Horror Roots

“…They say that horror comes from the uncanny. The evil things lurking in the backs of our minds. Those creatures seldom compare to the torments that insecurity and shyness impose upon their respective victims, do they?”

-Bad Nog

Hi Bad Nog,

Phew… quite a loaded question. Now we’re getting into the psychology of evil. Are their demons worse than the ones they inflict? Well to answer that, let’s take a look into what causes evil. What makes bad people tick? Well, I’ve touched on this a little in the past, but we can certainly delve into it a little more.

First, let’s take a look at the different types of bad guy…

The sociopath: This is one of the most common bad guys we know. The classic bad guy who is bad because… well why not? There is no rhyme or reason to his madness, he likes pain and he likes inflicting it on others. Not much else to it. Maybe there are a few screws loose, maybe not.

The philosophical bad guy: This is usually a more learned bad guy. We’ve seen this a couple of times more recently. This is the bad guy who has studied the human condition, psychology and philosophy, and is often extremely intelligent. Over time, after years of research or experience, he’s come to the conclusion that he has to be evil to maintain so preconceived notion of balance. It doesn’t really seem like this bad guy enjoys what he’s doing and may often regret it, but to him, the evil is a means to an end.

The bad guy of circumstance: So this is a bad guy who has a justified reason for it. Often, this is the bad guy that most sympathize with. They’re most of the time not rotten to the core. They’re doing what they’re doing to save someone or something they care about. People often gravitate towards this type of bad guy because they’re the most realistic and most people could see themselves in this circumstance if the situation was right.
Now there are some out there who would criticize such a bad guy. They’d say that there is always a choice and while that’s true, when someone you care about is suffering, or could be hurt or killed, and the devil is standing there offering a deal, it’s not so easy to turn it down.

The victimized villain: This is someone who was not always evil, probably wouldn’t be evil if their life had taken a different course (which brings up nature vs. nurture), but unfortunately has seen horrors throughout their existence that have conditioned them to this point. Perhaps they are driven by revenge, mad at the world for being tortured or watching a loved one die. Perhaps they’ve been psychologically tormented to the point where their mind is twisted.

The narrative villain: This is the bad guy I take the most issue with. Think Javert from Les Miserables or pretty much any law enforcement officer in a gangster movie. Essentially, he’s the villain for no other reason than the author has decided to make the bad guy the ‘moral right’ in the story. So basically it sucks to be the real good guy.

So let’s take into account all of the above and go back to your original question are their demons as bad as the ones they impose on their victims. Unfortunately, all I can say is maybe… because it really depends. You have to look at what kind of damage the villain is doing vs. the damage that has been done to them.

If we’re talking about one villain and one victim, then we need to look at the mental demons that the bad guy is suffering from and are they worse than the ones being inflicted?

Keep in mind, this is not to try to justify actions or let a villain off the hook. I’ve always been a proponent of holding people responsible for their actions. This is simply to explain the why.

Anyway, I hope that answers your questions Bad Nog. Good luck with your writing!

-Jim


Readers,

Do you have a question about writing, publishing, my stories, etc? Please feel free to post a comment or email me.
jimthewritingwizard@gmail.com
I’ll use those comments to select my next blog post.

I have been writing for several years, have 4 published works, experience with publishing and independent work, so I can hopefully be of assistance.
Please note, I only do one of these a day and will do my best to respond to everyone, but it may take some time.

Thanks friends!
Catch you on the flip side!

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5 thoughts on “Horror Roots

  1. jensenempire2551 says:

    Wonderful information, thank you! i would also like to thank you for dropping by to have a read.

    Like

  2. elmediat says:

    What you are describing is for the most part the modern 20th century monster. There is a difficult line here in the horror genre, when it moved from the predominantly supernatural horror to depicting the psychologically damaged individual. Whereas the supernatural horror monster was often a symbol of other things in society or the psyche, when writers turned to the “real” monsters it becomes less clear what is being represented.

    The sociopath and the psychopath suffer from a condition marked by the shared diagnosis — antisocial personality disorder. The DSM-5 defines antisocial personality as someone have 3 or more of the following traits:

    – Regularly breaks or flaunts the law
    – Constantly lies and deceives others
    – Is impulsive and doesn’t plan ahead
    – Can be prone to fighting and aggressiveness
    – Has little regard for the safety of others
    – Irresponsible, can’t meet financial obligations
    – Doesn’t feel remorse or guilt

    Unlike vampires, werewolves and zombies sociopaths & psychopaths exist in reality. When they are used in mass media entertainment as the monster the question becomes will they be portrayed realistically as characters or will they be used a symbolic force that the protagonist must confront & overcome.

    Your list of bad guys, while differentiating certain qualities, are for the most part either sociopaths or psychopaths.

    I found these mass media pop culture lists online that may be of interest:

    Psychopath Pop Culture Examples: Dexter, Anton Chigurh in No Country for Old Men, Henry in Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, Patrick Bateman in American Psycho

    Sociopath Pop Culture Examples: The Joker in The Dark Knight, JD in Heathers, Alex Delarge in A Clockwork Orange

    In terms of horror & terror, I would use the following example to help my students understand the difference.

    A WW I soldier may have been terrified before the first battle in the trenches. After surviving and seeing the outcome he is horrified.

    Terror is fear in anticipation – intense anxiety. Horror is fear combined with physical & emotional repugnance.

    Thanks for visiting & supporting my blog. It is much appreciated.

    Liked by 1 person

    • StCyril says:

      Right, so you make a lot of good points, but even the villains of old would have some sort of motivation. In the cases of vampires or werewolves, perhaps bloodlust?
      I think that WW1 soldier would fall into the victim villain category, and I wouldn’t qualify all of them as the sociopathic killer, quite the opposite in at least a few of the cases, particularly the ones who are victims of circumstance, or have to become the villain as a means of selling their soul to the devil to save someone.

      As to your comment about 20th Century villains… well, that’s accurate enough. Unfortunately, in this day and age, a bad guy can’t just be bad. It’s very rare that we see a straight villain role succeed. Even Disney is going back and exploring the past and vices of some of their baddies.
      Anyway, thanks for your input! My readers will no doubt benefit greatly from your points!

      Like

      • elmediat says:

        I see what you mean by motivation. I was looking at how in an earlier generation cultural view things that we now consider neurologically behavioural or a consequence of environmental shaping were seen simply as “free will character flaws” – gambling alcohol abuse, learning disabilities.

        Dracula – in the novel – represents the fears English Victorians had of the foreign and the sexual/uncontrolled passion. The rise of the vampire craze in the late mid-20th century is interesting. It also represents a set of fears and concerns, quite different from the Victorian society. Vampires = blood, sex & death plus supernatural immortality. At the time of this growing interest, as I remember my secondary school students, there was an actual fear that equated with these symbols, AIDS. For the youth trying to confront romance and sexual desire while being told that they were putting themselves into a life threatening situation was terrifying & horrifying. It is no wonder Buffy the Vampire Slayer was such a significant cultural symbol. Angel and Spike become the avatars of AIDs – Romance, violence, death, desire and quest for a cure ( re-gaining their soul).

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