Friday, May 7, 2010

Give Me That Old Timey Villain

Have you noticed a trend with the villains in movies lately? How about children's films? Maybe you've noticed it to, a moral relativism has crept into our theaters and into the characters we love.

It shows up in different ways, according to the genre, target audience and themes, however the gravitation toward a murky moral middle (sorry I couldn't pass up the cheesy alliteration) ground is present in all cases.

It's started to pop up in kid's flicks lately. When is the last time we had a baddie like the 'evil step mother' or the 'Wicked Witch of The West?'

Bolt? No bad guy (or girl) to speak of. This trend can be seen in others to. Meet The Robinson's, How to Train Your Dragon, Finding Nemo. Yes there was a bad guy in meet the Robinson's but he just turned out to be misunderstood, not really a true villain.

Then you have the PG-13 and R segment. This is where morally gray characters are popping up with greater frequency.
Perhaps your modern movie heroes seem pretty nice, but have you gone back and watched an old western recently. Not all, but most, feature gun wielding vigilantes who bring justice and peace. Each generation of Americans has it's cinema heroes, and the old west seems to sport some of cleanest heroes in American movie history.

They were gentlemen: Non-drinkers, clean speakers, respectful of women and they only fought when necessary (which turned out to be pretty often).

Now compare that with, say, Tony Stark (aka Ironman). Drinks, sleeps around, curses, and shows off at every possible juncture.

It's not fair to put every recent 'hero' in this box. Some, The LOTR characters come to mind, still hold to old ideals.

I think what I'm really gripping about here, are the blurred lines. Things used to be very straightforward. Bad guys and good guys were nothing like each other.

On the other hand reality and morality do not get along terribly well. I'm not saying I don't believe in absolute morality. Yet, movie heroes often find themselves in between a moral compromise and a bad decision.
Batman choosing not to kill the Joker, Spider-man having to decide between saving Mary-Jane or the train car full of kids.

I'm sorry all of my examples come from superhero movies (or fantasy), it's all I can think of.

I think over all, viewers like a gritty hero. Because life is gritty, and while it may be nice to have a spotless hero, a screwed up person is a lot easier to identity with.

Every superman has his krypton, our current superheroes just happen to have a dump truck full of the stuff.

Thanks for reading!



  1. Wow, what a good point! Isn't it sad that I hadn't really thought about it? Great post, something to draw our attention to.


  2. Thanks!
    Actually I hadn't thought about it too much myself. I read an article which brought up the topic. That's what prompted me to write about it.