Tag Archive | comic books

Fandom Friday: When Villains aren’t Victims

I love villains. I love villains so much I often call myself a “villain whore”. Maybe it’s because I always felt vilified for being different. I think it’s because the villains are often more complicated (because no one ever is evil just because, but people are good just because). Maybe it’s because the villains are the hidden id. Maybe it’s because the villain always gets the funniest lines. Who knows.

However… I often hate other villain fans with the same level of passion my dark idols reserve for their respective nemesis.

 My expertise (if I can call it that: I’m basically a dork with a laptop) is in the realm of comic books and comic book movies. I’ve noticed superhero movies build and build in popularity before crescendoing with the Nolan Batman films and Marvel’s The Avengers. This had led to a “mainstreamification” of some of my favourite characters—notably, the villains. The examples I’m going to use in this post, mostly because of their popularity, are Magneto (X-men) and Loki (Thor, The Avengers). If you look at social media *coughtumblrcough* these two are the among the most popular.

These are villains that do things that everyone who isn’t an evil human being has a problem with, namely, genocide. They have complicated motivations and lives. Magneto is a holocaust survivor who was experimented on in the camps, and Loki was raised in a world he doesn’t belong to and was made to feel inferior to his older brother, Thor. Both turn to evil out of a desire to do the right thing, to the point where it blinds them to the people around them who care about them.

However, fans tend to reduce them to “woobies”.

Woobies, according to TV Tropes, are “…any type of character who makes you feel extremely sorry for them. Basically, the first thing you think to say when you see the woobie is: “Aw, poor baby!” Woobification of a character is a curious, audience-driven phenomenon, sometimes divorced from the character’s canonical morality…An important aspect of the Woobie is that their suffering must be caused by external sources. A character who suffers as the result of their own actions is a Tragic Hero and does not qualify.” The page goes on to list subtypes of woobies, but that isn’t important right now.

I don’t know if it’s because the characters are portrayed by attractive actors, or because the struggles with family (Loki) or inequality (Magneto) are things that resonate with the audience. But it happens, and these complicated villains are reduced to one-note woobies.

How can you tell that a character has been “woobified”, you may ask? If you hear fans defending the characters genocidal actions because they “believe they’re doing the right thing” or if you hear fans saying the character is “misunderstood”. For example, I recently saw a picture set of villains on Tumblr with the words “A villain is just a victim whose story hasn’t been told” featuring Magneto, Loki, Anakin Skywalker (Darth Vader), Gollum, and Khan, among others (http://ericscissorhands.tumblr.com/post/88703071937/a-villain-is-just-a-victim-whose-story-hasnt

You guys do know that Magneto was purposely written to have similar ideals to Hitler, right? And he admits to this in X-men: First Class.

As a writer, this annoys me. Real work went into writing these characters, creating them to be complicated and interesting. And these “fans” just ignore all of that! It would be like, for the non-writers among you, if you spent all day making a delicious cake and all anyone could talk about was how sad it was that the little icing flowers you added to the corner were wilting.

Why is this frustrating? Referring back to the post I mentioned, subsequent rebloggers have said it’s putting the abusers feelings above the abused, and implying that any victim is going to turn into an abuser. As an abused person, this pisses me right off. This is a problematic message: if you have a tragic backstory, you can do whatever you want. My abuser has a pretty tragic backstory. That does not make what he did to me okay.

You know who else has a tragic backstory? Hitler, and Stalin.

There are examples of woobies in the same universe as Loki and Magneto who have had similar and often worse (not the holocaust, though, I don’t imagine it can get much worse) things happen to them.

 In the same universe, What about Spiderman, or Batman, or Wolverine? They have tragic backstories, but they realised that they have a choice: let the sadness consume them and let the rage and hatred become them, or make a difference

And that’s the choice that all of us have.

So stop doing a disservice to the writers. Or I will become a supervillain. See how many people think I’m misunderstood then.

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On Fandom: My thoughts on the Regina Fan Expo (and “cons” in general)

bitter bitch

A fan expo was held in my home city, Regina, over the past weekend.

A fan expo, for those of you who don’t know, is basically a geek culture smorgasborge. There’s merchandise and guests from anime, comic books, movies, video games, television and occasionally the odder sects of the population.

They are also barrel-of-monkeys category of fun.

Most of the time.

I could go into all of the different things I did there, but that’s not what I want to talk about here. If you want to hear about that, go find my Tumblr or my Facebook. I’m here to talk about the academic, snobby stuff.

I love what the fan expo represents in the broader cultural sphere. I have been a geek for my entire life, which has only been 20 years long. I have seen geek culture become more main-stream throughout my life. I know that conventions have been going on since the days of the original Star Trek, but those were almost universally lauded.  Now, everyone is talking about the fan expo.

Much of geek culture is constructed around the monomyth, Joseph Campbell’s hero with a thousand faces. This is a universal story type common to all cultures. People love these stories. We all connect with them. I’m just surprised it took so long for geek culture to be accepted amongst the common folk, given this.

This is a beautiful thing. And yet, I am outside.

Part of it, of course, is my inner snobbishness and the sneering contempt I hold for others deep within myself. This contempt comes out here, on this blog, and admittedly, nowhere else. I glare with barely concealed rage that all these people dare think they’re better than me, that they’re above talking to me, when we’re all in the same boat, grasping at the crumbs that this world has afforded us. Crumbs that brought us here.

Oh yes, I am a bit bitter that the sycophantic, stuck-up girls who made my elementary and high school experiences a symphony of misery have suddenly embraced the culture I used as my escape from them because it is now “cool”. They nauseate me. And yet, these are among the many who act as though I am below them. Imagine that. If anything, they should be avoiding my eyes out of embarrassment, because people like me made these things “cool” and they were too shallow to see it before now.

Part of it is because I cannot stand the hypocrisy. All day I get to hear them crooning about how accepting geek culture is because a few trans people were brave enough to show their true colours and because the men’s bathroom lineup is the same size as the women’s and because there are more furries in one place than I knew existed.  Then I look at the scantily dressed women in comic books. The women parading their bodies around to hawk products to horny man children. I remember that if I see another bisexual person in a comic book they will promiscuous, and you won’t see a trans person in a mainstream comic at all. I can practically hear them roll their eyes when a guest mentions that they are a feminist.

I want to tell them where they can shove their acceptance.

Maybe it is my 20-something disillusionment. I don’t understand the world I live in anymore. I don’t understand geek culture. I am not the 12 year old who fell in love with the x-men, who read Isaac Asimov when everyone else was reading Twilight and who liked vampires and zombies back when that made you a freak. I am an angry young woman who is sick of love triangles, sick of the same old stories.

Tell me some new ones.

 

-God bless,

Kelsey J.

On Purple: Yin, Yang and Magneto

Professor Charles Xavier: You know, I believe that true focus lies somewhere between rage and serenity.”

***

Within the greater discipline of psychology, there is a branch known as humanistic psychology. Humanistic psychology is special, as it deals with more than the physical world. Humanistic psychology is a discipline that borrows ideas from all over the world and incorporates them into a greater understanding of the human experience.

One of the ideas borrowed is an idea that is familiar, though barely understood, to Western culture: the yin yang symbol. Most people associate the yin yang symbol with the new age movement (hippy stuff, as my dad would call it). In humanistic psychology, the symbol is used as a tool to understand dialectical thinking. Dialectical thinking is about blending and change, but change that takes place through conflict and opposition. So how does this relate to the yin-yang symbol, which is often used as a symbol of peace?

There are three main ideas behind the yin yang symbol as it relates to humanistic psychology:

1)      The interdependence of opposites: There is no light without darkness

2)      The interpenetration of opposites: There are bits of light within darkness, and vice versa

3)      The unity of opposites: we cannot understand darkness without light, and vice versa

The writers among you will recognise that these principles also relate to storytelling. I believe that every story should be utilizing these principles, for both plot and character.  A story without darkness is boring, but a story without light is just as devoid of life. No light should be pure, and no darkness should be absolute.  You should always be able to see the darkness of the hero reflected in the villain, and vice versa.

***

Magneto might be my favourite character of all time.

Magneto

 

 

He is one of the single most complex characters of any medium, a holocaust survivor devoting his life to the protection of his people by any means necessary.

I used a quote from the film X-men: First Class to begin my post. This is because Magneto represents the culmination between the two opposites, rage and serenity, illustrating the nature of dialectical thinking.

How can you tell? He wears purple.

Bear with me.

Just like white and black, red and blue, the colours that make up purple, are opposites. I won’t bore you with the grade school explanations of the colour wheel. In the human consciousness, red and blue represent two opposites as well. Red is associated with rage and fire, whereas blue is associated with calm and water.  When mixed together, purple is created.

A place between rage and serenity.

Magneto himself is a mix between these two things. On one hand, he’s a classy villain, who has definite air of the Shakespearean about him: he soliloquizes, uses proper nouns, doesn’t curse and has full control over his power. On the other hand, he’s prone to fits of rage against the human race, and occasionally his foes. In his determination to keep mutantkind safe, he ruthlessly kills regular humans.

A lot of fans, myself included, have to wonder if he’s right on some level. The members of the X-men frequently wonder this too, and often find themselves working with Magneto towards a common goal.

How does this relate to the above?

Magneto and the X-men are opposites of each other at first glance, but they need each other. There are shared philosophies between the groups. Their motivations are understood by their status as opposites.

This is a prime example of using the yin-yang idea in writing.

And it makes stories better.

 

 

Agree or disagree? Comment below! Like this post? Click the like button!

On another note, for more of Magneto check out the trailer for X-men: Days of Future Past:

 

God bless,

Kelsey J.