Villain

Villain
One popular concept of the "villain", meant to mimic the purposely distinctive visage of villains, initially from the stage plays of the 1880s.

A villain (also known in film and literature as the "bad guy", "black hat", or "heavy") is an "evil" character in a story, whether a historical narrative or, especially, a work of fiction. The villain usually is the antagonist, the character who tends to have a negative effect on other characters. A female villain is sometimes called a villainess (often to differentiate her from a male villain). Random House Unabridged Dictionary defines villain as "a cruelly malicious person who is involved in or devoted to wickedness or crime; scoundrel; or a character in a play, novel, or the like, who constitutes an important evil agency in the plot".[1]

Contents

Etymology

French villains in the 15th century before going to work, receiving their Lord's Orders.

Villain comes from the Anglo-French and Old French vilein, which itself descends from the Late Latin word villanus, meaning "farmhand",[2] in the sense of someone who is bound to the soil of a villa, which is to say, worked on the equivalent of a plantation in Late Antiquity, in Italy or Gaul.[3] It referred to a person of less than knightly status and so came to mean a person who was not chivalrous. As a result of many unchivalrous acts, such as treachery or rape, being considered villainous in the modern sense of the word, it became used as a term of abuse and eventually took on its modern meaning.[4]

Folk and fairy tales

Baba Yaga often acts as a villain in Polish and Russian fairy tales

Vladimir Propp, in his analysis of the Russian fairy tales, concluded that a fairy tale had only eight dramatis personae, of which one was the villain,[5] and his analysis has been widely applied to non-Russian tales. The actions that fell into a villain's sphere were:

  • a story-initiating villainy, where the villain caused harm to the hero or his family
  • a conflict between the hero and the villain, either a fight or other competition
  • pursuing the hero after he has succeeded in winning the fight or obtaining something from the villain

None of these acts necessarily occurs in a fairy tale, but when any of them do, the character that performs the act is the villain. The villain therefore could appear twice: once in the opening of the story, and a second time as the person sought out by the hero.[6]

When a character performed only these acts, the character was a pure villain. Various villains also perform other functions in a fairy tale; a witch who fought the hero and ran away, and who lets the hero follow her, is also performing the task of "guidance" and thus acting as a helper.[7]

The functions could also be spread out among several characters. If a dragon acted as the villain, but was killed by the hero, another character (such as the dragon's sisters) might take on the role of the villain and pursue the hero.[7]

Two other characters could appear in roles that are villainous in the more general sense. One is the false hero: this character is always villainous, presenting a false claim to be the hero that must be rebutted for the happy ending.[8] Among these characters are Cinderella's stepsisters, chopping off parts of their feet to fit on the shoe.[9] Another character, the dispatcher, sends a hero on his quest. This might be an innocent request, to fulfil a legitimate need, but the dispatcher might also, villainously, lie to send a character on a quest in hopes of being rid of him.[10]

Villainous foil

The Wicked Witch of the West from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is an example of a literary villain.

In fiction, villains commonly function in the dual role of adversary and foil to the story's heroes. In their role as adversary, the villain serves as an obstacle the hero must struggle to overcome. In their role as foil, the villain exemplifies characteristics that are diametrically opposed to those of the hero, creating a contrast distinguishing heroic traits from villainous ones.[citation needed] Others[who?] point out that many acts of villains have a hint of wish-fulfillment,[11] which makes some people identify with them as characters more strongly than with the heroes. Because of this, a convincing villain must be given a characterization that makes his or her or its (see HAL 9000) motive for doing wrong convincing, as well as being a worthy adversary to the hero. As put by film critic Roger Ebert:

"Each film is only as good as its villain. Since the heroes and the gimmicks tend to repeat from film to film, only a great villain can transform a good try into a triumph."[12]

Portraying and employing villains in fiction

Tod Slaughter always portrayed villainous characters on both stage and screen in a melodramatic manner, with mustache-twirling, eye-rolling, leering, cackling, and hand-rubbing (however, this often failed to translate well from stage to screen).[13][14] Brad Warner states that "only cartoon villains cackle with glee while rubbing their hands together and dream of ruling the world in the name of all that is wicked and bad".[15] Ben Bova recommends to authors that their works not contain villains. He states, in his Tips for writers:

"In the real world there are no villains. No one actually sets out to do evil. Fiction mirrors life. Or, more accurately, fiction serves as a lens to focus what we know of life and bring its realities into sharper, clearer understanding for us. There are no villains cackling and rubbing their hands in glee as they contemplate their evil deeds. There are only people with problems, struggling to solve them."[16]

David Lubar adds:

"This is a brilliant observation that has served me well in all my writing. (The bad guy isn't doing bad stuff so he can rub his hands together and snarl.) He may be driven by greed, neuroses, or the conviction that his cause is just, but he's driven by something not unlike the things that drive a hero."[17]

See also

References

  1. ^ Random House Unabridged Dictionary Web Result. Retrieved from http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/villain.
  2. ^ Robert K. Barnhart, ed (1988). Chambers Dictionary of Etymology. New York: Chambers Harrap Publishers. pp. 1204. ISBN 0-550-14230-4. 
  3. ^ David B. Guralnik, ed (1984). Webster's New World Dictionary. New York: Simon and Schuster. 
  4. ^ C. S. Lewis (1960). Studies in Words. Cambridge University Press. 
  5. ^ Vladimir Propp, Morphology of the Folk Tale, p 79 ISBN 0-292-78376-0
  6. ^ Vladimir Propp, Morphology of the Folk Tale, p 84 ISBN 0-292-78376-0
  7. ^ a b Vladimir Propp, Morphology of the Folk Tale, p 81 ISBN 0-292-78376-0
  8. ^ Vladimir Propp, Morphology of the Folktale, p60, ISBN 0-292-78376-0
  9. ^ Maria Tatar, The Annotated Brothers Grimm, p 136 ISBN 0-393-05848-4
  10. ^ Vladimir Propp, Morphology of the Folktale, p77, ISBN 0-292-78376-0
  11. ^ Das, Sisir Kumar (1995). A History of Indian Literature: 1911-1956, p 416. Retrieved from http://books.google.com/books?id=sqBjpV9OzcsC&pg=PA416&lpg=PA416&dq=archetype+villains,+%22wish+fulfillment%22&source=web&ots=D88bD2p9Ih&sig=QinMvLWyin7usw-bDdfmTSTulcE&hl=en&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=4&ct=result.
  12. ^ Review of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan by Roger Ebert.
  13. ^ Bryan Senn (1996). Golden Horrors: An Illustrated Critical Filmography of Terror Cinema, 1931–1939. McFarland. pp. 481. ISBN 0786401753. 
  14. ^ Jeffrey Richards (2001). The Unknown 1930s. I.B.Tauris. pp. 150. ISBN 186064628X. 
  15. ^ Brad Warner (2007). Sit Down and Shut Up. New World Library. pp. 119. ISBN 1577315596. 
  16. ^ Ben Bova (2008-01-28). "Tips for writers". benbova.com. pp. 2. http://benbova.com/tips2.html. Retrieved 2008-12-05. 
  17. ^ "Villains Don’t Always Wear Black". Revision Notes. Darcy Pattison. 2008-01-28. http://darcypattison.com/characters/villains-dont-always-wear-black/. 

External links


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Synonyms:

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Villain — ist der Familienname folgender Personen: Erwin Villain (1898–1934), deutscher Arzt und SA Führer Raoul Villain (1885–1936), französischer Nationalist Marcel Brun, Pseudonym Jean Villain (1928–2006), Journalist und Schriftsteller Jean Villain… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Villain — Vil lain, n. [OE. vilein, F. vilain, LL. villanus, from villa a village, L. villa a farm. See {Villa}.] [1913 Webster] 1. (Feudal Law) One who holds lands by a base, or servile, tenure, or in villenage; a feudal tenant of the lowest class, a… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • villain — c.1300, base or low born rustic, from Anglo Fr. and O.Fr. villain, from M.L. villanus farmhand, from L. villa country house (see VILLA (Cf. villa)). The most important phases of the sense development of this word may be summed up as follows:… …   Etymology dictionary

  • villain — villain, scoundrel, blackguard, knave, rascal, rogue, scamp, rapscallion, miscreant can all denote a low, mean, and reprehensible person utterly lacking in principles. Villain describes one utterly given to crime, evil, and baseness {are not made …   New Dictionary of Synonyms

  • villain — villain, villein The two spellings are forms of a single word with two branches, originally meaning either ‘a low born rustic’ or ‘a serf in the feudal system’ and derived from the Latin word villa meaning ‘country house or farm’. The spelling… …   Modern English usage

  • Villain — Vil lain, a. [F. vilain.] Villainous. [R.] Shak. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Villain — Vil lain, v. t. To debase; to degrade. [Obs.] Sir T. More. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • villain — index convict, criminal, hoodlum, malefactor, wrongdoer Burton s Legal Thesaurus. William C. Burton. 2006 …   Law dictionary

  • villain — [n] evil person antihero, blackguard*, brute, caitiff, creep*, criminal, devil, enfant terrible*, evildoer, heel, libertine, lowlife*, malefactor, mischief maker*, miscreant, offender, profligate, rapscallion, rascal, reprobate, scoundrel, sinner …   New thesaurus

  • villain — ► NOUN 1) a person who is guilty or capable of a crime or wickedness; a wrongdoer. 2) a character in a novel or play whose evil actions or motives are important to the plot. DERIVATIVES villainous adjective villainy noun. ORIGIN originally in the …   English terms dictionary

  • villain — [vil′ən] n. [ME vilein < OFr vilain < VL villanus, a farm servant < L villa, a farm: see VILLA] 1. a person guilty of or likely to commit great crimes; evil or wicked person; scoundrel 2. a wicked or unprincipled character in a novel,… …   English World dictionary


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