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Posted: Feb 25 2013, 11:13 PM
Group: Advanced Member
So recently I encountered some people who were quite opposed to Nazi Germany and Empirical Japan. Not unusual and indeed their actions merit disapproval. But I began to realize that these feelings extended to some auxiliary aspects as well; labelling the German National Anthem (referring here to Hoffmann's 1841 lyrics) as unacceptable and calling the A6M a piece of crap. Granted Deutschlandlied does receive criticism and opinions about air-planes and such are always colourful, but these opinions seemed very influenced to me, heck one person said that they hate the Zero on principal, and all this leads up to a very interesting thought that emerged.
Simply it is the concept of villainy; when a person or people perform an evil act and are "defeated" or at least labelled as the wrong doers an interesting event takes place. Society attempts to dehumanize them and turn them into villains. Propaganda reasons aside I think this is primarily a preservation instinct if we begin to see the enemy as human it makes us afraid that like them we too are capable of the same horrendous acts. When we stop thinking of them as human it is much easier to defend our own self righteousness and convince ourselves that we would never be able to perform such atrocities.
The mindset of "they are the villain" is a dangerous one; if we continue to view the opponent as abstract evil, instead of as humans who do evil things we run the risk of making ourselves vulnerable to the very follies of the opponent. To that end I think it is very important that we try to understand why the "villain" did what they did, not justify it not apologize for it but understand it.
In the case of Germany there were certainly some wicked people involved, but how could so many people be given over to doing so many terribly things? I think that it was largely do to a feeling of loosing national identity. Many nations had just come out of Imperialism and where starting to finally define themselves as subjects of a nation instead of a king, coupled with the instability in eastern Europe people where probably feeling afraid that their way of life would be taken from them. Building off peoples fears is a fairly typical evil move (hey we even see it on the "good" side) so pointing the finger at Jews and Gypsies, people who would be less likely to identify themselves as German citizens despite living in Germany, would have been an affective way to manifest the cause of a peoples fears.
This is not dissimilar from what we have seen from the middle east extremists, people who's way of life seems threatened by external culture and then you have the loud media of America that is essentially the antithesis of all their values. I'm willing to bet that there where smart people in the world who saw it coming, and there is probably another event of which I am not aware that has not yet happened that is equally as predictable.
Okay so that was heavy how about villains in media? I think that sometimes they fit this pattern and other times the media makes a deliberate attempt to humanise or allow the audience to understand the villain. Star wars is an excellent example, at first Vader and the Emperor are just abstract manifestations of evil, a target to justify the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of storm troopers and civilians support personal. But when the masks comes of and you see that Vader is human there is a moment of empathy, there has to be if we continue to hate a person for being evil we judge ourselves and preservation instinct wants to prevent that. The prequels quality aside do an excellent job of helping the audience understand Anikin / Vader's choices, even while you simultaneously condemn them.
So what are your thoughts on villainy? Perspectives of how society tends to view the villain? Counter examples? Is there a danger of becoming too accepting and using other peoples evil as way to justify our own? Is there a way that we can condemn a persons actions and simultaneously accept them as humans not much different from our selves?
*Tried to do this as sort of a stream of conciousness didn't do any re writing for clarity just fixed up some glaring errors do to the lack of filter between thought and keyboard.
**My spell check recognizes Vader :D
***Apparently I'm in one of those moods.