Guest Post: Who is your favorite antagonist?

I’ve never had a guest post on this blog before, but the wonderful Allison Maruska was kind enough to edit my manuscript Chemicals Collide for me, so I figured a guest post was the least I could do!

Alison’s first book, a YA mystery, is scheduled for release in January, 2015.
Her website and blog are at allisonmaruska.com

So without further ado, I’m passing the reigns over to Allison!

——-

I want to thank Jodie Llewellyn for allowing me the privilege to both post as a guest blogger and to beta read her latest YA novel, Chemicals Collide. It’s a wonderful exploration into the life of a teen struggling to hide the mental illness of her mother while trying to be a normal teenager. You won’t want to miss it.

Who is Your Favorite Antagonist?

When I was in sixth grade, my classmates and I learned all about melodramas, those stories where an obvious hero saves an obvious damsel in distress from an obvious cackling, mustache-twisting villain. I remember having to create melodramas, which is funny to ponder now as an adult, knowing twelve-year-olds don’t need help creating drama. Maybe the teachers assigned this particular task so we could clearly identify protagonists and antagonists, no matter how cheesy the result.

I’ve read several posts that say your bad guy can’t be all bad, which makes sense. No one, unless they’re a complete psychopath, I suppose, is 100% bad. I really got to thinking about this last night when I came home to my husband watching Gladiator. Obviously, Commodus was a wickedly bad guy. If he had a mustache, he would be twisting it. I started trying to find his good points. He wanted to rule Rome, but why? He wanted to be remembered as great, but how?

Think of the stories you know with obvious antagonists: Voldemort, Darth Vader, The Joker, The White Witch. What was their higher purpose? If their primary job was just to make life hell for the protagonists, they wouldn’t have been very interesting.

My favorite antagonists are those who are less obvious: Magneto (he’s Professor X’s buddy, for crying out loud), Megamind, Gru, and Elsa.

Yes, I said Elsa. Did you know your daughters were idolizing a bad guy? Granted, she didn’t know she almost destroyed her little town. Back up, though. Our protagonist is Anna, and in every moment after Elsa accidentally ice-shot her in the head, Elsa made Anna’s life difficult. Snowman? No. Party? Let’s not. That guy you just met? Marrying him would be a bad idea (even though everyone agreed, she still got in Anna’s way). I think Elsa’s character is the primary reason Frozen is such a compelling story. After Hans gives us a more tangible bad guy to loathe, Elsa has to rise above herself and be the hero. Brilliant.

Gru put us in the awkward position of rooting for the bad guy. He wants to steal the moon? That’s horrible! But he has to be more horrible than Vector! Magneto’s fighting for the well-being of his own kind – that’s noble, right?
I think the best antagonists are the ones that make us question our own moral codes, who make us analyze our possibly black-and-white categorizations of “good” and “bad”.

Do you agree? Who is your favorite antagonist?

About Jodie @ Words Read & Written

Book blogger & aspiring author.
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31 Responses to Guest Post: Who is your favorite antagonist?

  1. amber28wwmwd says:

    I’ve always said my favorite antagonist is Gerald Tarrant from the Coldfire Trilogy by C. S. Friedman. He’s not anti- the good guy, per se, he’s just out and about doing his own “evil” (self-preserving) things. He and the hero are forced to work together in the story, and there’s this constant struggle between the hero’s moral code and Gerald’s. Meanwhile, Gerald is compelling as hell, and we end up rooting for him. We want him to change… but not too much, because we kinda love him the way he is. P.S., the character development throughout that whole series is flawless and amazing and everyone should read it. 😀 But you’re right, the good (as in, interesting) ones are not one-sided. Yes, Gerald kills people, but why? What, honestly, would you be doing in his situation? And is there really nothing to admire about his intelligence, his determination, his confidence, his creativity? Truth be told, I wish I had his stones. And I don’t really say that about the hero. THAT’S a good antagonist!

    Like

  2. amber28wwmwd says:

    I’ve always said my favorite antagonist is Gerald Tarrant from the Coldfire Trilogy by C. S. Friedman. He’s not anti- the good guy, per se, he’s just out and about doing his own “evil” (self-preserving) things. He and the hero are forced to work together in the story, and there’s this constant struggle between the hero’s moral code and Gerald’s. Meanwhile, Gerald is compelling as hell, and we end up rooting for him. We want him to change… but not too much, because we kinda love him the way he is. P.S., the character development throughout that whole series is flawless and amazing and everyone should read it. 😀 But you’re right, the good (as in, interesting) ones are not one-sided. Yes, Gerald kills people, but why? What, honestly, would you be doing in his situation? And is there really nothing to admire about his intelligence, his determination, his confidence, his creativity? Truth be told, I wish I had his stones. And I don’t really say that about the hero. THAT’S a good antagonist!

    Like

  3. raulconde001 says:

    My favorite antagonists are Loki from Thor, and Freddy Krueger from the nightmare on elm street series.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. jorgekafkazar says:

    Well, you didn’t way which medium, so Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins) on Justified. When the writers want to create tension, sometimes they put Boyd, the antagonist, in danger, instead of Raylan Givens, the hero. Thats some antagonist. And great acting.

    Like

  5. One of my favorite antagonists is Tai Lung from ‘Kung Fu Panda.’ I could write papers and papers and papers on that movie; it’s just a great flick! I especially like when he fights the Fabulous Five, they kick his butt and throw him off the bridge. His reply upon coming back: “Sifu taught you well! But he didn’t teach you EVERYTHING!!”

    I will also disagree with the ‘some redeeming quality’ statement! To my mind Darth Vader was an AWESOME villain in ‘A New Hope’ (original Star Wars movie in ’76). The bad guy doesn’t need any redeeming qualities as long as he has CLASS!

    Class?? Absolutely! Going with the Darth Vader example, in that first episode he was just as good a bad guy as he was in the second and third (ESB and RoTJ)!! He was the baddest, umm… ‘backside’ in the GALAXY and he knew it. He didn’t have to go around with a blaster, constantly watching his back. No! One or two thumb-squeezes and ‘… I find your lack of faith disturbing’ was all it took! I _like_ that kind of bad guy because there are no qualms when the hero overcomes him once and for all!

    In my stories I have a mixture of bad guys. Some are just plain EVIL and the universe is a better place when they finally get theirs! Others are just as noble as the heroes, just working at cross-purposes or toward mutually exclusive goals. You don’t really know ’till all the cards are shown.

    Either way, though, as long as the bad guy has plenty of good lines, that’s all that really matters.

    -matt

    Liked by 1 person

  6. wlloydjr says:

    My favorite antagonist would have to be the Buggers from “Ender’s Game” by Orson Scott Card. I enjoy reading about creatures that have to fight for the survival of their species. Even if it means destroying our own to be able to grow their population. Yes, you didn’t hear much from these nasty looking aliens, but you could see the struggle between the humans wanting to destroy them. I know that there were many other antagonists throughout the school that Ender attended but to finally come to realize why these Buggers attacked the human race. They only wanted to be able to survive.

    Also, I really like the Governor in The Walking Dead comics. Right now, I’m starting to like Negan more, but the Governor just had a crazy back story that made me get chills every time I read through the books. I mean, to lose your daughter to walkers and keep her chained up in a cage, who wouldn’t go nutso in a world full of zombies.

    You have a fantastic point though. Your antagonists are not always bad. They do or did have a little good in them at some point. I really should go back to pointing that out more in my stories when I write. Thanks for the advice and the guest post!

    Will 🙂

    Like

  7. bornandread says:

    I completely agree about Magneto – he is such an interesting character, because in a lot of ways his motivations are quite pure and he’s fighting for what he believes will be a better world. It’s just that his methods are fairly extreme. And his friendship with Professor X just makes him more intriguing…

    Liked by 1 person

  8. davemstrom says:

    Doctor Doom. And not that preppie version in the movies, the real Doctor Doom in Marvel Comics. He rose from penniless gypsy to dictator of a country, and is fiercely protective of his countrymen. He worked hard for every scrap of his power. He single-handedly goes up against four rather fantastic superheroes, and those four often feel outnumbered. He has a horribly scarred face, a rigid code of honor, and fairly good manners. He has fought the devil toe-to-toe. He has been in Hell and fought a pack of demons while proclaiming, “Come for me, there is Doom enough for all!” He wants to rule because he feels he has earned the right. I don’t agree, but I can see why he feels that way.

    One more thing. He would kick Darth Vader’s ass.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. lordgodmose says:

    Pennywise the dancing clown from Stephen Kings “IT”.

    Like

  10. webbzephyr says:

    I quite like Heathcliff from “Wuthering Heights.” I typically favor the antihero spectrum of antagonists because they tend to be more complex characters. Antagonistic actions/decisions are not necessarily made by characters who are wholly evil. Rather like you, Allison, I appreciate the characters that complicate the distinction between good and evil.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. My favorite villain is Sephiroth from the video game Final Fantasy VII. He is a lot like Darth Vader in the sense that he was good at one point, but he has a psychotic break after finding out his origins. I think Final Fantasy VII is such an amazing game due in part to Sephiroth.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Dustin says:

    First and foremost, I want to give a huge welcome to Allison! I thoroughly enjoyed your post. I’d never really thought about antagonists quite like this. Like you pointed out, I think we tend to view them in black and white, they’re either good or evil. There simply has to be more substance to them than the typical motive. Thank you for allowing me to see our antagonist in a wholly new light!:)

    Like

  13. The dramatic purpose of an antagonist is to force the protagonist to do something important at great risk themselves. “Important” is defined as whatever the author thinks the audience will find compelling. Good vs. Evil is the easiest framework for doing this, but it’s not the only one. My favorite kind of antagonist is one that asks us to cry for the Devil. The universe gains something important at their demise, but it also loses something that can be almost as important. Victory always has a price tag, but when that price tag is something we can empathize with, it’s even more moving.

    Like

  14. NovaSaber says:

    “If their primary job was just to make life hell for the protagonists, they wouldn’t have been very interesting.”
    I don’t know, personal vendettas can be interesting.

    One of my favorite antagonists is Ramirez from the video game Skies of Arcadia. He’s motivated almost entirely out of personal loyalty to a more conventionally villainous character, but unlike most characters of that type, he’s still important after his boss’s death. In the end, he’s trying to destroy the world out of GRIEF combined with loyalty to a dead guy.

    Like

  15. Interviewer says:

    What an incandescent smile.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. jorgekafkazar, you’re right. Boyd Crowder is an awesome antagonist!

    I also have a soft spot for Snape.

    Like

  17. Crystal Barnes says:

    Loki from Thor (as another commenter stated) is my favorite antagonist thus far!

    Like

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