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No One Mourns the Wicked

“No One Mourns the Wicked”. That is most certainly not true! Though we see that in some media, the truth is, we love and mourn a good villain often. If the success of the hit musical “Wicked” isn’t enough let’s look at the popularity of Disney’s “Maleficent” as another example or the popular book “Jacob T Marley” as further evidence.

We love a good villain. My beta readers are eating up my latest addition to the villain roster Emmerick and Heklis is already a fan favorite. I think he is the most popular frankly. And why not? They’re fun! But lately we have a trend of making them even more. We want to feel bad for them.

Not that Wicked the Musical made that a new idea. That kind of literature and fan fiction was common long before that. But why? Don’t villains embody the very essence of evil? Shouldn’t we want to shun that?

Truth is. None of us want to be a villain, but the fact we all love the villains tells us one thing. We all know there is a villain in us. And the only way for us to deal with that is to either turn that evil good or make their evil excusable by making them empathetic.

Maleficent does a great job of this! Though this movie could never be the backstory of the evil sorceress we have in the Disney classic, it does make a reasonable backstory for this villain and a reason for us to understand and be able to forgive her evil.

And there! Did you see it. There’s the key word that ties all of this together. Did you catch it? Read the paragraph again.

“Maleficent does a great job of this! Though this movie could never be the backstory of the evil sorceress we have in the Disney classic, it does make a reasonable backstory for this villain and a reason for us to understand and be able to forgive her evil.”

The key word on why we love these kind of villains stories just emerged. Forgive. We desperately want to forgive the villain for their evil. We want them to be able to change and to be forgiven. Why?

Because we know the villain in each of us. Or even more. We have a villain we love dearly. For some maybe it’s an abusive or harsh parent. For others maybe a sibling, best friend, former lover, current lover, or other loved one. We want to forgive them. We want to forgive ourselves, and these stories often allow us to do the same for our favorite villains.

Wicked does this by turning the Wicked Witch of the West into an activist being wronged by the government.

But wait! Did we just make a villain forgivable? Or did we just make a different villain?

Maybe this one is a bad example. Let’s go back to Maleficent. Oops, nope, not going to fix it. King Stephan becomes the new bad guy.

Uh, okay, how about a different example. What about the book I mentioned about Jacob Marley, the ghost in Dickens Christmas classic. ALright, there isn’t really a ‘new’ villain. We just learn about how Jacob corrupted scrooge and Marley’s path to be able to try to save Scrooge. But does that count? After all, Scrooge was the villain in the original, not Marley. So weak evidence, but some evidence at least.

So is perhaps this habit less about making a villain forgivable or sympathetic, but perhaps it’s about making someone else a villain? In Wicked we went from a woman, minority being the villain to a man. Oh wait, didn’t Wicked do the same thing?

Let’s look at another version of the past of the Wicked Witch of the West in “The Great and Powerful Oz”. Nope, it’s the wizard’s fault for breaking her heart. So another deflect the fault to a man.

Technically Disney’s Frozen is the same thing. Elsa was supposed to be the villain until the villain song became too empowering to give to a villain. SO what did they do instead? Deflected the villain role to a different character.

The many retellings of the Evil Queen in Snow White does this too. It’s her wicked mother, or former lover who broke her, it’s always a new villain making this one, not just redeeming or forgiving the last. There has to be forgiveness or redemption somewhere!

Mr. Darcy? Well, yeah, though we rarely put him in this section as we never quite see him as a ‘villain’ in most media, in the book he starts out that way only to have what he has changed in our eyes over time. But again, is this changing a man one seen as good to the villain?

So are we not making a cycle of redeeming villains but rather moving the chain of blame to someone else once thought good?

Perhaps that is the point. But we’ll have to examine more of these titles to be sure.

What do you think? Is that really what is going on with all the villain remakes or making them sympathetic? I am a firm believer in having evidence in 3’s, and I only see two. But I’m sure there are more. Is this a pattern you’re seeing? Is it a good thing? Tell me your thoughts and sign up if you want to see more content just like this.


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