The summers I had from 7 to 12 years old now seem so locked into my memory as glorious salad days. Maybe I’m being nostalgic about it but 1977-1982 was a period when I realized a great love for music, books and movies. Especially the movies!
From ‘75 onward there just seemed to be fantastic films out every week at Saturday Cinema. And you know what; it was ALWAYS the villains that made these movies great for me… never the heroes.
Think about it…
Darth Vader was the ultimate villain.
Star Trek II would have been nothing if it were not for Ricardo Montalban playing Khan (“For hate’s sake, I spit my last breath at thee!” as he quoted from Moby Dick).
Not to forget, cyborg baddie Rutger Hauer in Blade Runner ending the movie with the poetic lines “I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser gate. All those moments will be lost in time… like tears in rain… Time to die.”
And I could go on (Gene Hackman as Lex Luther in Superman II, etc. etc. etc….).
Now, you see, in reminiscing about these characters from my youth with a friend, I was struggling to remember great performances from the supposed heroes of these movies.
- Skywalker was a whiner.
- Kirk was smug.
- Superman was a drip!
- Deckard… as lively as a wet weekend in a run-down trailer park.
The baddies really sold these memorable movies!
The Traditional Hero vs. The Villainous-Hero
What triggered this bit of nostalgia was a discussion I had with a movie-buff friend of mine at a writer’s workshop. She insisted the villain in any story was only there to make the hero look good; so the hero rises to even greater challenges.
She was paraphrasing the old maxim that “a movie is only as good as its villain”.
See, for me, I’d argue the hero in any story was only there to make the villain look good.
The villain is the story.
They’re the lead role.
Having a hero is optional! Kill your hero in Act One or before the copyright page!!!
Don’t believe me? Try finding a traditional hero in Taxi Driver, Unforgiven, Fight Club, 2001 A Space Odyssey, Leon, Memento, Heat, etc.
The villain has to be a far more convincing character and a worthy adversary to the hero. This applies to the villains I loved 30 years ago and still holds in the intervening years (think of Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver, William Munny in Unforgiven and Tyler Durden in Fight Club).
Some call Bickle, Munny & Durden anti-heroes. But my take on this was that they are most definitely villains. Calling them villainous-heroes might be closer the mark.
We’d hate to have to confront them, but if push came to shove then we’d want them on our side.
Just as I vividly remember (and can quote off the cuff) the villainous Vader, Khan & co. 30 years on, it has actually colored the characters I myself write about. I wrote my character Linien Primae as an anti-hero who’s not quite a villain, but certainly no clean cut hero. These are the interesting roles to read and see played out.
Skywalker, Captain Kirk, Superman, Deckard – Anyone could have played those goodies!
Still not convinced? Think of any great James Bond movie… ask yourself how enjoyable was the villain? Did you regret that Bond killed him in the end? Is Daniel Craig’s Bond great because he has his own villainous streak (certainly more than his foppish baddies)?
My movie-buff friend and I finally decided to call a truce. You and I both will have evenings when we just want to watch some cookie-cutter template-based heroes in a stock movie. But it’s the niche villains and edgy anti-heroes, the ones you never quite know what they’ll say next, that will be the ones you & I remember in 30 years time.
So, as I start writing my next book, I hope my fellow fans of single-minded anti-heroes from ’75 to ’82 will get a buzz out of my nostalgic characters. In fact, you should try my book now before Hollywood & TV drama tries to sedate you with more little-guy-done-good stories, frat-house rehashes, and whatever Cinderella redux is flavor of the month.
Here’s the link to the kindle edition, ebook version & paperback edition of Terra Swarm. If you find yourself rooting for the bad guys & gals at movies, just like me, then I’m sure you’ll enjoy giving my book a try. Enjoy!
– Rod :§)>