Thursday, January 28, 2010

Da Illest Villains

It's always little dull men like you, isn't it? -- Dan Dare to the Mekon

John Hurt in excessive facial prosthetics and a Brian Henson-voiced retarded dog in front of a fireplace telling stories. This honestly would have been enough for me as a 24 year old, but I'm sure 9 year old me would have begged to differ. Jim Henson's The Storyteller series consists of nine episodes recounting Celtic, German and Russian folk tales.

Don't expect Disney-style fairy tales, though: people die, go to hell, meet devils, man-eating griffons and Terrible Things In The Water. But it's all in good fun (even though I recall being quite scared watching this as a child)! There's a very British sensibility to this production, which causes all the monsters and ne'er-do-wells to be strangely susceptible to reason and etiquette which, in turn, kind of causes them to be a lot less scary. Also they are very obvious puppets.

During my week-long odyssey through storyville, I also happened to see 2004's Der Untergang, the "Passion of the Hitler" movie. I didn't know very much about it, save for Bruno Ganz' apparently great performance. No doubt about it that he was good and compelling, but I don't know if I would say I was totally blown away. But perhaps this had something to do with my own preconceived notions. Hitler has become kind of a joke. "Worse than Hitler" has become jokey hyperbole. "You know who also liked [something]? Hitler!"

Now, I'll readily admit I'm not a Hitler-scholar, but the movie didn't really tell me anything about Hitler I didn't already know. Likes dogs, (white) kids, yelling, is a gentleman to (white) ladies, ... I did learn that Eva Braun was the jolliest of beards. Not to knock the film or anything; I always do enjoy a good old "descent into debauchery" tale. One thought that did permeate my viewing: "God, why didn't anyone just step up like Slim Charles and pop two into this decaying asshole's skull? Why does he still have so many followers, even with the Russians at the damn door?". Without delving into demagogy (I'm already pretty proud my initial guess its spelling was correct!), one need only take even a cursory glance at a high school textbook to kinda get the devotion.

I got the idea for this post as I was watching another episode of The Storyteller the next day, and got to thinking about the nature of villainy. A well-known rule of writing is that antagonists should be well-rounded and interesting. Don't just make their actions evil for evil's sake. And then Hitler, one of the bestest examples of real-life supervillainy, is the most boring fuck in the world when he's not being all shouty and murderous. If you look at the private security contractors who're jumping on Haiti right now, they're pretty much COBRA in real life, but somehow I don't think Erik Prince is as entertaining as Cobra Commander.

Don't get me wrong, "real life villains" can make for very interesting stories in their own right. I'm not advocating for cinema to return to ONLY PANTOMIME VILLAINY PLZ, I'm just saying that sometimes you want a man-eating griffon in a castle of skulls. They're the mysterious "other", villains fit for childhood and the terror of the outside world. Denizens of a realm where you would fear to tread, defeatable only by shows of kindness and perseverance and spirit. Hitler and Prince are real-life villains: cunts.

I leave you with the best villain of all time farting:

haha a fart

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