I’ve noticed a trend in movies lately. It must be there in literature as well, but I haven’t noticed it as much in the books I’ve read. That trend is villains as protagonists.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve never had an issue with a well rounded villain that can tug at your heartstrings a bit, but still be the bad guy in the end. For instance, Heath Ledger as Joker. I felt like he tantalized with just enough of a backstory to make the character feel human, but not enough for the audience to feel like Batman was kicking kittens and puppies when they fought.
Recently we have seen Suicide Squad, Venom, and now Joker making their debuts. In these movies the traditional villain is not just a protagonist, but is converted to a hero. It’s a strange feeling to embrace evil to fight other evil.
These wonderments first crept into my mind when my son picked out his Halloween costume for this year and I realized that for the second year in a row he had chosen a villain. Last year he was an Imperial Stormtrooper and this year he is going as Boba Fett. How had I not noticed this before?
When I was a kid we had to convince someone to be the bad guys so we could beat up on them when we played Star Wars or The Hobbit or army for that matter. The thought of being a storm trooper for Halloween was just absurd. When I was a kid we all wanted to be heroes.
What has changed?
This brings me to my final thought. I wonder if this started on a mainstream tangent with the Star Wars prequels. I know they are divisive. Some love them and others hate them. Personally, I have a couple problems, one with the story and one with the actual films. The film problem I have heard echoed by others and it is simply the tech level being superior to the original movies that took place thirty years later. Meh, been there, beaten that dead mule.
The story problem feeds into my above point. The movies were all about the fall of Anakin Skywalker and the birth of Darth Vader. We, the audience, were expected to root for Anakin. He was a cute little kid. Who could not like him? (Maybe it was easier when he was a moody teenager) But the point is, we were expected to love him, despite what he was to become. That was a tough pill to swallow.
In reality, the prequels were akin to watching a movie about young Hitler or Stalin. Sure, maybe they were cute and innocent as kids, but at some point they were going to be evil.
Darth Vader exterminated the Jedi. He exterminated planets. He brought about the collapse of the Republic. Darth Vader was the face of destruction in galactic proportions and yet we are supposed to root for him because he’s just a kid?
I have a tough time getting behind that.
I think the problem is that he is portrayed as the protagonist. He is the character kids wanted to be. So, why do we wonder why kids want to be Stormtroopers?
What does this say about society? What does it say about the future? If fictional villains are really just flawed heroes, how soon before real villains are viewed as flawed heroes? How soon will it be before evil is fully acceptable, as long as it’s used to fight greater evil?
I hope we remember who the real heroes are.
5 thoughts on “Indicative Stormtrooper”
What you describe is a recurring theme throughout history. One nation’s conquering hero is another nations dreaded villain, and the winning nation gets to write the history books. I also see the old story of the frog getting boiled in the slowly warming pot of water. Propagandists are good at that. And with visual communication tools getting to be so cleverly used, a lie can easily be made to look more desirable than the truth. But it’s not a new thing. A long time ago, in a garden not so far
LikeLiked by 1 person
RE: Your son
Have you considered that your son chose these characters for Halloween for aesthetic reasons? Stormtroopers look cool, Boba Fett looks cool. Luke, not so much. Han Solo, maybe in a hip, 70s dude sort of way, Obi Wan (old) maybe if you wanted to be a more boring Gandalf. Stormtroopers, Darth Vader and Boba Fett might be some of the most iconic designs ever in Science Fiction cinema.
Also, who’s the milquetoast that always picks heroes for Halloween? I remember being a vampire, a devil and Darth Vader as a kid during Halloween, I’m sure I was other ‘bad’ characters as well.
I notice you don’t tell us what your son’s reasoning is for choosing these two villains back to back. Is his answer that he likes to be ‘the bad guy’ or ‘evil’ or does he just think it’d make a cool costume? Maybe it’s Halloween and he wants to be scary and these characters scare him so he figures they’ll scare others. His response is really the one that will shine the most light on why he choose them.
RE: Villains in cinema being popular.
Just because it’s in genres you’re noticing now doesn’t mean it’s a new thing. Perhaps you forgot the 80s (I can’t recall exactly how old you are) and the prominence of Freddy, Jason and Michael Myers almost every single year of that decade – there were tons of kids in my school who were them every year. Who remembers the ‘heroes’ of those movies? The Terminator, Predator, Aliens…Hannibal Lecter cast a long shadow on the 90s. Comic book movies are popular now, so now the heroes and the villains are popular (and known by the general public), and movie studios want to make money. Actually, if you go to your schools Halloween parade I’d be interested to know how many kids dress up as the murderous ‘Five Nights at Freddies’ animals.
RE: Star Wars – Vader/Anakin
Not going to touch on the prequels, since they have a lot of problems and were (IMHO) unsuccessful in making Anakin relatable as a young man, but I’m curious to know if your feelings on Vader as “the face of destruction in galactic proportions” means that his redemption at the end of Jedi is unearned for you. (again another problem that didn’t exist before the prequels set him up as a crazy person who murders a room full of children and abuses his (pregnant!!!!) wife)
Unfortunately, his reply to why he wanted to be Boba Fett was “The Dark Side is awesome” and I’m not sure how to take that.
Fair enough on the dressing as baddies for Halloween. You are correct in that many people dress up as creepy and dark characters. It is fitting. I don’t know that I agree with the villains being more popular (outside of horror). They may have been equally identifiable, but you can’t overlook Arnold in the Terminator series (I believe he is actually a protagonist after the first movie) and John and Sarah Connor, Arnie and Glover in the Predator movies, and Ellen Ripley across the Alien-verse. I do agree that the protagonists have dropped off the map after those earlier movies. (I honestly couldn’t tell you any of them from the newer Alien and/or Predator movies)
As to Vader’s redemption, I think it was a great in the story. However, it doesn’t mean I want to root for him as a kid. Just because he realized the errors of his ways doesn’t mean I want to see the Jedi wiped out. At the same time, there is no Star Wars without Darth Vader and his darkness.
Thanks for the response.
The dark side being awesome, is missing the point. Boba Fett is an assassin. He’s a mercenary. He goes where the money is oh, he has no code of ethics as to where the money comes from. If the Jedi had more money than the Empire, he would have been alongside them.
I’m pretty sure the Jedi were all dead.