Two of my favourite TV shows aired their finale episodes last month. The first show is Hannibal (unfortunately, cancelled by NBC) and the second is Pretty Little Liars. While they are drastically different shows for different audiences, both shows feature a main villain that is portrayed as intelligent, organized, murderous, slightly supernatural and sees people as toys they can control like a puppeteer.
While Hannibal Lecter from Hannibal is impossible to relate to or sympathize with, I understood his motivations much better than A from Pretty Little Liars, who fell apart when the writers tried to humanize her actions.
Key takeaways from the video:
Why Hannibal Was a Great Villain Without Being Humanized
1. His curiosity about humanity makes humanity curious about him.
It’s interesting to watch someone with superhuman abilities orchestrate complicated events and inflict chaos simply to understand what you and I naturally know.
2. He’s an unknown quantity, a puzzle you try to solve (but can’t).
We naturally want to understand the unknown, but we also fear the unknown. Hannibal represents the combination of our fear and intrigue.
3. His actions drive the story, taking it to unexpected and fun places.
Hannibal is motivated by his curiosity first and foremost. While this motivation sounds simple, the cataclysmic events that follow his actions thankfully aren’t.
4. His portrayal is consistent.
Everything he does comes back to him being the devil trying to play God, especially with his need to destroy Will Graham and re-fashion him in his own image.
Why A Was Ruined Because She Was Humanized
1. She reveals that she had a bad childhood.
2. Misunderstood because she was transgender and unstable.
She was sent to a mental institution presumably because of being transgender and also because she was seen as a threat to her siblings. I also hated how they handled the transgender storyline, but that’s another discussion altogether.
3. Hated the four girls because they were ‘happy’ A’s sister disappeared.
How does that justify A’s torturing them for years? Other people have done worse things to A’s family, yet she chooses to focus on the four main girls.
4. Addicted to the game of tormenting people.
A’s mystique was ruined because of a weak origin story designed to (and failed to) humanize her. The reasons given for her actions did not justify the extent of damage that A has caused, and A came out looking more like a caricature rather than a character. Meanwhile, Hannibal’s lack of humanization made him frightening because it’s in his nature to create chaos. It’s just what he does, and you can’t even exploit that.
Villains don’t always need to be humanized. Sometimes, being a complete unknown quantity is scarier than any convoluted backstory you can spin.
Millie’s Note: Who are your favourite humanized or non-humanized villains? Which kind do you prefer?