Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Heroes vs. Villains: Who's Actually What?

So recently I've been thinking about some of my favorite villains and heroes in books, movies and shows and it got me thinking about something: What really makes a hero and a villain that exactly? Is it a love for wicked acts and a hunger to bring justice to the world? Or is it something that just manifests randomly? Or is it that we've somehow been blinded to the fact that maybe in some way we're all both hero and villain? I wanted to break this aspect down and see who's actually what when it comes to being a hero or villain and classified as such. During this post, I'll be following a particular formula that I like to call "The Beauty And The Beast Effect". Let's get started.

So assuming you've seen the beloved Disney movie, you'll know that Gastone is the villain in our story and the Beast is the good guy who gets the girl and they all live happily ever after, right? Well, I'm here to challenge that theory. Let's break it down further:

Gastone is willing to blackmail Belle into marrying him by threatening to harm her father and possibly worse. However, if Gastone had actually succeeded in his plan, where does that even get him? Into a loveless marriage? What's the point in even pursuing Belle if he knows full well she won't ever care for him? He also goes after the beast in order to kill him because he sees him as a threat to the town. Sure, he has somewhat distorted reasons but overall, wouldn't any person living in fear want to be rid of the thing scaring them? 

And then we have the Beast. The guy who's portrayed as a good guy turned bitter and lonely by an evil witch and takes Belle hostage and lets her father be free. They, of course, fall in love, he turns human again and they're married and live out their days happily. HOWEVER, let's not overlook the fact that since Belle falls in love with the Beast, wouldn't that be the case of STALKHOME SYNDROME? And, she never really escapes the whole blackmailing thing since, in both situations, she's only abiding because she wants her father safe. 

So, with that being said, my question still remains: What really makes a villain or a hero and is there really even a definition?

To get my point across, let's take a look at obvious villains and heroes. Our first example is Queen Levana from The Lunar Chronicles. Levana is portrayed as a heartless ruler who couldn't care less about the health and conditions of her people, even having tried killing her own family and succeeding a few times. I don't want to give out spoilers so that's the gist of it. Queen Levana didn't always act out wickedly, she was once a nice kid but as her life went on and people continued to treat her like trash and ignored her very existence, I can imagine that might take a pretty heavy emotional toll on someone; turning them heartless and cold. But is that really enough to turn someone into a villain? I'm not saying she's a good person, she is the definition of evil, but is emotional turmoil and cruel family members really all it takes to make someone a villain? If that's the case, then why did Harry Potter save the world? Why did Four help bring down an entire government system to allow people way better futures? Why didn't Cinderella burn the house down with her stepsisters and stepmother inside? 

Our next example is a hero. Not from a book but you get the idea. Mulan is my favorite Disney Princess for many reasons, one being that she's willing to do whatever it takes to ensure her family's safety and fighting for what's right. The whole point of her going to war was because she wanted her father safe since she knew that he more than likely would not survive on a battlefield in his old age. She didn't have to step up to the plate and pose as a dude and train with others for a country-wide war but she did anyway. Throughout the entirety of her staying disguised as a man, going through training and eventually fighting in said war, she risks being killed on the spot should someone find out that she's, in fact, a woman. Not to mention, once she's allowed to go home, she runs into the city to warn the people that the thought-to-be-dead enemy is hiding in the city and will strike at any moment. She didn't have to do any of that but because she chose her loved ones over her own safety and life, that, by definition, makes her a hero. She did save the entire country of China after all. 

And let's not forget about the morally grey characters such as Wolf from The Lunar Chronicles, Peter from Divergent, and the classic Professor Snape from Harry Potter. Yes, they did some pretty bad things and you honestly love to hate them but there's also the fact that they walk the line between good and bad. They all did some wicked things in their past and continue to walk on the dark side but they also commit acts that end up helping the good guys, by their own will might I add. They didn't have to help out the good guys but they also weren't forced to help the bad guys. These characters, in my own personal opinion, really prove that heroes and villains are capable of being both at the same time, maybe one side showing a little brighter than the other. 

They also point out the product of this entire discussion: We're all heroes and villains, good and bad, all at the same time. Heroes and villains are simply left up to your own interpretation, some signs being obvious and others being mixed. There's no denying who's the villain in the story or who's the hero but there are also characters that are seemingly both and are left for you to decide and discuss.

Whether they had good upbringings, bad experiences with people, broken trust or reliable friends, a hero and villain are parts a character has to choose between. This entire hero vs. villain thing will probably continue to be discussed for many, many years to come which is part of the reason why it's such a good debate. What really makes a hero? Who's really the villain? Both are capable of doing both good and bad things so what draws the fine line between it? What do YOU think about all of this? Let's continue this discussion in the comments!

I hope you guys enjoy this discussion! Read on bookworms! See you in the next chapter!


  1. Ooo, what an interesting topic! I agree. The whole Beauty and the Beast situation is most definitely Stockholm Syndrome. Sometimes the difference between heroes and villains can be very hard to tell. I usually look at a character's intentions and whether or not they come from a good place when declaring heroes. But even that doesn't work out sometimes with characters like Snape. His intentions were good but many of his actions are just plain mean.

    1. Ooh nice addition! I totally agree with how hard it can be to determine who's a hero and a villain. Sometimes it's like a mind game.