Monday, November 29, 2010

Transforming the Antagonist

My apologies for leaving many of you halfway through a conversation on your blogs but I had to take the computer back to the doctors.


For anyone who’s counting, yes, that is the third time this year and I do think they should have given me balloons.

Rant over.

I’m fascinated by a writer’s ability to turn a strong antagonist into a protagonist. It’s not an easy task. If the transformation is too quick, the audience won’t have enough empathy for the character. If the transformation is too slow or lacking in foundation, he won’t appear redeemable to the audience who will suspect that any behavior changes serve a dark agenda that has yet to be identified.

A great example of this appears in The Vampire Diaries, which was recently recommended to me. I should mention here, due to characterization differences, that I am referring to the TV series rather than the books in this instance.

The series includes a love triangle between two vampire brothers and the heroine (bear with me). One of the brothers is essentially evil and seemingly remorseless. However, as the series continues he is redeemed to the audience through his love for the heroine and quirky sense of humor. Ultimately the audience should still be horrified by him based on past transgression but the writers have revealed enough to enable an audience to empathize with his tortured past and want him to get his girl.

I don’t believe that every person could watch the transformation in the series and find themselves tugged onto this character’s side. But the purpose is there and it’s intriguing to note the little elements that go into such a change over many episodes, particularly since it revolves entirely around his behavior toward the heroine and the behavior that she inspires in him. Ain’t love a pretty thing?

What do you think of antagonist transformations?



Nas Dean said...

Hey I love the Vampire Diaries. Damon is bad boy redeemed by his love. Awesome. And his quirky sense of humor! His dialogues are also very good. So yes the writer did really good here. We love him more than Stefan.

Julia Broadbooks said...

I agree that Damon's transformation is a great example. My daughters have watched the show from the beginning and started the show firmly hating Damon. And ever so slowly they have been won over and now love his character more than Stefan. The show has done all of this without excusing the really awful things Damon has done. They didn't try to explain away his very serious actions; I mean, he killed people. That's not easily forgotten.
He doesn't even really want to be saved, but, almost against his will, he finds himself a better person because of Elena.
It doesn't hurt that that Ian is so beautiful.

Jackie Ashenden said...

I love them cause I LOVE bad boys. I forgive a lot of characters, especially if they are redeemed in the end. And I love the battle that they fight between their old way of doing things and the new 'good' way. Spike and Angel in Buffy are good examples of that.

Elissa Graham said...

I know the show you're talking about Lacey and it sure doesn't hurt that the antagonist turning protagonist isn't hard on the eyes (talk about dark tortured and brooding oooh *fans herself*) but I'm a sucker the for the underdog. While he was the bad brother I felt sorry for him, sure that with the love of a good woman/vampire that he could be redeemed but then when the character began to transform (into a more likeable, if still a little naughty) I started feeling sorry for the steadfast good brother.

Woman do tend to like the bad boy (what is it with the chase and the challenge btw?) so the poor shmuck who has been wonderful and sensitive etc etc etc is now being kicked to the curb in favour of the guy in the leather jacket. You gotta feel sorry for him.

But the whole antagonist turned protagonist is a wonderful device if used correctly but I think writers have to be careful not to make the character do a complete 180 and in the space of a few chapters he's a choir boy up for the next Noble Peace prize. I think for it to work well, he needs to retain some (not sure of the percentage - maybe 60/40 or 40/60?) of his bad boy tendencies.

Anyway glad that you're back in the land of the blogging. IMO they should have offered you more than balloons.....chocolates at least!

Romy said...

I haven't yet watched Vampire Diaries but it sounds good and your post just sealed the deal for me. I'm off to get the first series to eatch this weekend.

Lacey Devlin said...

Nas - I'm amazed at what the writer has done and I do love those dialogues :)

Lacey Devlin said...

Julia - We've all seduced by fabulous writing! Logically you really shouldn't want to back Damon over Stefan, and yet... I know those amazing eyes helped win me over ;)

Lacey Devlin said...

Jackie - Spike and Angel are another great example. How could I have forgotten them?!

Lacey Devlin said...

Elissa - A couple of days after I posted this I blew the whole thing up altogether. That's right, within the space of a year I broke the darn thing. That takes talent, that takes determination, that takes... a computer with a faulty power outlet.

I agree that you do have to be very careful about how quick you turn the antagnoist. It will be interesting to see just how far the writer takes Damon.

Lacey Devlin said...

Romy - I'm a sucker for unrequited love. I think why the TV series works so well is that the heroine is more accessible. In the books she's the most popular girl in school and not particuarly nice. They also changed her baby sister to a teenage brother. Quite risky changes when you consider the fanatics of the books but I don't know that the show would have appealed as much without them. It's worth a look :)

Suzanne Jones said...

I've never seen The Vampire Diaries - must watch.

My favourite transformation is Severes Snape in the HP stories (nothing at all to do with the fact the character's played by Alan Rickman - honest).


Lacey Devlin said...

Suzanne - I think Snape's an interesting character too. I'm still fascinated by his motivations and actions.

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