*WARNING! Spoilers Ahead* (Star Wars Ep. 7)
"I don't play villains. I play interesting people." -Alan Rickman
I like to think of myself as a positive person. However, just as the name suggests, I have a darker side just like the rest of us. Some of us only view this darkness as a force against us or against good. But evil takes many forms. In fact, I would say most of us tend to forget that groups of people or ideas can be just as evil. I would like to break down a few of these different concepts, characters or ideas and what they mean to me personally. Let's start with something still relatively fresh in our minds that we can recall with ease. Kylo Ren.
Now, I know what you are thinking. Kylo is a whiny emo that needs his ass kicked. Respectfully, I would like to disagree. I would venture to say Kylo is one of the more complicated characters ever written into Star Wars. How might you react living in the shadow of your idle knowing you may never be as "great" as he/she. This alone could eat at someone for decades, if not there whole life. This is apparent when he is "talking" with the remains of Vader (his melted mask.) While his motivations aren’t crystal clear, we can get a sense of struggle already.
Throughout the film, We also have power struggles between Kylo, allies, and foe alike. In one scene we have Kylo and General Hux arguing right in front of Supreme Leader Snoke. Kind of embarrassing, yet it fits with his character. He has an idea of what he is doing, and yet, doesn't. In another scene, he struggles with overtaking Rey's mind with the force. He doesn't know why or how this could happen. After all, she is just a girl (in his mind.) In this instant we do see a glimpse of fear that overcomes him. A fear of never becoming as powerful as Darth Vader. Sure, he is rough and tough on the outside, but there is clearly some internal struggle that he is in constant battle with.
In fact, one of the more interesting events in the story is when Kylo confronts his father Han Solo. Not only is this one of the more creative shots visually but it really plays with your preconceived thoughts about him. Could he have good in him? Or, Is he just pure evil? With the act of killing his father, one of the few links to his past, he is slowly making the transition to total darkness. Behind our characters, Starkiller Base consumes the last bit of a star and all its light. The base is plunged into darkness as a visual representation of what our characters are experiencing.
Kylo is not the ultimate bad ass but what I like about him is his many flaws. So much power yet so little knowledge or control. There are so many layers to Kylo Ren that his character could go either way in episode 8. I personally am hoping for even more intricacies to his already multiplex personality. It is too often that our antagonists are written so one-dimensional that complexity appears scarcely. Let's move on.
A single idea can topple Nations. In some ways, this can be applied to any political idea today. But, for now, we are going to steer clear of that for obvious reasons. However, let's focus on something similar. The Templar Order in Assassin's Creed series. There idea is so simple at the beginning. Yet they have far stretching goals that get muddled and confusing with different leaders that claim to protect humanity from itself. Their main goal: Order and control over the free people they rule above. (Sound familiar?) This idea stretches so far in history, it is as if they have been calling the shots from the beginning. Or at least trying to. The fact that real-world leaders may share some of these same views or values is a little unsettling.
These ideas can also be applied to The Empire or The First Order in Star Wars. Grandiose in style but evil to the core. Their ideas can easily seep into minds of others and spread like a virus. Perhaps it is the idea itself that is evil, but the actions carry the weight. As adults, we may get ideas in our head about how we get so upset that we could "just kill that person." Those ideas are evil, but we ourselves don’t become evil until we carry out the aforementioned. Then our actions make us evil. Just because you wear the uniform doesn't make you the villain.
Another thing that fascinates me in this structure is these things, people or ideas usually manifest in one person or creature. This makes it easy to dismantle or dispel. None the less still very real and terrifying.
Lastly, I want to visit the villains who redeem themselves by the end. I am a positive person so these tend to be some of my more favorite other than the more interesting and or complex variety. They also tend to have an anti hero leaning. Shadow the Hedgehog is one such example. Created in a lab without a purpose other than to be the "Ultimate Life Form." It's easy to see why you might go off the deep end real quick. Especially, if the only person you ever cared about is murrderd right in front of you. All that raw power and rage in one package is bound to erupt.
These anti heroes could also draw us into the darkness and make us believe their actions are acceptable or just. Look at Dexter Morgan from the Showtime series Dexter. He is a full blown serial killer and yet we root for him the whole way. We wished we could scrub the scum of the earth right off this planet. Yet, he can. But, because we root for him, does that make us inherently evil. No. I think it's more complex than that. Because he is a form of evil beyond his control, he tries to use it for good. But "good" is a relative term when talking about murder.
Others like Walter White, have us rooting for them in the beginning but by the end we see them as the bad guy. A complete reversal of the other fictional figures. Another example of brilliant character writing. It constantly morphs the way we perceive these characters throughout the story. We may not even see the change until it has already happened or the show is over. Like Kylo Ren, we can argue and discuss these characters for years to come.
The point is, while on the surface some of these characters appear evil, they have strong motivations behind them. I can relate to that. Do whatever it takes to get to those end goals. Even if it means not being yourself for an extended period of time. Actually, I'm doing that right now just by writing this, but that's a whole story on its own. I think we need to look at villains more often than we do. Most of the time, we like to just see the light side. In doing so I think it makes it harder to identify the dark. Perhaps, if we empathize with more of these characters, we can identify those dark tendencies earlier and stamp them out. I don't think all evil characters choose to be this way. They are shaped by the drama that surrounds them. Sure makes for a good story though.