Thursday, May 14, 2015

Assemble & Unite: One Man's Victim, Another Man's Villain

     “Every fairy tale needs a good, old-fashioned villain,” quotes Jim Moriarity in the season 2 finale of BBC’s Sherlock. That is an absolute truth, too. Wherever there is good in the world, there will always be evil to challenge it. In these turbulent and confusing times, we often ask, “Why do bad things happen? Why do people do bad things?” Well, for an evangelical Christian, the response is because we live in a sinful world that was created by a God that gave every human the gift of free will or the ability to choose right or wrong.

     My pastor once said that instead of complaining about how there are so many terrible things in the world, maybe it’s your chance to do something good. Society whines about how God is cruel, unjust and unfair to people. Fair enough, that’s your choice to think that way. These same people also fuel their time and money into watching and supporting superhero films. So, look at it this way, if there was no evil in the world, what would we need superheroes for? Where would we get our moral inspiration? Where would get the rush of excitement when the hero finally defeats the villain?

     The point of the villain is to challenge the hero, to see what they are made of, to push them to absolute limit of moral belief. No franchise does villains better than comic books. Without the villain, our heroes would have nothing to do, nothing to fight for and live in a world that doesn’t need them. In X-Men and the Avengers, there have been three villains that have molded the villain/hero complex to a whole new level, by starting their lives with one crucial step, the victim; a person who overtime turns on the people that could have been their salvation and instead become their targets of hate.

     We’re all born fallen and evil, but we are not born villains; that is a decision we make on our own. One made the conscience decision to remain a personal victim as he grew into his role as a public villain, one is an anti-hero who cannot forget the past and one is a true victim that has no choice and increasingly no hope in the hell he has been forced to live in.

~ ~ ~

Bucky Barnes//The Winter Soldier

     Sergeant James Buchanan Barnes, or otherwise simply known as Bucky, had a life that was the stuff of military fairy tales, which ended in a nightmare. Born to a poor family in Brooklyn, New York; not much is known about Bucky's family life except he was the oldest of four children. Growing up, Bucky was closest to his best friend, scrawny but stubborn, Steve Rogers. Both were as different as two guys could be. Bucky was tall, handsome, charming, athletic and a born leader. Steve was short, homely, awkward, sickly and a social outcast. Yet, there was a bond between these two lonely boys that brought them together on the schoolyard playground which extended onto the battlefield.

     Bucky may have come off as to good to be true, but he greatly possessed a compassionate heart that reached out to the hurt, the lost and the lonely. It’s what made him a good leader and a good second in-command. When Steve Rogers, now the world famous, Captain America, creates the Howlin’ Commandos, a special elite operation in the Strategic Science Reserve and makes Bucky his right hand man, who can say no? Together, Steve and Bucky bring down secret HYDRA factions all over Europe and they seem unstoppable. That is until a terrible accident throws Bucky down into a mountainous range, rendering him dead to his grieving best friend and the world.

     Only, he didn’t die. The super serum experimentation that was done on him as a POW in Austria saved his life, but also brought him into a new life dominated by darkness, fear and terror. In the accident, Bucky’s left arm was severely damaged so HYDRA recreated a new, functional, cybernetic arm made from vibranium, the same metal Captain America’s shield is made of. They then wipe his mind and control, manipulate and abuse him until they have created the ultimate weapon against humanity, an indestructible super soldier that has no free will or choice. Simply a machine that is given orders and must carry them out, lest he gets a bullet in his head.

     Bucky’s stripping of independent free will makes him the helpless victim that becomes the heartless villain. The serum takes what is good and makes it better, so if Bucky was already a good and honorable man, then the serum only heightened his humanity and HYDRA was fully aware of that when they took him underground. By consistently wiping his memory and then proceeding to tell him that his acts of terror are a gift to the world, therefore making him believe that he is performing good, Bucky by no admission of his own has become both victim and villain to mankind.

~ ~ ~

Erik Lensherr//Magneto

     An anti-hero is a person that commits the wrong actions for what they consider the right reasons. If any villain in the comic book universe is the epitome of this, then it’s Erik Lensherr. For Erik, he has been fighting for himself and in the name of others since he was a child. Born into a Jewish family in Nazi Germany, Erik faced discrimination as a Jew and then was herded into a concentration camp (probably Auschwitz) where he is separated from his loving parents.

     When his mother is murdered by an insane scientists who was trying to provoke Erik’s magnetic mutation, Erik flies into an utter rage which allows his powers to manifest at an uncontrollable rate. That rage for the loss of his mother and his hatred toward the prejudice, the intolerable and the discriminatory is what creates in Erik a monster that is ruled by his passion to extract revenge in the name of justice.

     Erik is forever on the balancing edge between hero and villain. In many ways he has a great deal of validations for what he does, but he when begins to punish the majority for the sins of the minority, then his actions come into questioning. What Erik cannot do is forget and move on. He believes that his rage is what controls his abilities and to harness that rage he must remember his pain, his agony and his fear. He wants to inflict on others what was inflicted on him, regardless of if they are innocent people or not. If there are not in his genetic realm, then they must be destroyed. Erik technically becomes a mutant Hitler by believing the mutant race to be superior and the humans inferior.

     Like Bucky, Erik started out as one man’s victim, but overtime, became his own villain. Unlike Bucky, Erik had the choice to choose between good evil and he thought he was choosing good, but evil was always in the background of his mind, whether he was aware of it or not. He always believes that he his fighting to preserve his kind, but how can he do that when half of his kind are trying to protect those that he is trying to kill? For Erik, there is only black and white. There is good and evil, and he truly believes that evil must be served if it means to bring about good.

~ ~ ~


          In the 2011 film Thor, Tom Hiddleston took the world by storm with his characterization of the tragic villain Loki. The younger un-worthier prince that lived in his older brother’s shadow, abandoned by his biological father, rescued by Odin only to feel that he was never loved enough and somehow those reasons are all viable for Loki to create chaos and disorder. Loki’s problem is that he believed his own personal issues made him a victim, therefore were acceptable to become a villain in his own right.

     Tom Hiddleston once quoted about his on screen alto ego that all villains are heroes in their own minds. For the case of Loki Laufeyson (Odinson) he sets out to accomplish the one goal he could never obtain, true greatness. Loki believes that greatness can be found in what makes you happy or successful and as the former god of mischief, Loki’s life has always been about him and no one else.

     All of this stems back to one man, his adopted father, Odin and the trails of ‘if onlys’ that could have paved a different road for Loki. If only Odin had shown Loki a little more attention, if only Odin could accept Loki as a magician and not as a warrior, if only Odin had a little more compassion when he told Loki of his true parentage, if only Odin wasn’t ruler of a great realm that depended on him constantly then maybe he could be the unrealistic father rabid Loki fans want him to be (that escalated quickly). Odin made mistakes, but those mistakes did not make Loki a victim; that image only existed in Loki’s mind. That victimized image pushed him to the absolute transition of a true villain.

     Loki was both villain and victim by his own choice. He ended up getting the sympathy vote because he clearly seemed to have this terrible adopted daddy that didn’t love him and so it validates the madness he generates. In by purposely and independently choosing to become both victim and villain, Loki has only become what his father was trying to protect him from, a monster that destroys anything and everything for the glory of their own selfish purpose.

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