Whether it be in a film, a TV show, a book, or a video game, we always seem to be pushed towards rooting for the hero. The hero, the saviour of mankind, they are the one that the audience needs to back; they are the one that will emerge victorious after an arduous struggle with the baddie and the audience will rejoice after witnessing their hero slay the mighty villain.
It’s always the same, but why? It may not even have to be a hero but has there ever been a time when the protagonist is the bad guy. I know that’s literally impossible because if they were the bad person, they’d be the antagonist, but can something be said about the way the human mind operates if we’re always told to view the protagonist as the one for whom we should root?
The protagonist is who we should connect with as an audience, who we root for, and who we stay up until the early hours of the morning wanting to see whether they will prevail.
I’m not a fan of this thought process. If there’s a protagonist then, by default, there will be an antagonist: a person that stands in our way stopping us from achieving our dreams. “The villain.”
No one wants to be cast as the bad person; to have their name dragged through the mud and ridiculed and hounded and beaten up as if they were wrong to turn their back on the world. What if the cause of their villainy was the world turning its back on them? Have you ever thought about the antagonist and their point of view?
Have you ever thought why the antagonist is the way they are? Have you, even for a split second, thought what caused the antagonist to go off the rails and want to inflict pain and suffering on the world?
The world is a horrendous, horrible place for those that are less fortunate than others. I live in a privileged society, but I’ve seen people who have nothing, living in huts on the outskirts of major cities. If they were to try and force change, history would probably view them as antagonists.
When a villain is trying to destroy half of the universe’s entire population then they need to be stopped, but when an antagonist is simply trying to break free from the shackles of a society that has repressed them to the point that their natural instinct of fight or flight takes over, then we should probably take a step back from the story and think if the world we’re creating is one that will form the basis of a criminal’s backstory.
There will always be good and evil in the world. You will never truly eradicate evil. All you can do is make sure you’re a protagonist and if you come across an antagonist, try to understand them, so that they become a protagonist in their story.