regnad_kcin (regnad_kcin) wrote in binky_betsy,
regnad_kcin
regnad_kcin
binky_betsy

On "bad guys"...and bad authors

I was originally going to put this in yesterday's thread, but thought it was worth a discussion on its own.

In talking about FOOB's downward spiral over the past few years, Howtheduck commented:

However, Mira Sobinski was the first one I can remember who was turned into a villain and stayed a villain, without anyone ever trying to find out why.

This is an important point.  I have found that, in an extended multi-year story, such as is often found in comic strips or television series, the tendency is to have simplistic, cardboard "bad guys" appear in the early years, but for the creator(s) to either flesh them out or replace them with more nuanced, better-drawn antagonists further on in the story's development.

The main example I give for this (simply because practically everyone in the Western World has seen it) is the television version of M*A*S*H.  At the outset, the opponent of the protagonists was the one-dimensional Major Burns, who was not only blindly militaristic but also stupid, ineffectual, cowardly, and a bad doctor.  He clearly only existed to be knocked down by the good guys, and have the audience feel happy when he got his regularly-scheduled comeuppance.  The thought that he actually could be more than one-dimensional, could be a real person with at least some facets worthy of respect, or at least understanding, was absurd.  He was a punching-bag, nothing more.  As years went on, though, and the plot and characters became more nuanced, he was replaced as foil by Major Winchester who, although a stuffed-shirt, was presented as a physician of intelligence and skill, able at times to hold his own against the principals, and always worthy of respect, even as an opponent.  (And the original sub-villain, Major Houlihan, went from being every bit the one-dimensional target as her lover Major Burns, to being a mostly-sympathetic supporting character occasionally allowed her time in the spotlight.)

So the case has been with other extended stories.  The caricatures and simple, one-dimensional villains appeared, if at all, in the early stages, with characters gaining depth and sympathy as time went on.

When, on the other hand, a series suddenly starts developing these cardboard-cutout "bad guys" (such as Howard, Therese, Kortney, Mira, the Kelpfroths, etc., etc.) later on, it's generally a bad sign.  It usually means that the creator or creators have gotten a) lazy enough to stop wanting to waste their effort on developing real characters and situations when cartoons will suffice, or b) cynical and rigid enough to start thinking that other people (normally meaning "those outside our immediate circle" or who won't automatically do what our principals want) really are as stupid, as evil, as shallowly deserving of contempt as the creator is now making these villains.

In Lynn's case, unfortunately, the answer appears to be c) all of the above.
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  • Thursday, 21 October 2021

    The one where John changes the baby so as to make Elly look foolish. Synopsis: As John changes April on what can only be Liz's bed, we hear a…

  • Wednesday, 20 October 2021

    The one where Lynn reminds us that she really doesn't know what love is at all. Synopsis: Michael's attempt to apologize for sticking Gordo with…

  • Tuesday, 19 October 2021

    The one where Mike and his friends finally realize that Gord and Tracey are a thing. Synopsis: As it is and always was and always will be, an…