Protagonists vs antagonists: Who makes up the story?

Sarwan Moghamis (TheLorian)

The obvious response to this question is the protagonist, but we never truly look at the antagonist’s point of view. Every story is usually told the same way: a protagonist is trying to rediscover himself or herself through some sort of journey. An antagonist reflects who the protagonist strives to be different from. The antagonist is the central obstacle in the protagonist’s way. The protagonist wins and the antagonist loses. Then comes the happy ending.

All these stories center around the protagonist, never the antagonist. Almost every antagonist has a reason for why they do what they do. Starting with various Disney villains, each is illustrated as pure evil to demonstrate the better characteristics of the main protagonists.

Scar from “The Lion King” kills Mufasa and attempts to kill Simba because he wants to rule Pride Rock. It may not seem like it for the obvious reasons, but in reality, Scar was betrayed by Mufasa when the throne promised to him was taken away. Scar was only putting his feelings of neglect and anger in action. Was it right to kill Mufasa? Of course not, but it’s what made the story.

Hades wants to overthrow Zeus and the other gods because he was sentenced by Zeus to look after the Underworld, Ursula was betrayed by Triton, Davy Jones wanted to find love and be free from his curse, Prospector (from “Toy Story 2”) was tired of rejection, and the list goes on. Each Disney villain had a purpose behind their actions, whether it was betrayal or revenge on those who did them wrong. In a sense, they were victims at one point and now they are taking back what was taken from them: their self-worth.

Shifting gears to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I have to talk about this specific antagonist: Thanos. Thanos wanted to remove half of life from existence, which is awful, but there is a reason behind his madness. Thanos believed that by eliminating half of existence, the other half would strive. I’m not in support of this plan, but there is logic to it. The world had become so occupied with many different people from both sides: good and bad. It had reached a point where Earth was failing to meet everyone’s needs. By sacrificing half of humanity, the other half could save the world from extinction.

The DC universe has created a very popular villain as well, one that has been played by some terrific actors. This character is known as the Joker. Focusing on the Joker featured in “The Dark Knight,” this man was a psychopath who murdered so many people. Again, I’m not supporting his actions, but the Joker had a reason. The city of Gotham had reached a high level of corruption, and the Joker was only bringing that fact to reality. He wanted people to understand that he was the only “sane” person for seeing the world as it was: a dark place filled with hidden corruption.

As mentioned earlier, antagonists make up these stories. They give protagonists an opposition, but we need to consider why the antagonist does what he or she does. Most have good reasons while others are just plain “evil.” Next time you watch a film or T.V. show, take a moment to really center your focus on the antagonist.

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