Friday, June 22, 2012

Sympathy for the Devil

As long as I can remember, I've always rooted for the bad guy in movies. I think it's bullshit when the good guy always wins, even  when the bad guy has the better weapons and bigger army, just because he has the "power of good on his side." It's crap! That's not how things work in the real world. If I'd had my way, the Evil Queen would have offed Snow White and we'd be watching a whole different movie now.

It was her movie anyway

Let's talk about Ravenna-- the Evil Queen in Snow White and the Huntsman. I think for any woman with a brain in her head, Ravenna should be a sympathetic character. We only get a glimpse at her past: her village destroyed by a marauding army and she, taken as a child by the leader, whether he be a lord or king or general. We get that she wasn't used well. This is a truth of history; women were chattel, so pair use, abuse, forced early marriage with rape and seeing your village burned and everyone you love slaughtered in front of you at a young age and you're going to turn in to a very, very angry adult. Angry at a world that let so many bad things happen to her, angry at men that want to hurt her, even men that would be kind,  like the king she lured into battle for even he, upon rescuing her saw her as nothing more than a possession, a bride to be married.

So do I sympathize with Ravenna? Absofuckin'luteley! She used what she had--her beauty-- to her advantage (along with some pretty potent magic) and carved a swathe of destruction through male-dominated kingdoms once she came into her own. Power is intoxicating and she had it at her disposal. Who wants to be the simpering Snow White when you can be the powerful, stylish, Evil Queen?

Speaking of evil queens, I'll be interested in what they do with Maleficent's back story. I don't like Angelina Jolie but have you seen this promo shot?!
When I was thinking about writing this entry, I tried to think of examples from books that I could use but it's hard, being a someone who loves to read, I've read hundreds of books. I started to go through my Goodreads list until I realized that with 277 books listed there, that's still not all of them. I'm going to keep with a fantasy theme and go back to one of my favorite hubris-filled characters of all time: Raistlin Majere from the Dragonlance books.

Art by Larry Elmore, one of the best fantasy artists EVER

When that movie Chronicle came out (which I haven't seen, since none of my friends would go see it) the previews reminded me a little of Raistlin. He starts out neutral. Okay, to use a gaming term, maybe chaotic-neutral. Toward the end of his story, he becomes power-hungry and the most powerful mage of all time, and in his hubris, challenges the gods themselves (and aligns with evil). Kind of reminds me of how that one kid in the Chronicle trailer is portrayed. Another Raistlin-esque character is brought to mind was Andry in Sunrunner's Fire by Melanie Rawn: started a good boy but then power got to him and he went dark. I even tried to start a discussion about it, but so far no one is biting.

So do I sympathize with these characters? Very, very much so. Hunger for power at the cost of others, arrogance to the point of hubris, these are that bit of darkness that are a part of humanity. In their lesser parts they are ambition and desire, grandiosity. We all want to be better than we are, to achieve goals and then surpass them, we all get a little bit of a heady rush when put in charge of a project, given a bit if power. You're a liar if you say you don't, or you're not human. Relating to villains, although most people don't want them to succeed, relates to our humanity. Some of us just embrace our dark side a little more than others.

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