TV Tropes Org

Forums

Writer's Block:
What is a villain?
search forum titles
google site search
Total posts: [27]
1
2

What is a villain?:

 1 Edmania, Thu, 23rd Sep '10 8:50:29 AM from under a pile of erasers
o hai
How can you classify one as a villain, aside from being the antagonist to a hero? It seems that being a bad guy itself doesn't stop much.
If people learned from their mistakes, there wouldn't be this thing called bad habits.
 2 Major Tom, Thu, 23rd Sep '10 8:52:35 AM Relationship Status: Barbecuing
Eye'm the cutest!
A miserable little pile of secrets.

The villain at its simplest is any character who's methods can be classified according to a certain value of "evil".
Endless Conflict: Every war ends in time, even supposedly this one.
 3 Edmania, Thu, 23rd Sep '10 8:54:27 AM from under a pile of erasers
o hai
But then there's that. How evil is "evil"?
If people learned from their mistakes, there wouldn't be this thing called bad habits.
 4 Major Tom, Thu, 23rd Sep '10 9:02:13 AM Relationship Status: Barbecuing
Eye'm the cutest!
There lies the question at hand. What is evil? There are villains out there who do not meet the criteria for being a "true" villain. However, there are also such things as villainous goals done by heroic methods which again would fail the criteria of "true" villain. (I swear I've seen that happen in several superhero shows including the DCAU)

Thus it becomes portent to answer the first question, what is evil? It certainly doesn't have universal agreement in Real Life, nor in fiction. Once you answer that, you can ask yourself the next step, are the character's methods evil?

If the question of evil has a definition but the methods fail the test, you have but one end of the Anti-Villain spectrum. (Just like how if you flip the script and ask similar questions of a hero and the similar scenario is one end of the Anti-Hero)

I could go about this philosophical asking all day but I'll stop here to prevent lapsing into Contemplate Our Navels.
Endless Conflict: Every war ends in time, even supposedly this one.
 5 Edmania, Thu, 23rd Sep '10 9:12:14 AM from under a pile of erasers
o hai
There are things that are considered universally evil by most, though. Like unjustified murder and robbery.

Also, for this Villain Protagonist's case, he has an extreme goal(which sounds good...but isn't actually so when one considers the consequences) and uses dirty methods to achieve it.
If people learned from their mistakes, there wouldn't be this thing called bad habits.
 6 Major Tom, Thu, 23rd Sep '10 9:18:37 AM Relationship Status: Barbecuing
Eye'm the cutest!
Then he's a villain albeit dangerously close to treading the line to Anti-Villain.
Endless Conflict: Every war ends in time, even supposedly this one.
 7 Mr.Cales, Thu, 23rd Sep '10 10:20:10 AM from Misty Mountains
One of the Nine
What is a villain? Depends on the person. Depends on our own morality, our own choices. In the real world, every person we view as a villain is a hero to someone else.

So villain is, in the end, a matter not of perspective alone, but choice... what we choose to see as evil.

STAND BACK! I TAKE LARGE STEPS!
 8 Edmania, Thu, 23rd Sep '10 10:21:27 AM from under a pile of erasers
o hai
Then how can one classify someone as a villain in a novel?
If people learned from their mistakes, there wouldn't be this thing called bad habits.
 9 Mr.Cales, Thu, 23rd Sep '10 10:40:04 AM from Misty Mountains
One of the Nine
By your own morality and choices. If you decide he's a villain, he's a villain; if you don't, he isn't! Simple. Searching for broader rules is pointless, silly.
STAND BACK! I TAKE LARGE STEPS!
 10 Corrupterr, Thu, 23rd Sep '10 10:40:58 AM from Dimension of Doom
Look into your soul...
If they divide by Zero

If you Try to take over world or blow up islands! Then You are a villian

edited 23rd Sep '10 10:41:23 AM by Corrupterr

It is your own fault if you are ninjaed! (Now sleeping)
 11 Edmania, Thu, 23rd Sep '10 10:41:14 AM from under a pile of erasers
o hai
But then how can one be a hero or a villain in canon?
If people learned from their mistakes, there wouldn't be this thing called bad habits.
 12 Corrupterr, Thu, 23rd Sep '10 10:42:06 AM from Dimension of Doom
Look into your soul...
I am sorry I don't know what Cannon is! Does this make me a villian?

edited 23rd Sep '10 10:42:23 AM by Corrupterr

It is your own fault if you are ninjaed! (Now sleeping)
It depends on your canon. An easy definition of a villain is one who is against the hero's goals. I actually think that Villain Protagonist is a misnomer. Look at the kid's movie Despicable Me. That 0ne had a Villian protagonist, but he was obviously the hero. the true villain was the one who was against him. Same with Doctor Horrible. Doctor Horrible is the hero of the story, even though he was a villain by his world's rules. The audience sympathizes with him. that makes him the hero, albeit a villainous hero. does that help?
Amateur cook Professional procrastinator

A character can't be a villain in canon, provided he's morally grey enough. Even if most people consider him to be one and the creators themselves say he is, some people will still see him differently, and they will be equally right (provided their arguments are valid).

A "canon" hero villain is just a character who is judged as such by the majority. But since morality is so subjective, a true canon villain can't exist.

 15 Feo Takahari, Thu, 23rd Sep '10 5:41:16 PM from Looking out at the city
Fuzzy Orange Doomsayer
This seems to be an unusual perspective, but I myself consider it irrelevant whether or not a character is a villain. If you need a conflict, set two people against each other who have conflicting goals or views, and let the reader decide which one to like (since they tend to do that anyways.)
That's Feo . . . He's a disgusting, mysoginistic, paedophilic asshat who moonlights as a shitty writer—Something Awful
To be interesting, a work needs conflict. To also have a positive tone and ending, a work has to have a thriump.

What is the most obvious form of conflict? Man VS Man.

That's an antagonist: the other man.

Now, who is the protagonist? The Audience Surrogate. The one whose viewpoint we are shown the most of. The hero can be multiple characters. The hero can be two men who oppose each other both get the same amount of characterization, in which case the both of them are both hero and villain.

But once you show events from only one's point of view? The other becomes the antagonist.

You can't help this. The one you are able to identify with better with becomes your point-of-view character. Whether he does evil or not, he's your only option. Because you are provided with his feelings and motivations while the other person is just a face, you are forced to become him. He'll become sympathietic just by better characterization.

An antagonist becomes an antagonist simply by being an obstacle, and by the reader's deprivation of the details that would allow them to identify with them.

This applies whether a story is about a Villain Protagonist, a heroic hero or just as an everyman.

Actually, you got me thinking: does the audience neccessarily choose the surrogate through perspective? To some extent, they have to. But for example, a charismatic antagonist can become a surrogate too. And like I said there does not have to be only one character they identify with. So a reasonably realistic point-of-view character and a charismatic antagonist may make a good story as long as one is not forced to choose.

 17 OOZE, Thu, 23rd Sep '10 10:34:15 PM from Transsexual,Transylvania
Don't feed the plants!
A villain is a character that is both evil AND the antagonist. A good antagonist is not a villain, an evil protagonist is not a villain, and a good protagonist is CERTAINLY not a villain.
I'm feeling strangely happy now, contented and serene. Oh don't you see, finally I'll be, somewhere that's green...
 18 OOZE, Thu, 23rd Sep '10 10:34:16 PM from Transsexual,Transylvania
Don't feed the plants!
A villain is a character that is both evil AND the antagonist. A good antagonist is not a villain, an evil protagonist is not a villain, and a good protagonist is CERTAINLY not a villain.
I'm feeling strangely happy now, contented and serene. Oh don't you see, finally I'll be, somewhere that's green...
 19 Edmania, Thu, 23rd Sep '10 11:39:50 PM from under a pile of erasers
o hai
The website disagrees with you.
If people learned from their mistakes, there wouldn't be this thing called bad habits.
^^That'd be a good definition to upload on Villains actually. Would help to clear up the ambigous titles, too.

Villain Protagonist is kind of a misnomer actually, and Black and White Morality could mean a number of other things (broader things) than what it was turned into.

EDIT: Also I realized that I've just described Sympathetic P.O.V. up there.

EDIT 2: We also have Sliding Scale of Antagonist Vileness. Funny thing is, most tropes nearer the top aren't listed under Villains.

I wonder if pushing an Antagonists supertrope would be useful here?

edited 24th Sep '10 10:38:11 AM by Vree

 21 Major Tom, Fri, 24th Sep '10 11:04:01 AM Relationship Status: Barbecuing
Eye'm the cutest!
^ It would be useful to co-opt a Protagonists supertrope for heroes as well.

Along with a Sliding Scale Of Protagonist Goodness or something to that effect.

edited 24th Sep '10 11:05:36 AM by MajorTom

Endless Conflict: Every war ends in time, even supposedly this one.
 22 alexthewhite, Fri, 24th Sep '10 11:26:57 PM from a castle in the clouds
For AMAZING Justice
The villain is the force opposed to the hero. If the hero has an overarching goal or plan or ideal, the villain is the force working to stop it. It doesn't need to be evil or human or even tangible. Villain is a force.
You'll never see it coming.
 23 Stranger, Sat, 25th Sep '10 12:27:48 AM from Nowhere in particular
goat milk?
There's always going to be subjectiveness in your audience, even with the most black and white of works. But I would define a villain as a character who's actions and intentions are portrayed as negative or harmful in the context of the story, and are in some sort of direct opposition to another force or character(s). They're usually antagonists, and the term usually implies them to be a genuinely bad person.

It's important to note that there's not necessarilly a strict separation between villain and anti-villian. Anti-villains are called such because they lack personal qualities that we generally associate with villains, but are still filling the role of a villain. They may be doing the wrong thing for the right reason, but they're still doing the wrong thing.

And I think that highlights the fact that there's really two functioning definitions for what qualifies as a villain. There's the villain as a literary role, and villain as a personal description. An anti villain lacks villainous qualities by definition, just as an anti-hero lack heroic qualities by definition. But they're still functioning by that role based on their actions and their place in the story. But those definitions wouldn't work if we didn't have things that we consider to be innately heroic and villainous qualities. Heroes are brave, care for others, have a sense of justice, villians are selfish, lack compassion, are cruel - those are personal descriptions, but obviously don't apply to all characters who fill a heroic or villainous role.

There is an area, around the time that you slip into a morality that that doesn't include a "white", a "black", or either, that it becomes difficult to define these roles, or functionally irrelevant. Not everyone rivaling a hero is necessarily in a villain role, and not everyone rivaling a villain is necessarily in a hero role.

Protagonist and antagonist are really more about perspective. Protagonists are who your story is largely about. It's either from their perspective, or follows their actions or personal events. Antagonists are the people that oppose them. You can very much have protagonists that are genuinely villains, and antagonists that are genuinely heroes (I'm mostly meaning by literary role here). That being said, it's actually pretty rare, and I'd say most examples that people cite as villain protagonists are not clearly what most would call a villain. Most of those examples are from stories that displays morality lacking in one or both of the extremes (black/white), so they tend to be in a fuzzier area to start with.

 24 Corrupterr, Mon, 27th Sep '10 8:50:29 AM from Dimension of Doom
Look into your soul...
A villian is somoene who isn't on the main characters side
It is your own fault if you are ninjaed! (Now sleeping)
Space hobo
In my Rights class, I was taught of something called Natural Law, which are the rights that all living things have (the right to live, the right to be free, the right to express, etc). The Human set of Laws were based on those natural rights and acts such as murder, slavery and opression of speech could be considered evil, but I think I just swung into the Order Versus Chaos scale here.

Total posts: 27
1
2


TV Tropes by TV Tropes Foundation, LLC is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available from thestaff@tvtropes.org.
Privacy Policy