Wednesday, 27 January 2010

A villainous threat and a rational response

TV or movie villains often threaten the loved ones of a hero, demanding something in return. They sometimes assert that "their fate is in your hands" or some similar idea, claiming that the hero is in "total control" of what happens next. I would find that hard to swallow as a hero. The villain has made the threat, the villain has their own finger on the trigger and makes the decision to follow through on the threat, but is taking zero responsibility for that action. Not that I expect villains to be morally responsible, but I keep expecting to run into a more rational hero who calls them on their nonsense.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Then again, such a hero wouldn't seem very heroic sometimes.
PPS - Maybe that's why it's never written that way.


littlemissrandom said...

I was just thinking about this on the weekend when I watched 'The Taking of Pelham 123'.

John Travolta's character says to Denzel Washington's character:

'The city of New York killed Jerry'.

And I was like, well - no. You killed him. You had the gun. You pulled the trigger. You had the choice. You can tell yourself that it was because of someone else's choice, but ultimately you are not a robot - you do not work at the whim of other people.

I think the problem is where people show that they are willing to prove that the hero's actions have consequences. Yes, it is the villain's fault if the family gets killed, because the villain had the choice. But are you going to make a moral stand when the villain has shown that they're willing to carry out their threats?

John said...

Yeah, that is the complication. Whether they blame the hero or not, they claimed to be willing to avoid bloodshed if certain conditions were met. And it's hard to argue about who is responsible when someone is bereaved.

You wouldn't be much of a hero if you refused to listen, but you'd also be a poor hero if you just gave in.

One subversion of the "pay me or the hostages die" trope that I liked was in Under Siege 2. The villain took control of an earthquake-producing satellite, then asked wealthy foreigners with a beef against the USA to pay him to use it against the USA.