Evil’s Perspective

The Tolkien era of Fantasy had brought us villains who were evil for the sake of evil.  Their motives were pretty much they wanted to destroy the world because they were evil and nothing more was really known about these antagonists.  That was the point, they represented the force of evil more than being individual characters with motives.  In a few stories this works, but now there is a call for more depth to the villains of the stories.  Generally, now there are antagonists with motives and backstories, and just like reality these people tend to not see themselves as evil but as saviors.

History is rife with horrible rulers of both nations and organizations.  Some of these people were like Sauron who simply wanted to dominate others without sympathy or empathy for anyone else.  Others though were more like Darth Vader, horrible people who saw themselves as protectors or necessary such as Valad The Impaler.

How often do we do things that are wrong and justify it in our minds?  Taking that line of thought further, how often do we glorify our ideological positions while demonizing the “other” side?  Sure we may not be killing anyone or desiring to, but isn’t that a similar train of thought that these evil people in history and fiction acted on?  I’m not saying everyone who dug in their heels and stood up for their convictions is akin to a villain, but just that it is easy to continue down the rabbit trail and become so blinded by ideology empathy no longer remains.  This is especially common in political spheres from 2015 to present in America.

Certainly, there are things we all disagree with.  That is okay, in fact it is necessary for anyone who has a spec of critical thinking and morality.  With the advent of the internet it is becoming easier to live in an echo chamber and grow angrier at those who are outside of your thought circle.  Hope is only found in those who agree with you and me, while despair and the end of the world comes in the form of those that dare think differently.  To me, it looks like there is less nuance in our culture than there was even ten years ago.  People are ready to sever ties with friends and even family because of differing viewpoints because their beliefs are “dangerous.”  With this mentality, called Tribalism, which I addressed in previous blogs, it is only opening the door for a real evil to rise to power.  As freedoms erode the people will cheer that person on because “their” person was in power, not the “other” side.  Of course, the opposite group will do everything they can to oppose the person in power, but perhaps it won’t be enough.  This is hypothetical, and not a subtle dig at the current president or any before him.  I know that some already view him in this light, but that isn’t what I am referencing.  In an environment where people are looking to be offended or read into their own bias, I feel that is necessary to state.

Fiction is meant to teach us.  To help us ponder our own actions as well as the happenings within our own culture.  Let us actually implement the lessons from history and fiction, lest we create a monstrous world we cannot undo.

Tribalism and the effects on fiction

It’s no secret there are deep divisions in American culture, especially politically.  Maybe it’s just my perception but it appears that everything is suddenly seen through the lens of politics.  While that isn’t to be completely unexpected, after all people read things through a worldview.  However, right now there appears to be less nuance and more, “believe like me or you’re evil.”  This is seeping into fiction.  Television, movies, and books are labeled with assumptions based on who ever is consuming the media and many times they are wrong.

I’m going to say up front that I do not adhere to the philosophies of either Republicans or Democrats.  I find them both deeply flawed for different reasons.  I feel this needs to be stated just in case someone attempts to accuse me of taking sides, since reading into things is a common practice on the internet.  Now that that’s out of the way, both parties have built of tribalism around them, while painting the other side as evil.  Yes, evil.  Not misinformed, not simply disagreeing on important issues, no evil.  The chasm between Liberalism and Conservatism has grown so much that neither side can even agree on the basics.  Around politicians that craft these ideas there is the rest of the country who mostly either adheres to one side or the other.

This tribalism doesn’t end at the polls or while determining which candidate to vote for.  It often overflows into media.  Readers start to have a visceral reaction to books because there are perceived ideas from “the other side” while authors cave to pressure to pander to their audience and fall into the trap of becoming too political with their works.  Tensions have been rising, especially after the 2016 election, and continue to escalate, almost as if people are looking to fight with those who believe differently.

In my next post I will continue this topic.  For now, I think all of us need to consider the implications of tribalism and vilifying those who believe differently.