(laptop is getting offensively slow. My fingers are hitting the letters faster than they can appear on screen. On the bright side, I can now brag that I type faster than my laptop can handle)
I’ve been doing some thinking on the subject of villains, specifically types with a sympathetic flavor. The antivillains, or more precisely, the Shakesperean sort.
When I heard about the premise of Breaking Bad, I thought that I heard it from somewhere before. Didn’t put much thought into it, because I was just eager to see people making drugs and blowing things up. As I watched Walter White’s descent down the slippery slope into villainy, the light came on in my head and I remembered where I had seen this before.
From Death Note.
(the anime, not the manga. I had no patience for the latter, though my opinion is that the former royally screwed up the final arc)
Death Note follows the life of ridiculously brilliant, but terminally bored and jaded student Light Yagami as he finds a discarded “death note” – a notebook which kills the person whose name is written in it. It’s a little bit more complicated than that, but that’s what we’ll run with for now.
Light Yagami starts off the series very much like Walter White: with good intentions, if questionable methods. They both believe that they’re doing what must be done. They both honestly believe that they are doing a good thing. Then they both grow prideful in their new position, and they grow resentful against those who opposes their methods, casting themselves in the light of an antihero of their own story. It isn’t long before pride takes over, and they permanently cross over into villain territory.
I read somewhere that the hallmarks of a Shakesperean villain are these: first, they believe they have been wronged in some way. Second, there is something distinctively villainous about them. Third, they are separated on some level from those who surround them.
Light and Walter both believe they have been wronged by the world. They believe that they have done well, but had wicked paid unto them in return. They both do things that, when one disregards the motive, are undeniably evil. And finally, they both believe that their intelligence separates them from the rest of the common folk.
Now, I haven’t read much of Mr. Shakespeare’s works, but I think the next unifying factor among this flavor of villains is the element of pride. They fully believe that everyone else is an idiot for not seeing things the way they see it, and it is pride that motivates the actions that push them into villain territory.
(scratch “much of”. Make that “any of”)
You know who else fulfills all the above criteria? Mr. Milton’s legendary villain: Lucifer. Believes that he has been wronged by God, torments humankind out of spite, and believes himself better than those who surrounds him. And what finally casts him out of heaven? Pride.
Pride should be the chief of the seven deadly sins.
The good pastor preached today that the struggle against pride is a lifelong one. Unlike the other vices, it feeds upon itself and grows under the radar. Sort of like cancer. And just about as painful to remove. Most people choose to hold on to it, claiming it as their portion.
But you know what they say comes before a fall.