What makes a villain? How does one come to be one? Immediately I start thinking of the line in The Dark Knight: “You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain” …but let’s steer clear of comics for now.
I’ve always been intrigued by the villain in the story. After reading Cruising Through My Life: The Villain Talk, the thought grew on me more and more that nowadays people often relate more to the villains in stories than the heroes, which is why so many writers have chosen to make their heroes have an epic flaw so that they aren’t seen as too perfect.
However when I do watch movies or read novels I do often find myself sympathising with the villains, realising that if those around them had made different choices- they would have ended up differently. That is no to say that they are completely devoid of all blame, no they are accountable for their actions, however it is my belief that society creates the villains and I will go on to explain why.
My ultimate obsession is that of the story of the Phantom of the Opera by Gaston LeRoux. It tells the tale of a young opera singer who is trained by the Phantom of the French Opera House who coordinates her rise to fame and who believes he owns her, voice and body. He murders anyone who gets in his way and is obsessed with perfecting the perfect Opera and young Christine’s beauty and talent. He lives vicariously through her as he is deformed and has been ousted from society. He does all these terrible things because violence and hurt is all he knows, all he recognises as he was abused and tortured by society for having such a deformed face and body. If society had treated him better, taken pity on him, taught him how to love- he would never have caused so much hurt and harm. This is seen when Christine bravely chooses the Phantom over her fiancé (although she was coerced to) but that act of love, whether fake or not, was enough for the Phantom to recognise that he had the potential for good, and eventually released her from captivity (much like the Beast in Beauty and the Beast).
My next example may be a bit trivial but it serves my point well. Megamind is a film about a super villain who finally defeats his nemesis, the superhero Metro Man, however without a hero to fight against; he loses his sense of purpose and needs to find a new meaning to his life. What struck me from the beginning about Mega mind’s story was that he was not born evil, but rather his rejection by society and is lack of understanding of where he fit in; lead him towards the darker parts. It was almost as if society had constructed a place for him, and that was within evil. He eventually realises that he too has a capacity to for good; however this is only once people gave him that chance.
If you continually tell someone that they are bad, that they will fail or make them feel ousted, there is no wonder that they don’t begin to believe that and turn down evil paths. Once again, I’m not saying that a person should not be accountable for their actions, but society (and the nature vs. nurture) debate definitely contributes to how someone will grow emotionally and mentally. Negative parenting for example is just as bad and damaging as physical abuse, actually it is emotional and mental abuse. Scars heal but pain and hurt can last forever and affect a child in so many different ways. I reiterate: evil isn’t born; it is created and is often a reflection of society’s dirty secrets.