Interesting things are happening in speculative fiction. New ideas are coming out and they must be analyzed to determine the validity of their argument. Today’s question: Can a fictional character be both hero and villain?
In the past I have not taken this concept seriously, but a couple of recent examples in film have made me consider this again and consider how to use this in my writing. The best example I have seen of this is in Disney’s Maleficent. Other stories have tried but most fail.
(Warning: the following material will give plot spoilers from the movie.) In Maleficent we find a startling re-imagining of Sleeping Beauty. Maleficent is not a witch. She is a fairy. A human-size fairy but a fairy nonetheless. She is pure in her heart and that purity is taken advantage of by a greedy lad who steals first her heart and later her wings. What follows is Maleficent’s transformation into a vindictive creature who places the infamous curse on Aurora. Yet Maleficent is fated it seems to watch Aurora grow up, and she, like the lonesome creature she is, ends up fully vesting herself in Aurora’s future. The ultimate and fantastic conclusion to this is that the villain seeks to undo her own curse, even throwing her life on the line to selflessly protect an innocent life.
I have seen a similar concept attempted before when Marvel showed the progression of Magneto from lone wolf to repentant ally. But Magneto’s story did not leave me fully convinced that he was ever truly a hero. Left to his own devices again (and without an enemy common to him and Professor Xavier) Magneto, I have no doubt, would fall into other dark paths.
Can a character be both hero and villain? I think so. Under the right circumstances.
If we look historically we can find some interesting examples of this. An obvious example is Saul who was blinded on the road to Damascus and thereafter was called Paul. He went from persecutor of the church of Christ to one of its most prominent leaders. A leader of the faithful and a godly man. But that sort of shift, the change from villain to hero, is made in the change of a heart. Radical conversion is one example of this, and another avenue for this shift is if the individual in question is like Maleficent. She began as a child, then her heart hardened, but another child softened it.
Question: When do you think it is ok for a villain to become the hero in fiction?
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