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    What makes a compelling villain?

    Some movie villains have sympathetic motivations, whether its devotion to saving the planet ala Poison Ivy, drive to right a systemic wrong ala Black Panther’s Killmonger or Magneto, or desire for personal vengeance ala the Wicked Witch of the West or Clytemnestra. Some villains "just want to watch the world burn." Some are just hellbent on causing murder, destruction, and pain. Sometimes it seems the motivation doesn’t matter nearly as much as the character’s screen presence. Many movies try to add depth to their villains, only to leave lasting questions and plot holes over their villain’s arc. Are there any essential elements necessary for a great movie villain? Do we see any mistakes in creating villains that could be avoided by following certain rules of thumb? Sometimes it seems that the only difference between the hero and villain are a)who the narrative viewpoint sympathizes with and b) who’s destined to cross unforgivable lines. Is it okay that this is commonplace, or does it indicate a flaw in modern storytelling?

    • Thanks for the very helpful feedback T Palomino, I think there are two different directions I could take the question in, and I'm not sure which makes for a better prompt. The first is comparing various types of villains and the way they fundamentally shape the story and the hero, and how important the depth of their motivation affects the story. For instance, The Dark Knight has Joker, a villain with no deep motivation, but it also has Harvey Dent, and his arc is fundamental to creating a compelling finale. Other movies seem actually hamstrung by having a complicated and somewhat sympathetic villain, as they try to tell a good vs evil story. Perhaps the question could be comparing villains with complex vs simple motivations, how compelling they still can be, and how they shape the hero. Although perhaps this still too broad? The second direction I was considering was pointing out that many heroes have the same motivations as I listed, saving the world, righting systemic wrongs, and even obtaining vengeance. What does a narrative require to distinguish between its heroes and villains, and how often does an audience's viewpoint play more of a role in making the distinction, than the actual story and character choices? Infamously we have seen authors revamp stories to center the villains, such as Wicked recreating Elphaba, or the recent Joker film. Is the difference between a hero an a villain the amount of time the narrative spends focused on the aspects of the character that are sympathetic? Is it simply the lines each character crosses and refuses to cross? How important is the idea of morality in telling stories of heroes and villains? – ronannar 3 weeks ago
    Taken by acwright (PM) 3 weeks ago.

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    Latest Comments

    It’s interesting that even though we’re now deep into Phase 4, the superhero lineup in the next big team-up film still isn’t yet all that clear. I’d be curious about what an update to this article might think!

    Who Will Be The Next Face of The Marvel Cinematic Universe?

    I have to agree with some of the criticisms of this article unfortunately, and to pushback on your phrasing here. I don’t think the fact that anyone “blames male audiences” is “even worse” than the fact that they blame the movie being woman-centered for the failure. The fact that every female-led film is judged as a representative of womanhood, instead of as a film, is an immense problem with misogyny. The fact that women-led films are treated as niche instead of normal, and that one out of a dozen films having a woman protagonist is treated as political (even as you point out such movies have been around since the dawn of movies) is a huge problem. Moreover, I think this article immensely underestimates modern misogyny, and buys far too much into the excuses people give for their misogyny. I absolutely agree that these big movie studios use a pretense of progressivism to create lazy movies, and that it does nothing for entertainment or for feminism. But if you compare a movie like Captain Marvel to the first two Thor movies, to the first Ant-Man movie, or the first Doctor Strange, it isn’t weaker than any of them. And yet it had “immense backlash.” Let’s not pretend there’s no difference between it and any of Marvel’s other weaker movies. And this level of credence this article gives to a backlash which was undeniably affected by misogyny, calling Captain Marvel “hated by the audience,” buys into a demonstrably false narrative pushed by misogynists. Captain Marvel had an immense box office and received an A CinemaScore. What voices are being treated here as credible and representative, and what criticisms are being dismissed as motivated by politics?

    The Paradox of the Strong Female Character

    I can’t believe I never heard of this show before! Some shows got reruns so frequently you couldn’t miss them if you tried, and then there’s others completely off the rerun radar! This absolutely had me intrigued, and I checked out the first episode on Youtube. There were also some really solid ideas for new and current episodes listed here, I could absolutely see a revival as relevant as the original felt in its time.

    Celebrating, Analyzing, and Resurrecting Fillmore!