Thinking About Villains

What makes for the worst villains? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Last night, I went to bed thinking about villains. I started going through some of my favorite series, namely in the gaming world since that’s the one I’m most familiar with, and started asking what each villain wanted. Let’s start with one of the first biggest villains we know of in this world, King Koopa, aka Bowser.

King Koopa wants to rule the Mushroom Kingdom and kidnaps the Princess regularly. However, something I thought about is that I don’t know of any time where it’s his direct intention to physically harm her. Mario never rescues her and she has claw and bite marks all over her.

Ganon wants to rule the world. Again, part of this involves kidnapping the Princess, and we can say the same thing about him. He might do something like put the Princess in a state of stasis or something like that, but no physical harm to her.

Now we could say that both of these characters wanting to rule the world is evil, but not necessarily. Is anyone wanting to run for president today and lead the most powerful nation on Earth automatically evil? Being president is a good thing. There is no evil in desiring something good.

The evil instead can be how we go about getting what we want, why we want to get it, and if we do get it, what we do with it. If you cheat to get into the White House, no matter how good what you do is and what your intentions are, you have done an evil still. If you have great intentions and get in office honorably, but you do a horrible job, you still have done a wrong.

J. Warner Wallace, detective-turned-apologist, has said that when a crime takes place, at least one of three factors is involved. It can be a combination, but at least one is involved. Those are money, sex, and power. Keep in mind that none of those three things is a wrong in itself. They can lead to wrongs and how one gets them or what they do with them can be wrongs, but they themselves are not wrongs.

In thinking about these aspects and went to my series of Final Fantasy and thought about some of the villains there. In the first one, Garland sought a way to live forever. Is that necessarily evil? No more than wanting to extend your own life is evil. What he did with it was evil.

One of the most recognizable villains is Sephiroth, and yet in his mind, Sephiroth was aiming for a good. He would have seen himself as the hero of the story and the good guys were the villains. This is something we forget many times. The villain does want something that they perceive as a good.

It can be a mistake to say that because someone is identified as the villain, that they are automatically evil. Is the villain of Ferris Bueller really a villain? He’s trying to catch a boy who is doing something wrong. The villain of Short Circuit wants to reclaim a robot that has a nuclear device in him. One of the “villains” of Ghostbusters works for the government and wants to make sure that the strange new weapons of the Ghostbusters are not dangerous to the public. This is common enough that you can listen to a podcast called “The Villain was Right” about villains in pop culture that actually had the right idea.

Yet in all of this, two villains stand out. One from the gaming world. One from the comics. Both are, however, incredibly similar. One is the Joker from DC comics. The other is Kefka Palazzo from Final Fantasy VI. Most of you are familiar with Joker, but here’s a picture of Kefka and you can see some similarities right away.

Kefka is an experiment gone wrong. He was a soldier the empire did their first experiment on to infuse him with magical powers and something went wrong. He got the powers, but his brain snapped in the process. Since most of us know about the Joker, I will give some details of Kefka.

Kefka is a ruthless general who looks down on everyone. People are tools for him. He decides to defeat a castle town by putting poison in the water. When his own men balk at that and tell him they have prisoners there, he doesn’t care. They got what they deserved. When the empire is marching on a town, Kefka tells them to destroy all of it. He is told the town is neutral in the war, and he still doesn’t care.

Kefka is a villain who actually does accomplish what he set out to do. At about a halfway point in the story, he messes with some magical artifacts that brings about the destruction of the world leaving it in a post-apocalyptic scenario. In the new world then, he lives on top of a tower and fires a light of judgment on a town whenever he just wants to. When the party comes to fight him, he says he wants to destroy everything and build a monument to non-existence.

A little about the Joker has to be said. He is the villain that wants to watch the world burn. He is Batman’s greatest nemesis because there is no telling what he will do. He is chaotic and does what he wants and doesn’t care what anyone thinks.

In relation to Kefka, there was a time when the Joker got 99.99% of Mxyzptlk’s power. The world becomes a nightmare as people are trapped in situations where they are repeatedly murdered again and again and Joker eats the entire population of China. The description given inĀ The Dark Knight is accurate of Joker. Some people just want to watch the world burn.

Despite this, there are some things even these villains perceive as good. They never go and off themselves. Kefka says he hates existence, but he never shows any signs of being suicidal. Joker hasn’t had any time like that either as far as I know,

The reality is that everyone has something they still perceive as good and pursue it. You actually can’t pursue anything unless on some level you think it is a good. You could be wrong in that, but you do think it. Even the suicide wants a good. They think things will be better for at least them if not everyone if they weren’t around.

The reality of good and evil on some level are inescapable. Even a villain will pursue what he or she thinks is good. However, the most frightening ones are the ones that ultimately seem to think just some form of chaos is good.

However, there is still often something good that comes from this. This is the time when good guys do rise up. What it takes to stop evil every time is good. In our world today where we see evil seemingly happening more and more, we need more and more of the good to counter it.

From the Christian perspective, we have seen this before. The Roman Empire was not really a pretty place in many ways, but Christianity came and transformed all of that. There’s no reason the same can’t happen today. If anything, we should be even more capable today since we have more knowledge and means than your average Christian did then.

Perhaps we perceive something else as more good than the message we are to share.

Which could make us the villains.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)


Mark Hamill Is A Slimeball

What is Mark Hamill trying to accomplish? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

We have all heard it several times. Pro-lifers are not really pro-life. They are pro-birth. Once a child is born, they don’t really care. Never mind that we are the ones that run the centers to help mothers who have children and don’t abort. Never mind we have so many adoption agencies out there as well. The facts really don’t matter. The rhetorical punch is all that matters.

One such example is Mark Hamill who is known for playing Luke Skywalker as well as voicing the Joker on Batman: The Animated Series. On Twitter recently, he decided to make a post and who knows what he was really trying to accomplish. It makes less and less sense. Anyway, here’s the link.

If you can’t access it, it’s basically a picture of the Joker and Harley Quinn saying “We will adopt your baby.” Apparently, the idea is that if you go with adoption, well you could get an evil pair of parents so you might as well kill the child just to be safe. It’s always in the best interest of the child to kill it apparently.

Now if Hamill wants to stick with the comics, we can do that. I am not a reader of the comics, but I do know how to do some research. I decided to look and see if I could find any superheroes in the comics adopted by evil parents. As it turns out, it was not hard to find.

It is not good in itself for anyone to be adopted by parents that are evil, but that won’t always be the end of the story. People if they want to can overcome a great deal. Fortunately, there are plenty more people who adopt children for the good of the children.

What looks like what is going on more is a sort of attack on adoption. Yet why should this be? What is accomplished by this? Perhaps the elimination of adoption somehow or having it presented as a less than noble alternative is a way to make abortion the best option. This does ignore what kind of option abortion is, but who cares?

Apparently, the abortion side wants it where you can’t win either way. Want to adopt? Well what kind of twisted people could adopt a baby? That’s too risky! Want to run a pro-life center? They will be attacked then. Yeah. It hasn’t been breaking news for some reason, but that has been happening.

Hamill meanwhile can deal with all the people who are ready to give pushback who have been adopted by loving parents. While I have shown there are superheroes who were adopted by supervillains, some superheroes were adopted by good parents as well. One such example Mark Hamill should know about is Luke Skywalker himself. Of course, none of this information that is more factual in nature is of any interest when one just wants to push emotional strings.

One aspect that should definitely happen in this country is that adoption should become easier. To adopt a child is much more expensive than is feasible for many people beyond the ordinary costs of raising a child. Perhaps if adoption was made to be as easy as possible, like abortion has been, then we could see more adoption.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

Thoughts On Joker

What does Joker teach us about ourselves? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

First off, spoiler alert. If you haven’t seen Joker yet and plan to see it, do not read this yet. If you keep reading, don’t get angry with me and say “You spoiled something!” You were warned at the beginning. Yes. There are a lot of them in here and if you read ahead you will get filled in on several key plot points.

Anyway, my wife and I saw this movie yesterday thanks to a friend who gave us a couple of tickets to see whatever movie we wanted. This is definitely a dark movie and you might want to take your kids with you to see Batman, but I recommend you really consider before taking them to see this one.

Also, something that my wife would want me to say and I agree with is that Joaquin Phoenix is masterful at this role. We have a Joker who could rival Heath Ledger and even in her mind the best Joker of all, Mark Hamill, from Batman: The Animated Series. Phoenix does an incredibly convincing job of playing a man wrestling with delusional thinking to an extreme.

This movie also gives us a look at what mental illness can be like and the problem when the system doesn’t seem to be there. I could understand that. It’s hard to find good therapists and good psychiatrists nowadays. There’s also a stigma involving mental health.

Probably the best quote in the movie about this is something Joker writes in his notebook. “The worst part of having a mental illness is people expect you to behave as if you don’t.” Now I’m not saying there isn’t some element of the will involved in mental illness. I have a problem with it when people make a negative condition their identity. I also think it’s wrong to think that psychiatric medications will solve all the problems. They can help, but good therapy does the best.

At the same time, we would never go to someone in a wheelchair and expect them to get up and walk as if they were fine. We give full understanding there. Yet when it comes to mental health, there is a stigma. Watch what happens next time a mass shooting takes place. What will be the first thing said before we really know anything about the shooter? Mental health. After all, such a person would have to be mental. Right?

This brings us to something about the evil in Joker. Let’s start with the beginning. Joker’s name in this is Arthur Fleck and at the start, he is a clown waving a sign to advertise for a business. Some street kids steal the sign and he pursues them only to have them knock him down by breaking the sign in his face and kicking him relentlessly while he’s on the ground and leaving him alone. These are kids sadly doing evil just to do evil.

Because of this, one of his fellow workers gives him a gun to defend himself. Arthur knows he’s not to have one but he’s told it will be okay. Later on he’s on a Subway and some guys start assaulting him there. At one point, he starts shooting at them. Now I am someone who believes in self-defense and thinks when you’re in the midst of being assaulted and you are in danger, it is proper to fight back.

He goes beyond that. He takes out two of the three who have assaulted him. The third is wounded and hobbling away. Arthur chases after him and ends up shooting him to kill him. At that point, it is not self-defense, but murder, seeing as Arthur was in no danger from the guy at the time.

The thing is Arthur has no remorse. There is no sadness to him. If anything, he lives with freedom. He seems to become a more confident individual. As he tells a social worker he works with, he now knows that he exists. He has made some sort of impact on the world. He has not been a doormat. He stood up for himself.

We see him walking into the apartment of the woman he wants and kissing her and her wrapping her arms around him and kissing back. Soon they’re going out together and when his mother gets sick and is in the hospital, she’s right there by his side. She thinks whoever shot the guys on the subway was a hero, not knowing it was him.

Here’s the problem with that though. None of that happened. We find out later on that he wanders into her apartment and she doesn’t know who he is and refers to her as the man down the hall. It all looks real, but it’s part of the delusion. This is why I put a pause on the mental topic. Joker really does have issues and a large part of this movie is wondering what is real and what isn’t.

He reads a letter his mother has sent to Thomas Wayne where she writes that Thomas Wayne is really Arthur’s father. He finds a way to get in to see Wayne, unless that’s part of the delusion. He is told he is adopted and gets the files from Arkham to see. In them, we find that it is said that Arthur is an adopted child and not the son of Thomas Wayne.

Once again, is this real or not? Fans of DC comics will know that faking adoptions is nothing new to the rich and powerful who want to cover up anything that could damage their reputation. It’s entirely possible Thomas Wayne could have had an affair and then painted Arthur’s mother as delusional and faked several documents to that effect.

One other major delusion involves the figure of Murray Franklin. Murray is a talk show host that Arthur and his mother watch every night. Arthur has a delusion where he is in the audience and shouts out to Murray that he loves him. Murray talks with him and asks him to join him on stage and tells him privately something along the lines of, “You see all these lights and all this fanfare? I’d trade it away in a second to have a son like you.” Murray becomes the father in a sense that Arthur doesn’t have and in his apartment with his mother there are several video tapes of the Murray Franklin show, not common for a talk show.

Yet at one point Arthur goes to do some stand-up and a condition that he says he has that causes him to laugh uncontrollably for no reason at times kicks in. The tape is sent to the Murray Franklin show where it is played and Murray mocks Arthur and refers to him as a Joker, hence the name. Later, the show says there was a positive response to the clip and they want Arthur to come on the show to talk with Murray.

Again, keep in mind what I said about spoilers.

Before he goes on, Arthur ends up killing his mother with a pillow, probably revenge since he thinks she lied to him about his origins. Next, he kills the co-worker who gave him the gun that he could use. Then, he goes on Murray’s show and admits to killing the guys on the Subway. After some conversation, he kills Murray on live TV and riots break out all over Gotham as clown figures take to the streets that had been inspired first by the Subway killings and then Murray Franklin’s death propelled it even further.

While the police are taking Joker away, some clowns driving an ambulance crash into the car and pull Joker out. We also see at this point one of the clowns follow Thomas Wayne and his wife out killing them in front of young Bruce Wayne. Joker is treated as a hero by his fellow clowns.

The movie ends with him talking to another social worker, same race and gender as the first, at a mental hospital, probably Arkham. When he leaves, his footsteps are bloody for awhile and then he is being chased back and forth by someone. I honestly still don’t know what to make of this scene. Does it mean everything was a delusion? Hard to say. Fans of the series do know that some things are real, such as the murder of the Waynes and Bruce being left behind.

We also know Joker does become a sociopath villain, yet here is the real danger. I do not think Joker is the threat he is because he is a sociopath. He is the threat because his heart is evil. This is the real culprit behind everything. Sociopathy could make him more prone to that as could perhaps any mental illness, but you want to know who is really incredibly capable of doing great evil out there? You want to know who it is we should really watch for great evil?

You and me.

Clay Jones did his own research on genocides for his book on evil and found out that the people who commit genocides are normally ordinary people. You can see Hitler was the mastermind behind the Holocaust, but Hitler could not have done everything on his own. He needed to enlist the aid of others. These were men who were often good fathers to their kids and good husbands to their wives.

In Lamentations, Jeremiah writes about a siege and how good women cooked their own children who became their food when they were starving. Today, people who would otherwise be good people murder their own children in abortion and think nothing of it. It would be easy to say everyone has a mental illness and if we could just eliminate the illness, we would remove evil from the world.

That’s a delusion in itself.

Joker is delusional? Yep. So are every single one of us to some extent. We all readily believe lies about ourselves and about God consistently. We all think things that we shouldn’t and believe things that we shouldn’t. Christians do it. Atheists do it. Everyone does it. Unfortunately, we also convince ourselves our thinking is spot on in all of this.

So who could be the Joker? You or I could. If we think that we are above a certain evil, that could be the sign that we are most likely to fall for it. Of course, it doesn’t mean we will, but pride often comes before that fall. How many guys have had friendly chats with that female co-worker over lunch thinking nothing will come of it only to wind up in a hotel room a few months later? Yep. It happens.

Joker is definitely a film to get you to think about human evil and what it is. I left the film thinking I had seen something interesting, but still unsure about what it was. I suppose that’s intentional on the part of the writers and directors. Maybe we cannot know what is and isn’t true in Joker’s story, but we can know that despite what he says about his life being a comedy, when he uses it for evil, it is a tragedy.

Let’s use our lives for good. Be a comedy.

In Christ,
Nick Peters