Tag Archives: Hollywood

What I’ve Learned About Bad Guys in Fantasy Movies

Lord of the Rings, orcs, evil, villains, bad guys, movies

Lord of the Rings had epic bad guys. These one are just minions but you get the idea. Evil ain’t pretty.

Hollywood is built on cliches, recognizable tropes that audiences can identify to guide them through a story and conflict. But it seems that Hollywood has been feeding so long off of this pap that even the most obvious plots are dumbed down in dialogue and in imagery. Audiences aren’t that stupid (I hope) and it’s good when we have a challenge. What if the bad guy looks like you or me? Well, sometimes we want the villains to be petty, small minded, ugly and obviously a dick. Then we can cheer all the harder.

I find that in a lot of these movies they develop the hero’s role and character into three dimensions, but the villain will often be a cardboard cutout and very two-dimensional. Some of these get so trite that I throw up my hands in frustration. It’s not just medieval fantasy movies that have this issue. Modern and SF movies have the same problem, with often too easy to hate monsters. Star Wars, which could fall into a fantasy in space in many ways, like Lord of the Rings had a much more epic and sweeping tale. The bad guys have some depth but still evil is ugly and corrupts and corrodes them so that even their very forms are distorted.

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Emperor Palpatine from Star Wars follows the classical bad guy stereotype.

I’m not saying it’s bad to use these tropes…sometime, but it’s good to see some variance on the stereotypes. Perhaps that’s what’s so interesting about The Game of Thrones; the bad guys are so very human and sometimes pretty. So, with no further ado, here’s a list of what I’ve learned about bad guys in the fantasy movies.

  • If the evil overlord wears a helmet, it will usually have a skull, horns,  glowering eye slits, or other death’s head funnery. It will obviously emulate evil.
  • The destined hero will be the only survivor when his village is massacred and he tortured by the bad guy. Somehow his value is much greater, even if there is a prophecy that says he’ll kill Mr. Bad.
  • A village of farmers, with nothing much of value will be overrun and completely destroyed, with the villains taking neither slaves nor food. So, what, they just get drunk and want to commit anarchy?
  • Evil voices will be low, gravelly and guttural. Just imagine how sinister it would be to have a high-pitched nasally whine coming at you while you’re tied in the torture chamber.
  • The villain’s color spectrum does not include blue, green, yellow, orange or purple. It would be pretty scary to see a villain in pink and orange.
  • Their evil is so potent that they will reduce the land to cinders and ash, even though the minions still need to be fed, but perhaps they feed on people.
  • If you can see their eyes, they’ll be black pits or glowy red.
  • Evil overlords will inevitably fail but not before they maim a lot of people and scourge the land.

    movies, bad guys, heroes, villains, evil overlords, Wolfhound, pets

    Wolfhound is a movie out of Europe and slightly better in the medieval fantasy style.

Wolfhound, a movie out of Europe, was more interesting than most though it followed some of the tropes. The hero has a pet bat for a sidekick. That was different. Still, he is the only survivor of his village, a lone wolf, and not particularly trusted or liked at first. But he is noble in his valor and as the tale progresses he gets his revenge and more. Not badly done but look for the usual bad guy stereotypes.

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Movie Fallacies: Eyeglasses

The movies are notorious for giving us views of the world that don’t actually reflect reality. Granted, movies are make-believe, there are those “realistic” ones that still skew the truth. Early operatic Valkyries colored people’s views of Vikings and it is still popular to see hulking Norse berserkers with giant horns (or wings) on their helmets, when in fact, archeological evidence indicates this was never the case. There was one helm with straight conical horns and deemed ceremonial due to the decorations, rather than functional.

Now, if we look at Hollywood’s view of intelligence, it almost always involves glasses, especially for women. If a woman isn’t portrayed as a vixen or a housewife, then inevitably she wears glasses so that we know she couldn’t possibly be sexy and therefore must be intelligent (because no way can Hollywood fathom sexy and intelligent–sexy and devious yes, but not straight-on I’m-going-to-solve-this-crisis smart).

Sometimes synonymous with eyeglass intelligence is that of nerdiness. Your nerd, more often guys than not, in any movie is often connected to a computer and wears glasses; big glasses, nerdy glasses. Once in a while you may have an exception, the guy that works a computer all the time but doesn’t wear glasses but it’s rare. Tom Cruise or some other star might, in the role of his Mission Impossible character, need to use a computer but he doesn’t have to wear glasses. Even Tosh in Torchwood, when she’s at the computer puts glasses on.

And that’s what happens to most “intelligent” women, no matter their age in a movie or TV show. As soon as they’re at a computer they wear glasses. Because Hollywood thinks we won’t believe a person’s intelligence without that very noticeable symbol. Although most people don’t need reading glasses until they’re in their 40s or 50s you would think, by Hollywood standards, that everyone is going farsighted early. When I worked on Level 9  for its brief life, the show (about cybercops) was full of computer users but one young woman had to toss glasses on each time at the computer, because that’s just what computer users do. I’m sitting here right now typing without glasses and I do need reading  glasses in low light.

Hollywood’s second name is stereotype. All those old westerns had the good guys in white (or light colors for B&W) and the bad guys in black. Then The Avengers came along and sexy, competent Emma Peel wore black. Gotta give that show credit for mixing it up a bit at an early age.

Next time you’re watching a show that has an intelligent woman in it, check to see if she’s ever sexy in her glasses (also a rarity) or if she is only ever dressed to kill minus the eyewear. And look for that sign of her intelligence when she puts her glasses on, no matter how young she is. And check those nerdy scientist guys. Even if they’re good looking hunks, chances are, if they’re scientists or tied to computers, they’re going to have the eyeglasses (and maybe even the ubiquitous white lab coat).

Hollywood is certainly not into leading in the forefront and often into perpetuating stereotypes. I’m betting some of the HBO shows break those stereotypical taboos more than other stations. Maybe PBS too. It would be interesting to do a survey and see who the worst offenders are, or if it’s the formulaic movies. Signing off, without glasses, and with intelligence.

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Teenage Sex and Teachers

When I was in high school we had this drama teacher. Big at emoting; surprise surprise. There were a range of us, from those who wanted to be there acting to those who were slacking with an easy elective class. I was still shy but actually liked to act. One of the better “acting” students was, if anything, very dramatic. She and this teacher would emote at each other constantly, to the exclusion of the rest of us. In fact, he barely taught us at points because they were too busy googoo gaaing at each other.

Were they having sex? Most of us thought so. Did we care? Not really. I only cared because my instruction was suffering as this teacher gave one student who didn’t need it all of his time. Were we scandalized? No. Presuming they did have some sort of affair, I have to say that 17-18 year-old girl definitely was cognizant of what she did, wanted it, hoped for it. She certainly wasn’t coerced or influenced and may have manipulated the situation.

Hero worship, big daddy syndrome or whatever you want to call it has gone on for a very long time. Hollywood perpetuates it with leading men often 20 years older than the women. Only in a few cases have they (Hollywood) been brave enough to actually have a female lead older than the male. Harold and Maude is an example of a spring/winter relationship where friendship and personality does not see the boundaries of age. I’ve never had a problem with relationships where one person was significantly younger/older than the other.

A friend of mine is married to a man 18 years older, and friends of theirs just got married and there is nearly 30 years difference. I’ve dated men 15 years younger or older than me. What balances age? Attitude, similarities, wisdom, youthfulness and maturity.

A teacher in their 20s or 30s attracted to an 18-year-old isn’t that odd in our society. Where the problem comes in, today at least, is that there is seen to be an imbalance of power. A teacher could in essence coerce a student into having sex with them for passing grades. This applies as well to colleges and universities. Such fraternization isn’t just frowned on but basis for dismissal. Old movies are rife with college professors married to the young women they slept with, causing their first marriage to fail. Of course, a professor can also be blackmailed by a student in such a relationship.

There have been several cases of teachers being charged; sometimes with true grounds for sexual harassment. Sometimes the instructor was blackmailed or set up without any truth. There are people who will use any situation to manipulate and have power over someone. Doing an internet search will show that there are enough cases of teachers of both genders having sex with their students.

A female Burnaby teacher at St. Thomas More school is now under investigation for alleged relations with a grade 11 student. Tom Ellison was convicted with a conditional sentence for his sexual congress with 17 students (that he confessed to being with). Twelve of seventeen former students complained of their relations with him in the 70s. Because laws for any teacher having sex with a person under 18 regardless of consent were not passed until 1988, the sentence was of a lesser degree.

There are two aspects to teacher/professors having sex with students. The main one for both is the abuse of a position of authority.  For school teachers it is also the issue of underage sex. There are definite cases of rape and sexual abuse, but there are also the nebulous cases and it becomes unclear who instigated and if a student would ever suffer ill effects from the sexual encounters with their teachers. The simplest way to keep it from getting ambiguous is the law as it stands:

The Criminal Code does not now criminalize consensual sexual activity with or between persons 14 or over, unless it takes place in a relationship of trust or dependency, in which case sexual activity with persons over 14 but under 18 can constitute an offence, notwithstanding their consent. Even consensual activity with those under 14 but over 12 may not be an offence if the accused is under 16 and less than two years older than the complainant. The exception, of course, is anal intercourse, to which unmarried persons under 18 cannot legally consent, although both the Ontario Court of Appeal(3) and the Quebec Court of Appeal(4) have struck down the relevant section of the Criminal Code.

Blame can often be shared. There is a bigger difference of sex with a 14-year-old than with an 17-year-old. Coerced sex is never right but consensual sex gets iffy. Teachers are now being tried mostly on the basis that they are going against the law. If anyone asked me in a court of law if that high school classmate of long ago was coerced, I would definitely say not. But if the affair affected how we were being taught, I would definitely say yes. And if one had broken up with the other, there could have been blackmail. It’s better to keep it black and white.

http://www.cbc.ca/canada/british-columbia/story/2007/01/26/bc-ellison.html

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