The Villains Among Us

I love anything to do with Phantom of the Opera: the original book by Gaston LeRoux, Susan Kay’s Phantom, the multiple (really good) fanfictions, Andrew Lloyd Weber’s musical, and the number of movies made. There was something special there about the Opera Ghost: he was a villain, but he was relatable. He was a genius, a madman, an architect, a builder, a composer, a magician, an illusionist, a ventriloquist, and passionate about music.

Rawr. Intellect is sexy.

One of my favourite memories as a kid was watching a made-for-TV movie based on The Phantom of the Opera, with Terri Polo and Charles Dance.

charles dance

Charles Dance was and still is an absolute, balls-to-the-wall, badass honey. Don’t care he’s older than my dad; I’d totally get with that.

I always cheered for the Phantom to get together with Christine. She was made for him. I mean, they were real soulmates. Instead, she ran off with Raoul, the most useless fop in the history of literature, in a fit of puppy love. You win some, you lose some. I’d like to add that Charles Dance and Gerard Butler make all my fangirl fantasies come to life.

*lets her mind wander for a moment* Oh yeah… bow chicka wow wow!

The Phantom is the quintessential, perfect villain. He’s the hero in his own world. An intelligent, disfigured man we can sympathise with and until we meet Raoul, we want him to get the girl. He’s been working with Christine on her voice, he’s brought her fame, and he loves her. He wants her. And, to a point, she loves him. As the story goes on, we realise that he’s not all he’s cracked up to be: he’s assassinated people, murdered others, drove some to insanity, tortured, and kidnapped people. But, when you look at what he’s been through and what he’s done, the sympathy is there. We pity him. We feel sorry for him, and at the end, when he lets Christine and Raoul go, he’s redeemed. What I loved about the 2003 movie is the end, where an elderly Raoul sees the ring and the rose on Christine’s grave. It gets me every time.

Villains are the negative feelings in each of us, just more stylised, more over the top. Thematic questions in literature often address questions and conflicts which are open-ended, resist a simple or single answer, or are controversial and/or thought-provoking: chaos, civilisation, identity, creation, freedom, adversity, illusion, reality, language, love, nature, the world, time, happiness, relationships, truths, beliefs… I could go on. Villains reflect the negative side of these themes and we as humans also have the negative side of these themes sitting in us all the time.

Which brings me to what I wanted to put up here: imagining a villain. Who is my villain in my stories? With Simon and Sarah, there are two antagonistic forces: Brice (Sarah’s psycho ex-boyfriend), and Rosaire (Simon’s prickly mother). In some cases, Brice crosses over to be Simon’s antagonist. Likewise, Simon’s mother crosses over to be Sarah’s.

I wanted to share a little about the antagonist in a previous story I began and then abandoned. I mentioned it briefly in my last post. The whole concept and premise behind this story was that I wanted to go away from the typical romance genre (the couple getting together and the action plot comes second to the romance) into something darker and grittier with romantic elements coming second to the action.

As a summary, a young assassin has agreed to take on a debt from a feared warlord during a time of severe gangland tensions. The warlord sees an opportunity to use the young assassin in more ways than one. The question is who’s going to come out on top after the dust settles?

I wrote an origin flash (small snippets from someone’s backstory) to define how they came to be the way they are. The character is Olin Misutani, the corrupt governor who wants the underworld for himself.

Olin Misutani (origin): Age 12.
Olin: Papa?
Papa: *is dead*
Olin: Papa!

Age 15:
Random Kid #1: Your dad’s dead. He deserved it.
O: Shut up.
RK #2: My dad says your dad should have died a long time ago.
O: Shut up!
RK #1 & #2: Your dad is dead! Your dad is dead!

Age 24:
Announcer: Misutani Olin is one of several new councillors for the city of Tokyo. He holds a master’s degree in political science. Aside from running on a platform of housing and benefit reform, as well as strengthening the penal system, Misutani is mostly seen as a voice of moderation in a city plagued by deep governance scandals.

Age 29:
Announcer: The final results are in: Misutani- 4 votes. Ranjit: 7 votes. Amanpour: 2 votes. Congratulations to Sandeep Ranjit.

Age 41:
Ranjit: It is with deep regret today that I must resign my post as governor of Japan and councillor to the Four Nations’ Council. My health, as of late, has been very poor and I find that I cannot perform the duties and requirements of my office any longer. A vote among the councillors has been passed and it is my great honour to announce that Misutani Olin has been chosen by the Four Nations’ Council as the next governor of Japan.

Age 43:
O: I don’t like liars.
Lau Huan: Yes, Sir.
O: The man lied to me. He said he wasn’t working for Saito. Take him, his wife, and his son out back. Shoot them.
LH: Yes, Sir.
O: Make sure you dump them at Saito’s club in plain view of the patrons. And when you’re done, tell him “kubi o aratte matteiru”.
LH: Wash his neck?
O: He’ll understand.

So, what do you think? Do you write your villain as the hero in his own story, or do you let his villainy take him wherever he wants to go?

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