Simply put, villains are characters in a story that stand in the way of the protagonist and his or her wants. Villains are often what make movies memorable. They make the story entertaining by dramatically raising the stakes. In our everyday lives, however, we do not want to have villains. If we could, we’d find a way to get them out of our lives and that would be for the better, right? Wrong.
Here are five reasons you should thank your villains:
1. Villains make us face what we dislike about ourselves.
Just for fun, think of three people you strongly dislike in your life. What is the main attribute you don’t like about them? More than likely, these main attributes are traits that you don’t want to admit you are capable of having, or are traits you know you have. And if you’re like most people, you hide these traits! However, they still exist in you. And the more you repress them, the more powerful they become. Villains are the physical embodiment of these traits. When we face the villain, we face ourselves.
2. Villains give us our strength.
Friends, guides, and allies support you along your journey. That support is helpful, but it is opposition that tests your strength of character. While you can convince those who believe in you that you’ve got what it takes, villains make you prove it; they force us to take action in our lives. They will never allow us to have it easy unlike those who care about us. If you don’t hone your skills and increase your strengths, you may pay the price.
3. Villains show us our weaknesses.
Those that love us judge us on the qualities they find good; we love them because they seek out our good qualities. Villains, however, loathe your good qualities. The only thing the villains in your life enjoy about you are your weaknesses. They expend a lot of time and energy trying to figure out how to tear you down. Good villains find weaknesses that you and your supporters had no idea existed. Once these villains do, they will use them against you. Yet once they make us aware of our weaknesses, we can find a way to address those weaknesses.
4. Villains make us question our beliefs.
A good villain has strong motivation for what they are doing. There is logic behind all the actions they take. Many stories have what I call the Villain’s Appeal. This is when the villain tries to convince the protagonist that the way the villain views the world is the right way. The appeal is tempting for the protagonist to believe because the argument is grounded in a grain of truth. Like the protagonists in stories, we may face moments when we question our own beliefs. By understanding beliefs counter to our own, we can strengthen our own.
5. Villains remind us of what we could become.
The choices we make define us. These choices shape our realities and make us who we are. By seeing the ramifications of the villain’s actions, we are given a strong example of what not to do in our own lives. A good protagonist will study the villain’s life path and learn from the villain’s mistakes.
Villains never go away. Once you overcome one, another one will come to take his or her place. If you have no villains in your life, you’re doing something wrong. The more active you are in your choices, the more villains will be standing in your way. Be grateful that you have villains to overcome, as they remind us of our true power.
Jeremy Frazier graduated from Carnegie Mellon with a MFA in Drama Writing. He is the recipient of the Max K. Lerner Playwriting Fellowship and the Shubert Playwriting Fellowship. He was also a finalist for the John Cauble Award at the Kennedy Center for his one-act play, We’ll Always Have Paris. Jeremy was recently named as a quarter-finalist for the PAGE International Screenwriting Awards competition for his feature screenplay, Of Flesh and Blood. As the founder of the Actor’s Writing Gym, he loves working with actors to help them create their dream roles and believes that actors make the best writers.