Let’s Talk: What is a Villain?

I want to start by giving a huge shout out to my coworker Dwight for giving me this idea in a previous post about ruling the universe. What is a villain really? As a resident MCU fan, this conversation first arose around Erik Killmonger. In Black Panther, we were tasked with actually thinking about the villainy of Killmonger and the legitimacy of his stance. Same thing goes for Thanos. They weren’t wrong, per say, but the way they went about executing their plan was the problem, which brings us back to the main point–what is a villain?

Some villains are more cut and dry like a Loki, Hela, The Monstars, etc. Their mission is destruction and we just can’t have that, but what about when the “villan” has a point? Thanos wanted to use the stones to get rid of half the universe to sustain it. Now, if you believe in evolution, not everyone and everything has made it this far, so in a sense, is Thanos helping evolution along? Very farfetched, yes I know, but Thanos isn’t necessarily wrong is what he wants to accomplish. It’s just not the best approach or widely accepted by the masses.

What about Killmonger? Erik grew up in Oakland at a time when drugs and crimes ruled the streets. He saw his people dying at the hands of drugs and police with no means to defend themselves. He had been taught that he was a part of a place that was not only magical and regal but also a place that had the means to change the place and people where he grew up. Is he wrong for wanting to arm his people or believing that Wakanda is obligated to helping people who look like them? Unlike Thanos, he didn’t want to kill everyone. He just wanted his people to have the same protection and opportunity that he believed white people had back in Oakland. Now, could you say Killmonger winning the fight, throwing the beaten King over the waterfall and then planning a mission to take vibranium weapons to the United States is kind of stealing but he had a right to the throne and won it fair and square? So if he went about it in the proper way, can we call him a villan?

Now, you may be saying, “Well, if Killmonger and Thanos aren’t villains–who is?” To that, I would ask you this–does there need to be a villain in the movie? You just need two opposing forces to create the conflict but for some reason (and maybe that’s from years of movie watching) we believe that one has to be right, the hero, and one has to be wrong, the villain. As with life, that doesn’t always work that way and it doesn’t have to in order to make a movie work. Captain America: Civil War is a prime example of a movie where there no true villain. For me, personally, the movie is much more compelling when there is no true villain but I love movie that make me think.

What say y’all? Are Thanos and Killmonger villains? Can you think of anyone else who fits into this category?

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