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Evil protagonists from fiction - or 'Examples of how to play the bad guy without being a total jerk'


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Campbell

Relaxed Intensity
I think Jackson Teller from Sons of Anarchy is really interesting case of this in motion. Jacks is thoughtful, honorable charming, and wants to leave the world better than he found it. He is also manipulative, vengeful, self destructive, and thoroughly capable of wanton violence at a moment's notice. Despite a genuine desire to be a good man Jacks always chooses to lean in to his worst impulses when things get hard. He's also devoted to his friends, family, and club. He's a friend we would all want to have, but he's not a good dude at all.
 

I think Jackson Teller from Sons of Anarchy is really interesting case of this in motion. Jacks is thoughtful, honorable charming, and wants to leave the world better than he found it. He is also manipulative, vengeful, self destructive, and thoroughly capable of wanton violence at a moment's notice. Despite a genuine desire to be a good man Jacks always chooses to lean in to his worst impulses when things get hard. He's also devoted to his friends, family, and club. He's a friend we would all want to have, but he's not a good dude at all.

I gotta say, if this is true (that we all deeply want this guy as our friend/in our corner while simultaneously knowing his persistence is a damaging influence on notions "the common good"), its as much a commentary on the performative pretensions of our "civilization impulses" as it is our aspirations to transcend our baser, monkey instinct. And I think the through line of the first commentary (humans are overwhelmingly self-interested cowards governed by rote evolutionary programming) has much more say (and will continue to have more say) on human trajectory than the latter.
 

I gotta say, if this is true (that we all deeply want this guy as our friend/in our corner while simultaneously knowing his persistence is a damaging influence on notions "the common good"), its as much a commentary on the performative pretensions of our "civilization impulses" as it is our aspirations to transcend our baser, monkey instinct. And I think the through line of the first commentary (humans are overwhelmingly self-interested cowards governed by rote evolutionary programming) has much more say (and will continue to have more say) on human trajectory than the latter.
Well, you're a little glowing nugget of positivity. SPEND YOUR SAVINGS ALL, WE'RE OFFICIALLY DOOMED!
 


What I actually meant to say was:

Bikers...


...cool
Yeah, we're still doomed ;)
Honestly, I'd say Moorcock is good for a few anti-heroish incarnations of the EC. Hawkmoon is pretty brutal at times. Erekose wipes out an entire race. Corum ALSO wipes out an entire race (humanity in this case) just for revenge, though he seems to be pretty loyal to his allies (the few that he ever has).
 

Giving the Devil a robot isn't exactly evil though is it?

And not seeing where he actually sold any of the kids as food (the kids all seemed alive and un-eaten so it could have just been an elaborate scam).

Still have Bender CN.

I just realized that I left out Bender's use of slave labor in A Pharaoh to Remember
 

I just realized that I left out Bender's use of slave labor in A Pharaoh to Remember
Im not saying he's a nice guy, but he's also acted out of altruism and even self sacrifice before as well (although he's generally selfish). Not enough for me to make him CE (like Rick Sanchez or Roger the Alien) both of whom regularly engage in murder, genocide, rape, child abuse and worse.

His 'Kill all Humans' persona was a bit much, but that was an alternate version so I'll give him a pass for that!
 



A lot of reasons, I think. Economic crises. Crime was on the rise. The Age of Aquarius ended with the Tate-Labianca murders. You had the so-called golden age of serial killers. There were a lot of cultural shifts going on. There was the perennial fear of whatever the latest thing The Kids were into.

These violent cop and vigilante movies fed on those fears, and fed into them.

why where 70's cops media so nuts?
 

A lot of reasons, I think. Economic crises. Crime was on the rise. The Age of Aquarius ended with the Tate-Labianca murders. You had the so-called golden age of serial killers. There were a lot of cultural shifts going on. There was the perennial fear of whatever the latest thing The Kids were into.

These violent cop and vigilante movies fed on those fears, and fed into them.
Think I'd also tag a generalized shift in attitude towards "authority", with a lot more earned distrust generally (Civil Rights abuses, Vietnam, Watergate, etc.). Before, individual cops might be good or bad, but the presumption was always that the laws were good, and the people breaking them were bad.

After the 60s, I think it had gotten more normalized to question whether the laws were "on your side", and so you get more protagonists who can be seen as heroic for taking care of the problems the laws "can't" solve.
 



Yeah, cop movies from the 70s play very differently today. See also The French Connection.
See also this scene from Blade runner:


It's literally a rape scene, or at best something super creepy and with a massive power imbalance between the 'consenting' participants (if we're somehow of the view that Rachael is consenting despite her clear efforts to push him away, and stop it from happening) that Me-too would shudder at.
 

Been a while, but isn't he more LN?
More like Chaotic Good! He hasn't even the time of day for 'orders' or 'rules', he's out there handing the bad guys their asses, vigilante style. I mean, he has to work within the constraints of his 'job' to a degree, but in the end all that doesn't mean much to him. He SURE ain't lawful!
 

See also this scene from Blade runner:

It's literally a rape scene, or at best something super creepy and with a massive power imbalance between the 'consenting' participants (if we're somehow of the view that Rachael is consenting despite her clear efforts to push him away, and stop it from happening) that Me-too would shudder at.
And, see, I would consider that a complete mischaracterization of the relationship AND the action. lol. I mean, you have to be careful. This is a HIGHLY fictional situation unlike anything in the real world in some rather fundamental ways too. Decker slams the door, OTOH if she goes out, she WILL be retired. When he demands that she express feelings for him, there's a lot more to it than some guy bullying a woman, that reading is IMHO simply wrong.

I totally agree though, if a man in the real world behaved in the same way to a woman, I don't think that would be OK. The degree of how not OK might depend somewhat on the larger context, but it surely is not somewhere you can go. This is why movies exist though, to provide that escape. Exactly how we should view that in terms of what it does to us, yet another question.
 

Definitely. And it's fascinating to see how this shifted when the 80s came back and you started seeing comedic and semi-comedic takes, like Armed and Dangerous, and the Police Academy and Lethal Weapon series.

Think I'd also tag a generalized shift in attitude towards "authority", with a lot more earned distrust generally (Civil Rights abuses, Vietnam, Watergate, etc.). Before, individual cops might be good or bad, but the presumption was always that the laws were good, and the people breaking them were bad.

After the 60s, I think it had gotten more normalized to question whether the laws were "on your side", and so you get more protagonists who can be seen as heroic for taking care of the problems the laws "can't" solve.

Which takes us to this. The 80s was filled with problematic power dynamics, bad relationship models, bad dating advice, and stuff that's just plain squicky in hindsight. John Hughes' movies, just about every John Cusack film, and the list goes on from there.

That seen in Blade Runner gets extra problematic when viewed from the fact that she is a replicant, and her even being able to properly give consent is called into question. Then again, Deckard may or may not be a replicant himself, so it's all kinds of messed up and complicated.

See also this scene from Blade runner:


It's literally a rape scene, or at best something super creepy and with a massive power imbalance between the 'consenting' participants (if we're somehow of the view that Rachael is consenting despite her clear efforts to push him away, and stop it from happening) that Me-too would shudder at.
 

I think you guys are underplaying the “I fight the law and the law one”, revolutionary ethos that has undergirded America since time immemorial.

A culture that worships outlaws like Jesse James, Butch Cassidy, Billy the Kid, Wild Bill Hickok, and Prohibition Era Outlaws (Bonnie and Clyde, Ma Barker, Baby Face Nelson et all) as much as it reveres truly meaningful subversives such as George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, John Brown, Frederick Douglas, Nat Turner, Harriett Tubman, Susan Anthony, Rosa Parks, Jack Johnson, Ali, and MLK…well…that culture is telling you something…

Bad boys/girls that push back against establishment, plutocracy (even if only in perception) and government reach…even if the underclass that reveres them is collateral damage = WOOOOOO (cue Rick Flair).
 

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