Response to Video About Villains

I was doing my daily YouTube surfing when I chanced upon this video. I’ve linked to a specific moment which shocked me at how… specific it was, how reductive it became. If you don’t want to click the link, basically he says, “Antagonists are the characters that initiate change,” as well as, “Villains act, heroes react.” Ignoring the most obvious complaint that “antagonist” obviously means “one who opposes the contender,” I really don’t see how it follows that every antagonist must act first for the protagonist and/or Main Character to react against. Perhaps part of this draws from the “Refusal of the Call” dealy from the Hero’s Journey. If Campbell’s to be believed, the antagonist has to force the protagonist to act against his preference to stay where it’s safe and familiar.

But what about a hero that wants to be a hero? Imagine a Main Character who decides he wants to become president. As he jumps through all the legal hoops, though, some characters decide he needs to go down and start sabotaging his campaign. They’re reacting to the MC’s actions.

The name of that video is “What Makes a Villain Feel Real,” which suggests a question: is the villain I described less “real” somehow? If they are, I don’t see it. The more important part is what the video maker says later: that they feel strongly about their actions. To understand the Purpose behind their actions, their Motivations, their Methodology and their Means of Evaluation is to make them appear human.

I’ve begun to imagine alternate types of villains/antagonists besides this “act/react” model described in the video, like a corruptive Re-evaluate/Temptation Contagonist villain, a cold Logician whose obsession with Probability leads the hero astray, or a kind, Supportive Sidekick whose gentle Acceptance keeps the good guys from growing in the way they need to. Writing those out, they actually sound more interesting than the traditional force-of-nature mirror of the Protagonist. Now I’m picturing a hero whose greatest obstacle to success is her doting mother or father. :smiley:

Sorry for the rant there. I guess I just wanted to use Dramatica theory to challenge this traditional image of what a bad guy should be. What do you guys think? Can you think of any particularly vivid villains that react to the protagonist’s actions rather than the other way around? What kinds of villains interest you the most?

He’s just using a common trope and generalizing antagonists as villains / “bad guys.” The opposite trope is Heroes Act, Villains Hinder by the way.

As far as I could tell, his points about “making villains feel real” isn’t about this act-react business, but rather that the villain has traits that aren’t about being evil, but just normal human-like traits, like enjoying juice, or taking long quiet walks in the morning. His points aren’t really about the villain’s function in a story, but rather making them more human / believable as characters.

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Fair enough. I just got caught up on those two lines and wanted to rant a bit. I didn’t even finish the rest of the video. :stuck_out_tongue: I could pose an argument against the next part, too, where he argues that his favorite type of villain is the one that the hero could be after one bad day. This can be an interesting, real-feeling villain type, but I don’t think it’s the only kind. I also like “just doing their job” villains, “implacable force of nature” villains, “innocent with powers they can’t control” villains, “eldritch abomination beyond time and space” villains, “noble leader with irreconcilable beliefs” villains… you get the idea. :wink:

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This is an old thread, but wanted to suggested that genres stories are “villains act, heroes react”, and those called “literary” are “heroes act, villains react” as the fundamental difference between genre and literary stories. I have no idea if it’s true but it’s something I wondered about. Of course we’re just talking about the who is the character who drives the plot at the beginning of the story, after the midpoint it switches.

Does anyone read literary novels and notice this at all?

The whole hero vs. villain and their approaches feels like too broad of an assessment to glean any meaning or direction. It’s analyses like those which reinforce my stance on the more Hero’s Journey focused theories out there–which simply fail to look at story from the author’s point of view.

You bring up totally valid points. A hero that wants to be a hero, that is more active than reactive.

The very idea of a “Hero” already blends the MC and Protagonist in such a way that it becomes impossible to tell the difference between them. And that difference is critical to your narrative.

Dramatica theory by its nature challenges the traditional images of good guys vs. bad guys. There really isn’t a 1:1 comparison between Dramatica and other story theories. There are simply too many factors that go into defining the nature of the characters which will represent the OS perspective.