Evil as entertainment

It has almost been half a year since I have read anything literary. I realized that in this quasi-break of ours (after all, there are no classes and exams) I needed to catch up on my literature, even if by a little. I actually had a title in mind, and it was Solomon Grunsky Was Here by Mordecai Richler. It just popped out of my mind one morning while I was sauntering around, and that was also the morning where I visited a second-hand bookstore with a cheap but well-tended copy of the novel. Despite the length, I bought the book and started reading it a week ago.

Remember the yellow butterflies?

Remember the yellow butterflies?

As could be expected from books with such length, it was an epic story of a family’s rise and fall into fame. To me, it gave off vibes of both One Hundred Years of Solitude and Absalom, Absalom!. It was akin to the former for its revelry in dark humor, violence, and the macabre as well as its chronicle of an empire born from evil and vituperation; it was akin to the latter for its puzzle-like nature: it isn’t until the final pages where the pieces finally come together, and one sees the unity of the vignettes that pepper the novel.

It was not a tale of redemption; on the contrary, it was a tale of wickedness, deceit, and anger. In that regard it is similar to Faulkner’s darkest stories. Yet it was an eminently readable book, because in addition to the novel being without the staggered explosion of meaning triggered from Faulkner’s serpentine statements, it reflected, even in the baseness of it all, humanity.

My thesis is that the most well-constructed manifestations of evil, even in their perfidy, serves for very good entertainment. I believe that it was not Batman, but the Joker (excellently acted by the late Heath Ledger), that catapulted The Dark Knight into such an esteemed status among film-viewers.

A particularly memorable line from the film that reflects this idea of mine is when Joker says to Batman, ‘you complete me.’ The good is only good because it has an evil to counteract: it cannot be defined solely by itself, but rather vis-a-vis against the evil it is against. Among the greatest anime of all time is Cowboy Bebop, and it is defined to be among the greatest because of its villains as well as its heroes. Vicious and Vincent Volaju remain to be among the most popular villains in anime, and not only because of Spike Spiegel, but because of their personalities. I believe it is the reason why a significant number of well-written books, well-made anime, and the best films revolve around this wickedness.

14 Responses to “Evil as entertainment”

  1. aneitakekatsu Says:

    i like your book choices.I agree Coby bebop is a
    great Anime.

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  3. Baka-Raptor Says:

    Evil characters kick ass. They do all the cool stuff we’d like to do but could never get away with.

  4. Michael Says:

    I can’t quite put my hand on it (that’s the reason the post is relatively short), but there is something in watching evil do evil that’s some sort of wish fulfillment. That banditry and rebelliousness that isn’t found in most of society is very enjoyable to observe. Its enactment, however, is an entirely different thing altogether.

    @Baka-Raptor

    I think that’s one of the reasons why we like watching them do their stuff. Maybe one of the reasons why Heath Ledger’s Joker, in such a twisted way, is extremely endearing.

    @aneitakekatsu

    Thank you. Cowboy Bebop is a great anime.

  5. Ryan A Says:

    lol Baka-Raptor.

    These wicked characters are pivotal, and I do love when I can like one of them for being so bad; Joker was a good example. There’s an added value when a story includes them, but I think it’s not “added” but just makes it fuller, nearer to 100%.

    Ah Bebop and those wicked ones. ^^

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  12. Conor Says:

    I understand this is old, new to the site and trying to read everything chronologically. To me the great thing about evil is the lines that it blurs, by this I mean how evil are evil characters? and in some ways the more interesting How evil are the good characters? I always like to think of myself in terms of the situations that anime and literature throws at us, and if I’m being honest I probably see myself very close to the ‘evil’ side of the spectrum…not to say that I’m a bad guy, I wouldn’t say that I am, but I tend to see the side painted as evil in a better way than the side which is shown as good. I’m one of the few people who wanted Light to come out victorious in Death Note. I find Cowboy Bebop one of my favourites because it blurs the lines excellently, Spike is a character I woul never define as ‘good’ in a classical sense, but we want him to win.

    On another note, have you ever read any Henry Miller? Where do you thik he fits in on the good/evil spectrum?

  13. Michael Says:

    Hey there, Conor! I’m glad you’re reading my older posts.

    There are just some evil characters that positively seethe with vitriol and hatred, but there are some characters who are just incidentally evil in relation to the protagonists. I think there’s a difference with different shows: for example, there are some Korean dramas (because they’re better examples) where the antagonists are truly antagonistic and brutal towards the protagonists. But there are also some Korean dramas where the antagonists (in this sense to what the protagonists desire or seek) are better off called as deuteragonists, because in the end they respect what the protagonists desire only that they wish they had a chance (at love, because that’s what drives most Korean dramas).

    I’m more of the chivalrous, moral type of person … so I’m probably closer to good, although I have flirted with being bad before. And you’re exactly right – CB is excellent because it dims that line very well: instead of black and white, all we have are different shades of grey. I didn’t want Volaju to win, for example, but what he sought wasn’t ideologically evil per se. It was just evil because the means he wanted was at the cost of a lot of human lives.

    I haven’t read any Henry Miller. He’s probably more on the evil side of the spectrum, however, from what I have read ABOUT him, especially because he’s quite the dilettante and the epicure. I haven’t read him because our library doesn’t have a copy of any of his books, and I haven’t bought any of his novels yet because I’m not too fond of the synopses as they border on the sensual and the profane. I don’t dislike those, just that I prefer novels with more formed stories personally.

  14. Conor Says:

    What you say is interesting, I had already assumed that you wouldn’t really like him if you read him, judging by the posts I’ve read of yours so far. The reason this is interesting is we seem to be on opposite ends of the spectrum, philosophically speaking, as Miller does lean very heavily toward the Epicuran and the Nietzschien, as do I, however I still enjoy reading your blog, even at the points I could not disagree with you more (that’s a compliment btw, hope it comes accross as such 😛 )
    I guess I find it interesting as we have similar circumstances in a way, but I chose a different path, I was stuck studying physics at university out of a sense of family duty to study a degree deemed of ‘higher worth’, but have given it up after two years in order to study English literature, whereas you have continued (and I hope, you are succeeding, I haven’t read up to present posts) with your medical degree.
    Miller is at his best, in my opinion, as an essayist, if you can get a hold of ‘Black Spring’ I do recommend reading it, although his writing does more than just border on the sensual and the profain, so I would avoid spending much money on it if you should happen accross it, but I feel it to be a good read nonetheless.

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