Heroes and Villains

This isn’t properly a kink topic – more of a morality and personal media analysis topic. But given the way my kinks work, these categories are a very large part of the dynamics that I like, and sometimes I talk about characters as being in these categories (as I did in my last post). So I think it makes sense for me to define the terms as I use them.

For me, villains are characters who willingly hurt innocent people. Or, to put it in more exact though less simple terms, characters who willingly hurt people who are too innocent/not guilty enough to be hurt in that way. (As usual when I use it, ‘hurt’ here means ‘hurt in a way that violates their human rights’. So for instance refusing to put up with people violating your boundaries is not hurting by this definition, even if it really upsets them. Likewise, neither is causing someone consensual pain, etc). Several of these terms being flexible, this leaves a lot up to the author of any particular narrative.

‘Willingly’ is flexible because a person who has no other choice is not acting willingly, but a person who does and takes that one anyway is. So when they want to determine morality this way, authors get to decide what choices their characters had, and who gets to count as having had no other options.
–An example of this is the question of whether and when ‘I was following orders’ is an acceptable defense against war crimes – if the idea of violating orders was unthinkable? If it would have brought severe punishment? Never? Etc.

Meanwhile, ‘too innocent/not guilty enough to be hurt in that way’ is flexible because people have often very different opinions on how much it is alright to hurt guilty people, and how guilty they have to be for that. As an example of this:
–Someone who thought that death was an appropriate punishment for profiting off of slave labor and someone who did not would write very different takes on a story about exploited factory workers planning to bomb a rich neighborhood.

On the other hand, heroes are people who are actively against willingly hurting innocent people. (‘Actively’ is another rather flexible word, which I here use to mean basically anything aside from ‘they never really thought about the topic, but if you asked would probably end up saying they were against it’. So it can range from simply opposing it to refusing to do it to going out to stop the people doing it). This has the same areas of flexibility as the other definition. For some examples:
–If a character is offered the option between shooting one person or watching 10 people be executed, does making the second choice make them selfish for prizing their own ‘purity’ above 9 lives, or does it make them admirably committed to their principles (or neither)?
–While most people would agree that the heroes could not torture random civilians, is it alright for the heroes to torture people with known misdeeds?

As a relevant definition, I generally define dark heroes as ‘heroes who have a more permissive opinions on what harm it is acceptable to deal out to guilty people than some baseline’ (the baseline can be many things – the other heroes, their canon characterization if this is a fanfic, etc).

As an example of one way this shows up in my kinks: as I mentioned in the previous post, one villains-as-constricts dynamic I like is guilty-feeling repentant villains. Often, I like to see these villains hurt – imprisoned, enslaved, tortured, etc. Sometimes, I like it when the people doing this are the heroes. Such a dynamic is only possible in a moral universe where there is some level of hurt it is alright to deal out to some level of guilty people.

Edited to add: a comment a reader left made me aware that I’d missed a rather important point. That being: the standard discussed here is based on my morality/worldview. A more general formulation would be ‘villains are characters who violate the determining tenet of the morality system/worldview being used and heroes are people who are actively against violating that tenet’.  The determining tenet of my morality/worldview is not hurting innocent people. Therefore, that’s what determines heroes and villains for me. However, if for instance my determining tenet was ‘obey every command of the Great Leader’ or ‘create a world populated only by left-handed people’, then villains who didn’t hurt anyone, but did violate the commands of the Great Leader or hid right-handed people, and heroes who hurt innocent people because the Great Leader told them to or killed innocent right-handed people would be a part of my stories.

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Specific Narrative Kinks: Villains as constricts

What do I mean by this:

Usually, when I talk about negative power dynamics, there is a very consistent direction for the morality line. The principle is doing wrong in what they are doing to the constrict, and so the principles are the villains, while the constricts, generally, are the heroes. This is a dynamic that I like a lot and I get a lot out of. Sometimes, however, I like to reverse it. Sometimes, it is the heroes who are in power, and the villains who are the prisoners [1]. This kink is about that dynamic.

Categories:

The categories for this kink for me are generally about the attitude of the villain-constrict. At the moment, I can think of three in particular that I like.

  1. Guilt
    This is for the repentant villains. They’ve come to see the wrong of what they’ve done, and now condemn themselves for it. They likely think their new status as the constrict is correct and deserved. As such, this is basically the setup for my rather enormous kink for guilt.
  2. Irony
    These villains get the amused kind of enjoyment out of their power and out of using it, and that hasn’t changed now that they’re on the wrong end of a power dynamic. They’ll never show that their situation bothers them (if it even does). When they reference it (and they usually do, with words or gestures) it’s always with a smile, often accompanied by ironic complements to their captors. They are, however, also likely to be pragmatic, and avoid outright provoking  their more powerfully positioned captors. Since heroes are generally less interested than villains in torturing people for disrespect, they can thus create a situation where their attitude allows them to save face while they use their cooperation to advance their wellbeing. As such, they are excellent candidates for becoming boxed crook teammates for the heroes.
    Examples: Loki in SHIELD custody in Avengers has elements of this (however, since he knows/feels himself to actually be in a position of more power, he also just outright acts like a principle a lot. You can see the two sides in the beginnings of these clips versus the rest of them).

    Loki in parts of Thor: the Dark World also has elements.
    Neal Caffrey of White Collar (at least the first few episodes, which is what I watched) is an example with somewhat less villainousness.

  3. Self-Presence
    These villains are more interested in getting what they want than in having fun, and being on the wrong side of a power dynamic has in no way made them doubt their competence or success. It may be part of the plan, it may be an unplanned inconvenience that they’re sure will be dealt with shortly, but either way, they’re not going to be particularly concerned. They won’t pointlessly antagonize their captors because it’s just that – pointless. In fact, they’re unlikely to acknowledge their situation at all, and won’t act particularly differently from how they usually do when they’re not a prisoner.
    Examples: an excellent example of this is John Harrison of Star Trek: Into Darkness.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gnZJjNjMg98

Actionable counterpart:

The guilt type was the dynamic in one of my best scenes ever, and it was awesome. The irony type would be incredibly fun to act, I think, but since I do want to be beaten up and such, I’d be much more interested in playing the same attitude but as a hero-constrict. Likewise for the self-presence type.

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[1] This could be seen as violating the “what the principal is doing is wrong” definition of negative dynamics. I still consider them in this category, because they’re still not positive and still specifically non-consentual. If the hero-principle is not seen as doing something wrong, it’s not because they’re acting with consent, but because their actions, in being toward a villain, are considered justified. Which can raise all sorts of interesting moral questions, but this is not the place for them.

Negative Closeness

[This is one of those things I probably want to write more about at some point, whether about it in general or about specific elements, but in the meanwhile I’m putting a basic post out there so that it’s there and I can refer back to it and such.]

To give a simple definition, negative closeness is when elements that tend to be characteristic of positive relationships, especially emotionally intimate or otherwise close ones, appear in negative dynamics.

This is something that both shows up a lot in many of the negative dynamics I’m into, and is really common in fiction in general, for I think pretty similar reasons – if two people are a main focus of a work, the work is more interesting if their relationship is more interesting, and emotions and complexity tend to make for more interesting relationships than detachment.

Negative closeness has three main flavors – one, when both characters are engaging in it, and two and three, when one character is engaging in it but not the other (that’s two flavors as opposed to one because whether the character engaging in it is the hero or the villain and, in my case, the principal or the constrict, makes a difference to the dynamic).

Negative closeness can generally be seen in two areas:

  1. The character’s feelings. This can involve things like being particularly interested in the other character, desiring to spend time with them, not wanting to or being conflicted about hurting or killing them when normally they wouldn’t hesitate, etc.
  2. The character’s actions. This can involve things like sharing or inquiring about personal information, expressing concern, being respectful in ways that are not demanded, etc.

For the aforementioned ‘makes things more interesting’ reason, the feelings elements tends to show up a lot in some form at least, including with characters who hide it.

However, actions without feelings can also show up, in that case usually either as a mind game on the part of the characters doing them, or as a point of personal pride/honor.