By Tom Knighton
A hero is only as good as his villain. Personally, I’ve always felt that the best villains are ones that can be related to on some level. They villains seem to have some driving force that we can understand. What makes them evil is that they take this relatable force and use it to cross every boundary that decent people hold dear.
However, villains are another area where what works in fiction doesn’t always reflected in reality.
Right now, the most popular villain is the turdnugget who decided to walk into a church in Charleston, SC and kill people for nothing more than the color of their skin. This is something that the vast majority of us are unable to comprehend. I mean, skin tone is as arbitrary a dividing line as hair color or eye color, so why kill people for just that factor?
We can’t grasp it, yet it happened. I refuse to actually write the turdnugget’s name anywhere, because I don’t want to give him any more press. He already got his fame, which I suspect was a factor in his attack, but I refuse to add to it. It’s a small effort to keep people from mimicking his efforts.
All too often, people think of “villains” as those who oppose them on whatever issue they hold dear. Monsanto is the villain to people like “Food Babe”. The NRA is the villain to the gun control crowd. The Sad Puppies are the villains to the Puppy Kickers. The flip side is also generally true as well.
The thing is, most of us have never truly experienced real “villainy”. We’ve never witnessed the pits of dead Albanians following the break-up of Yugoslavia. We never witnessed the Rwandan tribal slaughter. Many of us have never met a Jewish concentration camp survivor. To us, that level of villainy just doesn’t exist except as an abstract.
However, even the lesser forms of villainy are mere abstractions. Most of us never see the evil that seeks to prey on us. We may have our stuff stolen, but it’s by people we never see. Years ago, someone broke into my home. They stole relatively little, but their villainy was still there.
Since they never caught the person responsible, I don’t even have a face to put with the event, so it’s nothing more than a concept that a person did it. A certainty, to be sure, but still something that’s difficult to wrap my head around.
Relatively few people will be the victim of a crime which puts them face to face with the criminal. Some of us have, to be sure, but those who have are in the minority.
As writers, we try our best to stare into the face of such evil, all to try and create it in a believable way. Racist turdnuggets are good universal villains, after all. You tend not to alienate people with your bad guys when you pick someone everybody can hate. That’s why Nazis are so good at it.
However, I can’t speak for everyone, but I can’t comprehend their thoughts. I get the fear, but I can’t grasp why they’re afraid of those groups. I know too many Jews who I would go to war for. I know too many of every ethnic group I feel the same way about. I can’t get why anyone would hate an entire group.
I’ve always prided myself on my ability to get inside someone’s head and understand their motives. I’ve done it plenty of times and found out just how right I was. In an abstract kind of way, I know what these people think, but I can’t grasp why they think that.
Honestly, I don’t think I ever want to understand it either.
And yet, there are those who are ready to ascribe such motives to us. They’re ready to link this turdnugget to us, despite the fact that most of us not only decry his actions, but we actually supported several authors who don’t fit the “white, Mormon male” narrative (to say nothing of the fact that authors were nominated that we may disagree with politically).
Look, I’m going to make this clear. Bigotry is stupid. Racism is beyond stupid. All we have ever wanted is people and works to be judged based on quality, both the quality of the person and the quality of the work. Anyone who opposes a work because the author is black, or a woman, or gay, or a socialist is a moron. Anyone who dislikes a work because the author is white, or male, or straight, or a conservative/libertarian is just as much of a moron.
There are real villains in this world. How about some of the people screaming the most about villains try something different and start looking at real villains for a change.