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semi-random thought on portrayal of evil in media

gogol
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Recently, I realized something that had me shocked.

It seems to me when faced with a greater and lesser evil, people may judge the smaller evil as 'worse', if they manage to latch onto some nuance or sympathetic quality in the former. This is a reflection from a discussion I had in a different place of the internet, so let me elaborate with some examples.

There's this show called Castlevania, with Dracula as the main villain. Dracula unleashed the hordes of hell on the entire humanity, why? Because the local (corrupt) bishop wrongly accused his wife of practicing witchcraft, and subsequently had her burned at the stake. That's the tragic backstory of Dracula. & I'm not kidding when I say he had entire cities brutally murdered as revenge.

Then there's the local bishop who committed the initial murder of Lisa Tepes (Dracula's wife). He is corrupt, through and through but not given the reprieve of a tragic backstory.

An overwhelming amount of people judge the bishop to be the worse of the two.

Let me throw another (more accessible) example if you're not familiar with Castlevania; I suppose almost everyone knows Harry Potter. Time and again, in numerous pop articles, Dolores Umbridge is ranked higher than Voldemort in lists of evil people within that universe. On one hand, Voldemort is the literal embodiment of evil, he straight up murdered countless beings. And yes, he has a tragic childhood (not a fault of his own). OTOH, we have Umbridge who's evil, but nowhere close to Voldemort. Again, she's not given a similar tragic backstory. The public opinion shows there's something inherently more satisfying in Umbridge's fall, that's missing in Tom Riddle's case.

I suppose this could indicate 2 things.
People react to the idea of unfairness more strongly. In this case, one might feel utterly helpless against the grand evil, & realize there's nothing they can personally do to stop it. I suppose this is like saying bad things exist along with good things, like a force of nature. Hence, they accommodate for its existence and continuity. The bishop and Umbridge fall under the lesser evil category, which is somehow more "manageable" in our mind. Hence, their fall brings more satisfaction.

Secondly, a tragic backstory somehow humanizes the evil, in our minds. It can also get us rooting for the villain, than against them. Case in point, the character of Wilson Fisk from Daredevil (the Netflix show). I'm sure part of it had to do with the beauty that is Vincent D'Onofrio, but I've seen more people root for Fisk than Daredevil by end of last season.

IRL, it also reminds me, of Kevin Spacey. When his horrible acts became public knowledge, his first line of defense was to claim that he's gay. I suppose that was meant to invoke some sort of sympathy.

Anyways, what's your take on all of this? Is there any nuance that I'm missing?

PS- Yes I watched an ungodly amount of TV shows during the pandemic.

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Warped
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The tragic backstory conveys victimhood, very fashionable these days, with society conditioned to excuse or be lenient by shifting the blame. Perhaps tragically misunderstood with potential for redemption, perhaps by the ingenue. Complexities the viewer can identify with, and sympathetically relate to their own repressed anger and aggression with vicarious satisfaction.

I know nothing of these characters, but it's not new -- a variation of Beauty and the Beast, the classic anti-heroes, etc. -- simply bigger and badder.  

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Elsa
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I don't know the characters either. But it takes courage to confront evil.  Perhaps more courage and most people have so they aim at a lower rung?

I'm just guessing.

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Libra Noir
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This is a really deep topic because it’s about the archetype of Justice and shows like those appeal to the most base instincts of moral relativism, not actual Justice, which pervades the culture. I personally really appreciate the concept of Natural Law or the nonaggression principle as a guide through all this bullshit. No matter what, I am responsible for my conscious actions. I’m justified in defending myself but zero zero zero aggression is justified. 

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gogol
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Haha I actually typed this rant. I can't believe this

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gogol
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Also, this post is a great example of American cultural hegemony.

All references (drawn by a non-American) from US television that even other Americans don't bother tracking.

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Elsa
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@gogol isn't this a good thing? Are we supposed to track what's on our tv?  Do you know how much is on our TVs?

You might like this (from 1992).

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gogol
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@elsa Oh it wasn't a snub, sorry if that came across that way.

I'm not talking about you, or, what's on your TV. I'm talking about how much of your TV is on our TV. (again, not you personally).

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Elsa
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@gogol oh, I see. Thanks for clarifying. And I wasn't taking it personally - I was taking it as an American. As it says in a comment on that video we now have 1057 channels and still nothing on.

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gogol
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@elsa I'll check it out, but probably later in the day. Thanks for sharing though!

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elisa
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it makes sense to start with small evils first then go for the big guy at the end, the final epic battle, which many of you harry potter fans know what happened at the end. You can't get at the big guy so easily because it takes years even and sadly many deaths had to happen. And also there are those who were on the side of evil and at the end epic battle, there were many many of those who stood by evil's side too. Voldomort had many followers and they were afraid of him and what he might do to them. Some just agreed with his policies and enjoyed torturing others.  

there's satisfaction that umbridge had fallen but it's culminating to the big guy that everyone's targeting for at the very end. The biggest evil is usually protected. Until he shows himself and thinks he is so good at what he did (proud) this proudness is what gives him strength that he thinks he is invulernable.

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