It’s All Context and Perspective

There’s a funny sort of phenomenon in children’s films about animals. If the story is about mice, then cats are bad guys.

Cossackcats

Remember how all the cats in An American Tail were bad guys except for that one?

But if the story is about cats, then mice are either essentially non-entities

scar-holding-mouse-from-tail

or the cats are friends with the mice. For. Some reason.

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And who are the villains?

If it isn’t a dog or other animal dangerous to a cat, like a wolf, then it’s probably a human. It is in the Aristocats. The same goes for dogs (Like 101 Dalmations) – they might fight a wolf or something but there’s not much higher on the “food chain” than humans.

So basically, there’s some coinciding between antagonists and villains. When your protagonist is prey, predators are a consideration and a problem. But while you can tell a story about happy vegetables or insects, personifying them as your prey protagonist’s food is awkward. And when your predator is the protagonist, the prey loses traits that would appeal to the audience – like, say, sentience. It’s all the cycle of life. And what hunts the hunters? Whatever it is, it’s the new antagonist.

It’s all in perspective, see? I mean, you read Charlotte’s Web and the humans are just awful for raising Wilbur for pork. I suppose you can argue they weren’t going to raise Wilbur at all and therefore he really was more of a family pet, but the point is the humans are antagonized to some degree for wanting to eat a pig.

chweb

And sorry, but…that’s why humans raise pigs. At all. We give them life so that they may grow delicious and then we eat them. It’s more traumatic when the pig is fully sentient and can talk, which real pigs aren’t, but the point is, the villain thing is all perspective here. Some vegetarians will say carnivores are monsters for eating meat and villify the action. That’s their perspective. I’d like to point out that that animals eat animals all the flipping time and that our ancestors didn’t get to be a civilization building master race by eating raw vegetables. Nope. We got to be the humans we are because we cooked meat (and vegetables, too, sure). That’s our secret. Meat, and fire. Wheat helped too. Yay gluten.

Anyway some things are objectively wrong. We can all agree that cold-blooded murder is pretty much totally evil. I’d like to say we can all agree that torture of any living creature is totally evil but some, er, political statements by a particular candidate and the agreement of his followers suggest somehow that’s not agreed upon. But. The point is, you should consider very carefully your villain and morals. Because what’s 100% evil to you, little rabbit, is 100% moral to the wolf trying to eat you.

Balto

That wolf might just be Balto, aka the protagonist

 

Ultimately, this applies to more than just prey and predators in children’s films. And when you have a wolf who thinks he’s Balto but he’s in a Bambi film, you have your villain. Villains usually think they’re the hero. And it’s just as easy for an antagonist to be sympathetic and not necessarily a villain. For example, consider both sides of most hot-button debates: with a lot of equal rights debates, it seems like the rabbits who are afraid of the wolves are in a wolf film. But with something more ambiguous, like abortion, it’s really hard to say whose film it is, rabbits or wolves. It really is a matter of perspective. And when you have a perspective on the issue, it’s incredibly hard to see how the other side is not totally evil. If you’re pro-life, those who are pro-choice are literally pro-murdering-babies, which is totally evil. But if you’re pro-choice, you absolutely know murdering babies is totally evil and would never do it – and you don’t believe an embryo is a baby, so why are we even talking about murdering babies? On the flip side, the pro-lifers are trying to control people, and it’s highly arguable that limiting someone’s agency is totally evil. I have in a couple posts in fact. So the pro-lifers are actually totally evil. Who is right? I frankly have no idea; my own opinion has been formed by carefully considering the views of both sides and looking really deeply into what my religion has to say about things – not the issue, per se, but things relating to it – and I wouldn’t feel comfortable calling myself either pro-life or pro-choice. So maybe I’m a horse in this cat-mouse war.

But no seriously, who’s right? Well, despite my belief in an actual True Answer, I don’t think we have full access to it at this time and therefore my answer is it’s all in the perspective* and context – abortion debates always get sticky when rape and endangered mothers are brought into the picture. In the right context, what was a mouse film with a cat becomes a cat film.

*I do stand by my own thoughts. I mean that, as a matter of perspective, it’s reasonable for someone who I think is wrong to think they are absolutely right and think I am the villain; in that case,  who the story is about – perspective and context – determines who is actually the villain. See?

In order to understand your villain, try considering that maybe they don’t hold an evil view because they’re Evil McEvilpants. Maybe they hold that view because from their perspective, it’s not evil.

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Maybe they think this is a spider film that has dwarves in it rather than the other way around. (No that’s totally how this pristine movie adaption works.)

It’s all in perception and context.

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About Rii the Wordsmith

An aspiring author, artist, avid consumer of storytelling medium, gamer, psychologist (insomuch as one with her bachelor's is a psychologist), wife, mother, DM, Christian, a friend to many, and, most importantly, an evil overlord.
This entry was posted in Making Villains (Making Villains la-la-la!) and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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