Editor’s Note. Go check out our buddy The Last Redoubt’s page. Lots of good stuff there.
They woulda been great if only…
Disney recently posted a request to take names for the next villain-was-really-misunderstood revisionist backstory, as relayed by Jon Mollison
As an aside, you know they’ll never rehab the cardinal or Captain Hook.
This of course plugged right into a recent post over at the Tree of Woe on postmodern villains:
Being unable to understand good leaves society unable to understand evil; and so instead society pathologizes it. Evil becomes a psychological state that results from personal trauma, from some crucial moment when the world failed to show someone compassion, empathy, or trust, or left them exposed to the world’s cruelty. Every postmodern villain is a victim. Behind every figure of terror we find a terrorized figure.
Darth Vader appears as a towering tyrant in Star Wars IV. But the prequels reveal that Anakin Skywalker was a victim: enslaved as a child, separated from his mother, forbidden to marry the woman he loved, rejected in his aspirations by the Jedi council, dismembered by his former mentor, and then involuntarily made into a cyborg by his new one.
Hannibal Lechter appears in Silence of the Lambs as the quintessence of villainy, brilliant, cold, manipulative, remorseless. In the sequel Hannibal, we learn that he’s a victim: During World War II, the kind and gentle young Hannibal was forced to eat his sister by cannibal soldiers.
Lord Voldemort appears in Harry Potter & the Sorcerer’s Stone as the most powerful and evil sorcerer in the Wizarding World. But later we learn Tom Riddle was a victim, the product of abandonment by his mother. J.K. Rowling even says “everything would have changed if Merope [his mother] had survived and raised him herself and loved him.”
Kylo Ren enters Star Wars VII as a dark Jedi so powerful that he can halt a blaster bolt in mid-air. But Star Wars VIII reveals Ben Solo was a victim who felt abandoned by his father and betrayed by the paranoia of his mentor, Jake Skywalker.
The Joker, most infamous and vile of all of Batman’s foes, is revealed in his eponymous 2019 movie to have been a victim, too. Arthur Fleck is a mentally ill bastard rejected by his birth-father and humiliated by his coworkers.
Postmodern culture stops at nothing in its relentless transformation of villain into victim. Cruella de Vil is the most recent example. She appears in One Hundred and One Dalmations as a wealthy socialite whose life goal is to murder puppies so she can wear their skins. But the 2021 movie Cruella reveals that she, too, is a victim: Her birth-mother abandoned her and her adopted mother was killed by a pack of vicious dalmations. (I’m not making this up.)
Disney certainly isn’t working hard to shed its new reputation of embracing evil.
Also – as usual for anything by Alexander – well worth reading the whole post.