Monday, June 18, 2012

Hollywood Needs a New Villain (Cartoonish Christians as villains, are lame)

The Christian villain has become an ingrained Hollywood staple character across a diverse range of films, from indie fare to summer blockbusters.

Contrary to what you may think, there are precious few villains in films today. One type of character commonly mistaken for a villain is the monster. Aliens, Hannibal Lecter and the Joker aren’t villains; they’re more like forces of nature who really can’t be blamed for their actions. Hostility is in their nature, and they tend to be treated with a sort of reverence. They're fun to watch on screen.

“I’m just a dog chasing cars.” —Heath Ledger’s Joker from The Dark Knight (2008)

“I admire its purity. A survivor unclouded by conscience, remorse or delusions of morality.” —Ian Holm’s Ash on the film’s titular Alien (1979)

Other characters who are commonly mistaken as villains are, in fact, tragic antagonists. Their difficult life circumstances are to blame for their faulty development. Loki, the evil god in this summer’s biggest hit, The Avengers, is little more than a spurned child whose vengeful nature might have been avoided by a little more attention from daddy-god.

Villains are different. They are mean on purpose. Even though they have the option to be nice, they choose to do exactly the opposite because in some twisted way, they like it.

I contend that only two villain archetypes have survived into our decade: the unscrupulous CEO and the fundamentalist Christian.

The evil CEO is, with few exceptions, completely non-scary. He or she (generally a "he" in Hollywood) is more pathetic than malicious, willing to harm others for personal gain, then crumpling into a whimpering heap when he gets in over his head.

The Christian’s the slimier of the two. He (ditto on the gender, with Rock of Ages being an exception) is either a cold-hearted authoritarian agent for divine order who squelches diversity wherever he goes, a faith-addled psycho who is convinced his nefarious actions are divinely appointed, or a good old-fashioned hypocrite.

It wouldn’t be too remarkable if these "evilgelicals" tended to show up in the same sort of B-movies as the evil CEOs, but the surprising fact is these villains are often found in more intellectual fare. In 2011, the Sundance Film Festival featured such an extreme concentration of films featuring faithful villainy that it raised eyebrows over at the AV Club. No less than five major releases featured Christian antagonists that year (Red State, Salvation Boulevard, Higher Ground, Tyrannosaur and The Ledge) to varying degrees of critical praise. Allison Willmore’s AV Club editorial asked the obvious question: Are these villains unfair to Christianity?
The prevailing sensation I got while watching these villains on screen was not that they are offensive but that they are just not very good villains. All of them tend to resort to cartoonish shock tactics that end up producing more revulsion than menace, and none of them proved very memorable. This is because they are not attached to any sort of pervasive cultural force that threatens the fabric of our society.
article is here

No comments: