Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Interviews with Villains - Their Side of the Story

by Tammy Schubert

Witches, step-relatives, in-laws, friends, medical professionals, corporate executives and people you would never suspect to do wrong. My curiosity got the better of me this month, and I just had to find out more. Is it that we as readers and writers have a skewed idea of the difference between right and wrong? Do authors write in a holier than thou mode or do we simply tell the truth as we see it? I was on a quest to find out. So I started at the beginning with my beloved fairy tales.

The evil Queen from Snow White and Cinderella’s stepmother (see above picture), to name a few, lined up outside my house, rallied together and cried out, “We are people, too.” They banged on my door. “We want to be heard. What about our side of the story?”

Their side? Hmmm… Well, how could that be? According to what I read, they were evil incarnate. Or was I wrong in my thinking?

“Our intentions were good.”

Really? I pondered the implications of those words. If it were true, authors have done grave injustices to citizens of the fictional world.

“We’ve been given a raw deal. History has not been kind to us,” they shouted. “Who are you to judge us?”

That’s just it. Who are we to judge them? Many of them believe they are doing something good for the hero, heroine or world in general. We all have the desire to do good; yet, there are people who think we have overstepped our bounds. Is that really wrong?

My interviews progressed quite nicely. All of the villains I talked to agreed over a cup of tea that most of the fiction out there is recorded by goodie-goodies of the world. The same people who would never admit to having a dark side of the soul. (Their words not mine.)

“What about us? Why does history portray us in such a bad light? We are just different in that we don’t hide our true feelings.” Lady Tremaine, Cinderella’s stepmother, slanted her head and fluttered her eyelids. “We do want the best for everyone, dear.”

Amazon.com explored the issue but stopped short in their investigation. They leave us with disturbing questions. What was Lady Tremaine really about? Maybe our impression of Cinderella has been skewed by the writer.

Consider this side of the story:

“The rumor that Cinderella's stepfamily tore her lovely dress to shreds so she couldn't go to the ball? According to her stepmother, they were only trying to save Cinderella a lifetime of embarrassment at her fashion faux pas and gently suggesting that she stay at home. (Lady Tremaine says the gown actually looked like it had been sewn together by rodents!)” – Amazon.com in their advertisement for the book Disney Princess: My Side of the Story - Cinderella/Lady Tremaine - Book #1

My goodness, what if that were true? Was Cinderella really a fashion nightmare? Did she not know a ball required something more than a dress from a twenty-fifth hand thrift store? (Could rodents really sew? Well, that is a question for another day.) Hmmmm… Did she have a penchant for wearing Prada shoes with similar dresses? If so, didn't Lady Tremaine do her a great service?

Then there’s Snow White:

“And that business about the 'evil' Queen giving Snow White a poisoned apple? Well, per the Queen herself, she was actually a health nut who was only concerned that her stepdaughter wasn't getting the proper nutrition!” --Amazon.com in their advertisement for the book Disney Princess: My Side of the Story #2: Snow White/The Queen

Maybe Snow White only ate junk food. Maybe the Queen was on the path to health and only wanted to share her good fortune? People generally want to share the good things that have worked for them. Why should the Queen be any different? Snow White may have just had an allergic reaction, or maybe there was some mix up and the Queen got blamed.

Consider Auriel’s story in The Little Mermaid:

“The rumor that mean, nasty Ursula turned Ariel into a human just so the sea witch could take over the seven seas? To hear Ursula tell it, she was only trying to help Ariel find her true love (and wanted to impress that hunky King Triton in the process!).” –Amazon.com in their advertisement for the book Disney Princess: My Side of the Story #3: The Little Mermaid/Ursula.

Ariel did find her true love. Didn't she? So was it so wrong of Ursula to help her along?

Unfortunately, I ran out of time and didn’t get to interview some modern fictional villains. Maybe you can help. What’s a modern day villain’s story? What’s their take on life? Were you compelled to be more sympathetic towards them once you knew their story?

23 comments:

Tami Brothers said...

Eeewwww!!! I love this take on villians. Who ever thought about THEIR side of the story.

I love that Captain Jack on Pirates turned out to be the good guy, even though he would have left Will for dead many times over. But he was after saving Will's father's life, wasn't he??? That's a good deed. Why would anyone think he was trying to hurt anyone??? There was no greed involved... grin...

I can't wait to see what everyone else has to say!

Tami

Dianna Love said...

This is a fascinating way to look at villains - their side of the story. The best villain in any story is one with strong motivation for his/her action so you've hit on a good topic. Regardless if it is something good for the world or not, a villain believes in their quest.

Good point Tami about Captain Jack, the pirate we love to...love. "g"

Debbie Kaufman said...

This reminds me of of children's book, The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by A. Wolf. It came out in 1995 and I've always loved it.

Mike Schubert said...

I immediately thought of Bernie Madoff as the modern day villain everyone is talking about. I'm sure he has a lot of free time in his jail cell to discuss these things, but I am not sure his point of view would change anyone's opinion of him.

CiCi Barnes said...

Since our side poll is voting for Alan Rickman, I'll look into his point of view from "Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves". Did he really deserve all our scorn? Richard was out of the country. He was trying to keep England going. We're all different. There's no way he could do things the same way King Richard would have. Give the guy a break. And when he attacked Robin's father? Who knows, maybe the man was into bad things.

As for going after Maid Marion. The poor man needed an heir. If Richard didn't return, he'd need offspring to keep England going after his demise.

I say let's give the guy the benefit of the doubt. Otherwise, he might try to rip our hearts out with a spoon.

CiCi

Susan May said...

Great post Tammy! Very creative. I thought of the Wolf book of the "Three Little Pigs" also. Often there are two sides to every story. Everyone comes from a different place in life with different backgrounds. That said, I'm not sure that the villians in the James Bond's movies are out for anything other than power!

Maxine Davis said...

Enjoyed this so much! I love "the other side of the story." Who would have thought to let them in the door and listen to their side.

Tammy Schubert said...

I'm so glad you all enjoyed the post. Every villain has a their tale. As writers, we can use them to enrich our stories.

K.L.J. said...

I love the three little pigs book, too. Sometimes the villian just makes the story - it's as much fun to root against the bad guy as it is to pull for the good guy.

I love the bad boy heros - good guys who act like bad guys, like Ranger from the Stephanie Plun series and the guys from the Oceans Eleven movie. You know, sexy thieves and strong, silent secret agent types... :)

Did you read the Host? There's a book that shows the "villian" side so well that you feel torn between the heroine and the alien... great story, with no clear cut evil side.

Thanks for the great post!

J Perry Stone said...

"We are just different in that we don’t hide our true feelings."

TOTALLY AGREE! That's the difference, isn't it? Could it be that the hero and villain's actions are similar (one represents one side, another the other side), but that the hero is simply more pc? Easier to digest?

I think of the idea of the "anti-hero" and how it's just another look at the same coin. The anti-hero could be cast in another story as the villain if there were a more clearly delineated hero to compare him against. Jack Bauer could totally be bad.

I don't know, but lately, I'm requiring a little bad with my heroes and a little good with my villains.

Remember Russell Crowe's character in 3:10 to Yuma?

The contrasts just make these characters so much more interesting.

And I'm with you, KLJ. Bring on the bad boy heroes. The bad boy heroes really get my blood moving but it's the good in the villain that really makes me think.

J

Marilyn Baron said...

Tammy,

Great post and great idea getting the perspective of the villain.

Bernie Madoff is a good example of a villain but I don't think he has a good enough side to mount a defense. (Which is why he plead guilty).

I was watching 24 this week and I have to admit that even though I love Jack and his motives are the best, he did kill a lot of people (but they were the bad guys) so I still think he's a hero.

Marilyn

Tanya Michaels said...

What a great post, tammy! We went to "Cinderella's dinner" at Disney last year and my daughter had more fun teasing around with the stepsisters and (hilariously wry) stepmother than the princess herself! And one of my seven year old's favorite children's books is the *REAL* story of the three little pigs (as told by the wolf). Writing a scene from different perspectives can be a fabulous creative exercise, too!

Tanya

Tammy Schubert said...

I love the bad boy heroes.

Many villains do have a good side. Sometimes it is just hard to find. This gives them a lot of depth. I find that I like writing about the villains the best.

Ana Aragón said...

Great post, Tammy,

(And, no, I don't think you're crazy...!)

I think you hit it on the head... stories that catch my interest are ones where there isn't much difference between the good guy and the bad guy...they both have their motives and being able to see the good, as well as the bad, in a villain makes for a much more interesting story!

Ana

Sandy Elzie said...

Hey,
Enjoyed the post. The movie(s) that came to my mind regarding Good villain or bad hero was in the Bourne series. Was he the good guy or the bad guy? Prespective makes the difference.

A lot of your spy movies (The Recruit or The Package)have the same issue of the hero having to kill people...sometimes innoscent ones to complete the mission (The good of the many outweight the good of the few...or the one)

Good Job!

Mary Marvella said...

Good post, Tam. Poor villains needed a good counselor and some meds.

Cyrano said...

Hope you see this comment Tammy. I had an incredibly busy day yesterday and only just got to the blog now.
I really liked this post. What a fresh take on the "plight" of the villain. And I loved the little interview segments. Very funny.
I just watched the movie Gross Pointe Blank with John Cusack and Minnie Driver for the first time a few days ago. John Cusack's character, Martin Blank was definitely a villain. He killed people for a living. But supposedly the people he kills "have it coming" and he did it for the government. Does that make it right? In his eyes it did.
I loved the movie and the characters. So I didn't mind a bit that he was a murderer. Heehee.
Great post tammy.
Have a beautiful Friday.
tamara

Carol Burnside said...

Great post, Tammy and very creative. How did I miss dropping in on the blog yesterday?

Kudos to you on an interesting twist!

Linsey Lanier said...

Excellent post with a unique spin. The villain's point of view will make any story with a bad guy stronger.

And remembering the power of myth and fair tales will make our plots much stronger as well.

Fun post!

Linsey

Pamela-reader said...

Love it, love it! So funny, I really laughed out loud reading the post. Thanks so much. (Yes, there were good points too, but the style was great! - I especially enjoyed the "amazon plugs".) (giggle)

Kimberly said...

I really like the post. It makes me think of Shrek the Third where at the end Arthur asks the villians if they want to be villians their whole life. Captain Hook response with 'But we are villians, that's the only thing we know.' Then Arthur says, 'Didn't you ever wish you could be something else?'. The trees say, 'well that's easy for you to say, your not some evil enchanted tree'.

Pretty much they are living their lives based on the stereotype the rest of society placed on them.

Another character that comes to my mind is the Scorpion king. At then end of one of the Mummy movies he is a monster but if you look at the spin off movie, 'The Scorpion king', it tells a story in his life that is much different than the monster portraited in the Mummy movie.

Tammy Schubert said...

Pamela, I'm so glad you enjoyed the post. I hope I can make you laugh again in the future.

Tammy Schubert said...

Kimberly,

Thank you for sharing. I hadn't even thought of those movies.

There are a lot of people out there living stereo-type lives because of the labels society places on them. Some of them will never break through these binds that tie them.

Have a wonderful day!