- tell me that the bad guy is “different.”
- alienate the bad guy so that they are the only flawed, unrelatable character
- tell me that the reason for their crimes is because of something they believe, or where they’re from, or because of a certain way they identify.
- perpetuate stereotypes for the sake of making the bad guy seem awful/scary.
- tell me that the line between good and evil is very thin.
- tell me that the choices a bad guy makes has led them to where they are now.
- tell me that the bad guy could be anyone. It could be me. It could be you. It could be the people we trust most.
And why should you do this? What benefits does it have?
What this does is that it makes it difficult for readers to blame evil on some aspect of the person that they don’t share. It makes them more aware that their choices make them good or bad, not who they are. And so if they ever fall down that path of evil, their brain doesn’t tell them “oh, you’re not the bad guy because you’re not from a certain religion” or “oh, you’re not a bad guy because your skin color isn’t the same as other bad guys.” Instead, it says, “maybe you’re making the wrong choice. Think about your actions. Are you becoming the bad guy?”
I’m saying this in the context of writing, but really it’s about any type of media. Books. Movies. The news. And this is something I know would make a difference for people in the real world. For me, and everyone else.
So DO tell me that the bad guy is just as human as the rest of us–not as a way of excusing their crimes, but in a way that it serves as a warning.