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Antagonist-Centered Stories: What Can We Learn?

Everybody loves a story from the POV of the hero–the one whose moral compass points due north, who sacrifices him or herself for others, who puts others first. Most can’t resist the appeal of an underdog or a comeback kid–i.e., the geeky kid who gets bullied in Chapter 1 but kicks the bullies’ butts in Chapter 10 because by then, they’ve discovered their inner strength and gifts.

Despite these truths, there is a definite explosion of antagonist-centered stories out there, whether in movies, books, or television. The trend isn’t new; you can find it in fairytale spoofs like Seriously, Cinderella is SO Annoying! But lately, antagonist-centered stories are far more developed, giving their evil (or formerly evil) protagonists real development and character arcs.

Look at some examples of this phenomenon, such as Disney’s Descendants, the character arcs for Regina, Hook, and Zelena in Once Upon a Time, etc. Do certain genres lend themselves more to this type of arc, and why (as you can see, it’s huge in fairytales–but why)? What does it take to do this kind of story right? Do you believe antagonists or villains always need their own stories, or should we be content to let them be evil (and in what cases should we leave them to their evil)?

  • Try and find some more obscure examples of where antagonist-centred stories work and where they don't work, don't just stick the mainstream titles. This might help either prove your case or highlight why it might not work (depending on which way you go with this) – AidanGuagliardo 7 years ago