cartoon villain. The Joker is tormented by political injustice, a sensitive spirit in ice-cold capitalism – what else can he do but indulge in madness and chaos?

The role of Amy Dunn in “Gone Girl” (played by Rosamund Pike) fits perfectly into the list of modern “anti-villains”: What she does to her husband is more than cruel – but she would have done all of this too if he hadn’t betrayed, humiliated and betrayed her? The villains of postmodernism want to destroy the world that ruined them – and in doing so have our fullest understanding.

The film analysis platform “The Take” also highlights in a video that many of the films that humanize villains or portray them as victims use a larger narrative: Instead of an individual story of suffering, social grievances such as racism, sexism and classism are increasingly being the cause chosen for their destructiveness. The video for “The Sympathetic Villain” states: “Today’s villain-as-victim stories often reflect a broader picture of how our society cruelly abuses people of a certain class, skin color or gender for our feelings for injustice. ”It continues:“ ‘Maleficent’, ‘Birds of Prey’ and ‘Gone Girl’ explain the villainy of their female protagonists by being wronged by men. In ‘Joker’ and ‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’ villains appear who are characterized by class inequality. “

Often the villains are only washed soft inside

As exciting and good as this development is, it is often misunderstood by film studios. Creating a: n complex: n anti-hero: in does not mean denying them their depravity. On the contrary: Isn’t it actually much more perverted when the audience is briefly inside – and really only very short – caught at the thought that you can understand the motives of the antagonist: inside? Because then you ultimately have to ask yourself the question: Would I also be capable of such deeds if my life had taken a different course? Unfortunately, instead of allowing such psychologically profound thought experiments, it has recently become more and more common that villains are simply completely softened inside – so soft that at the end of the film they are still believed to be the heroic protagonist inside. It’s Hollywood’s generic plush forge that wants to convey: Hey, look, Harley Quinn is actually a really nice person, she is just a little crazy and mean – like you sometimes too! The modern villains are therefore no longer cruel; they are edgy.

Should we really feel sorry for a woman who later slaughters Dalmatian puppies?

It quickly becomes clear that films like “Maleficent”, “Birds of Prey” or “Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith” don’t really tell the story of how a “good” person became “bad”. Instead, it should be conveyed that everyone: oh so nasty villain: actually has a good heart. We should have compassion, find the characters likeable – and maybe even shed a tear if something bad happens to them. For every act, no matter how monstrous, an absurd justification is used, why we should please have pity on Hannibal Lecter, the poor cannibal, or Norman Bates, the traumatized mother’s boy.

In “Cruella” this is taken to extremes: Emma Stone’s role in the new film is not just cartoonish bestial like the original – she is misunderstood, ingenious and above all: human. You can call that good storytelling, or emotional manipulation. Because let’s be honest: Should we really feel sorry for a woman who later slaughters and skins Dalmatian puppies in order to make a fur coat out of them? Please do not.

Arjun Sethi
Passionate guitarist, gamer and writer. Lives for the perfect review, and scrapes texts until they are razor-sharp.


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