On Villain Stories

I’ve written about villains before after complaints about The Walking Dead. This post was also partially inspired by The Walking Dead. This Sunday’s episode showed the back story of Negan. SPOILERS FOLLOW



Negan was a villain in an earlier season of the show. He killed two of the good guys. One of those was one of the original, much loved characters. This death was also in the comic. Eventually, he was defeated but rather than kill him they locked him up in their community jail. The story has now flashed forward six years. The show has slowly made Negan less of of a villain. He bonded with a kid and then saved her at one point. He was allowed to escape from the jail so he could infiltrate the new villain group to take them down from the inside. He killed the new villain. His is very much a redemption story. I have read some of the comments on posts about the episode telling the story of Negan before he was a villain. In addition to the normal “is this show still on” comments from people who want to show they are way too cool to watch such things there were complaints about Negan getting a redemption arc. People are mad that the character who killed people they liked gets a chance to be redeemed. They think it isn’t possible that someone who once murdered someone could ever be redeemed or given a second chance. (see more on second chances here)

There have also been recent complaints about the new Hunger Games book being about President Snow when he was younger. People are mad that there is a book that shows a human side of someone who did terrible things. They don’t feel like a villain should get a backstory, especially one that shows they were not always bad. I’ve seen the same complaints about the idea of a Cruella De Vil origin story. The theory behind all of these complaints is a bad person is a bad person and will always be a bad person forever and ever amen and no one should care why they are a bad person. I disagree.

I think it is important and interesting to understand what turns someone into the villain. In fiction, it is a better story if the villain has depth and you understand why they are doing what they do. I have enjoyed seeing Negan go from Big Bad to antihero. I liked seeing the story of how he went from who he was in normal life to who he became in the zombie apocalypse. I think it was interesting to see how President Snow was as a young man and what happened to turn him into who he became. I am interested in watching Cruella(and not just because I have a crush on Emma Stone). Villain stories are more interesting to me than hero stories. Heroes and happy endings are boring. I like complicated characters who might be a little(or a lot) bad.

This thinking is also prominent in the real world. If someone commits a certain crime many people believe there is no redemption. Look at Michael Vick. People were mad that he was allowed to play football again. People are mad whenever he is not treated like a criminal who should never have god things happen to him. We want to send people to prison and keep them there. We don’t believe in redemption or rehabilitation. Bad people are bad people forever and ever amen. We don’t care about what might have led them to commit the crimes. We don’t want to spend any money or effort as a society to try to change anything. We are fine to continue to let people grow up in bad situations and then lock them away forever once they commit a crime. We don’t want to hear abut mental health issues. That’s just an cop out, An excuse to avoid prison.

I think our real life aversion to redemption and lack of sympathy for anyone who commits a crime bleeds into our feelings about fictional villains.

I Watch TV So You Don’t Have To: A Look Back at Greek

Greek aired on ABC Family(now Freeform) from 2007-2011. I was not the target audience, but I watched from the beginning to end. Over the past few months things kept coming up that reminded me of the show. It is available on Hulu so I spent the last month or so watching the entire series again. Here are my thoughts.

The premise: Casey Cartwright is a popular sorority girl in ZBZ, the top sorority on campus. Her little brother Rusty, a polymer science major, is now a freshman at the same school. Her hopes of keeping their lives separate on campus are spoiled when he decides to join a fraternity. Casey is dating Evan Chambers, the wealthy pledge chair of the top fraternity, Omega Chi. Her ex is Cappie, the slacker president of the party frat, Kappa Tau. Cappie and Evan are former roommates who now hate each other. Other main characters are Casey’s roommate Ashleigh, Rusty’s roommate Dale, Rusty’s new friend Calvin, new ZBZ pledge Rebecca and ZBZ president Frannie.

The series mainly revolves around events in the Greek system. Rusty pledges Kappa Tau. Calvin pledges Omega Chi. Dale hates the Greek system. Rusty has to figure out how to balance school and Greek life. Rusty and Calvin struggle to not let the rivalry between their frats affect their friendship. Casey deals with relationship issues. On the surface it doesn’t sound like much, but it has depth.

Dale starts out as a guy who hangs a Confederate flag in his room and believes his church’s beliefs are the only way to live. He goes through a crisis of faith, declares himself an atheist and then finds his way back to his faith. At the same time, he becomes friends with Calvin, a gay, black man and by the end is coming to Calvin to ask him to counsel a kid from his church to help him come out. He could have been a comic relief/villain but they went much deeper.

Calvin struggle with telling his Omega Chi brothers he is gay. He’s out at home, but doesn’t want to be labeled as the gay guy at school. The Omega Chi’s are also not the most enlightened people on campus.

Rusty and Evan get in a fight after Rusty catches him cheating on Casey with Rebecca. The feud lasts for almost the entire series.

Cappie struggles with the idea of eventually leaving school. He’s happy at Kappa Tau and sees no reason to ever leave.

The show works best when the characters intermingle. Dale eventually ends up working at ZBZ. Calvin and Ashleigh become friends early on. Rusty and Ashleigh bond after taking a class together. Cappie and Dale become odd friends. Calvin and Dale become friends. It is very much an ensemble show. Casey and Rusty are technically the main characters, but the rest of the circle is much more interesting.

It’s a good way to spend an hour here and there. You grow to care about the characters enough to feel sad when they part ways in the series finale.

If you need a new show that is wrapped and ready to binge give it a shot.

My Week in Books, Movies, and TV 10/23/20

Another one of those weeks where everything runs together and I have to re-read last week’s post to determine what I did since then. Maybe some day time will seem normal again.

Movies – I can recall one movie I watched this week: Vampires vs The Bronx on Netflix. The basic plot – a group of young friends from the Bronx start the movie trying to save their local bodega from closure due to gentrification and end up fighting to save their neighborhood from vampires. It was a little like a kid-friendly horror version of Attack the Block. It was an enjoyable way to spend 90 minutes or so. It was a good cast and a fun movie. Nothing groundbreaking, but we really don’t need groundbreaking for a Friday afternoon movie on Netflix.

TV – Not really a lot to report on the TV front. We watched all of our regular shows: Transplant, Coroner, LA’s Finest, Swamp Thing and my Walking Dead shows. I finally started watching the second season of You. We are back to watching Jeopardy regularly. I’m happy to have it back, but it seems like the quality of contestant was diminished now that they are only using California residents since travel is hard now. We have also started watching Family Feud a lot because it is on around Jeopardy. I enjoy it a lot more than I remember.

Books – I finished two books this week.

Half Moon Bay by Jonathon and Jesse Kellerman – This is the third book in the Clay Edison series. Clay is a coroner. In this book he is called to a construction site at Berkeley when bones are found. The bones are those of a child. Based on the placement and construction history they are from the early 70’s. Clay then received a phone call from a man saying it might be his sister. It’s obvious they aren’t as the bones are from a male. This sets off two mysteries Clay investigates – who is the child in the construction site and the private case he takes on to find the man’s missing sister. It’s an interesting mystery as there is a chance no real crime was committed, I like Clay as a character. I would recommend for mystery fans.

Charming as a Verb by Ben Phillipe – A YA book I stumbled upon at work. Henri is a senior at the prestigious FATE Academy in NYC with dreams of going to Columba. Corinne Troy is an “intense” classmate who seems immune to his charms. When she blackmails him to help her change her image after discovering his dog walking scam they discover that they really like each other. It is just a nice teen romance that I need on occasion in between my death and disaster books. Well written, well developed characters. I recommend to those who like a good teen romance.

On Deck – Movies will again be a luck of the draw thing. If we decide to watch a movie, we will scan various streaming services until we find something we can both live with. TV will still be just watching the latest episode of the shows we like. I will watch You when i have TV time alone. Baseball is over and the Ravens are on a bye, but I still have Kentucky football tomorrow and random NFL games to watch Sunday. American Housewife and Superstore come back this week, but I will have to wait to watch them when my daughter is back at home. I am reading First Kill the Lawyers by David Housewright.

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My Week in Books, Movies, and TV 10/2/20

It’s October already. How did that happen? I’m glad I changed my reading goal during lockdown. I’m way down this year. Here’s my week.

Movies – We watched two older movies this week. The first was the sequel to The Cutting Edge. In this one the daughter of the original duo is a skater who moves to doubles after an injury. Her partner is a skater she met while on vacation. It’s very similar to the first movie. Not as good, but we enjoyed it. The second movie was Knockaround Guys with Vin Diesel, Seth Green, Barry Pepper and Andy Davoli as the sons of mobsters trying to prove they are ready to take over. It also starred Dennis Hopper and John Malkovich. My wife is a big Diesel fan. I like Seth Green and John Malkovich. It was the perfect storm of actors. We did enjoy the movie. Whatever happened to Barry Pepper?

TV – We watched LA’s Finest and finished the latest season of Lucifer. I finished Hart of Dixie. I really liked that show and would highly recommend it. Masked Singer is back! I tried the new show I Can See Your Voice and have decided it is not worth my time(until Joel McHale is a guest judge) I watched a few episodes of Daybreak on Netflix. It is kind of Ferris Bueller meets the zombie apocalypse. I like it, but it was canceled. I watched a lot of football.

Books – I finished The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead. I’ve only ever read Zone One, his zombie book. Nickel Boys tells the story of Elwood Curtis, who is sent to the Nickel Academy, a juvenile reformatory. We first see the academy in present day when bodies are being unearthed from the grounds. We meet Elwood before he is arrested, see his time at Nickel and pieces of his adult life. It is very good. The best I’ve read in a while. Read it.

On Deck – Movies will once again be whatever we find on streaming. TV will be more LA’s Finest, Coroner and Transplant. There is a new SNL tomorrow night. I’m very exited about that I’m reading The Black Kids by Christina Hammonds Reed.

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My Week in Books, Movies, and TV 9/18/20

The “new normal” means that I am not getting many new movies from the library. There’s no new network TV season. I don’t have as many books checked out because my days in the library don’t lend themselves to browsing the shelves. I don’t like to have to think to find my entertainment.

Movies – It took me a minute to remember if I watched a movie. every day I browse the guide to see if there are movies I want to record to watch after work. Most days I find nothing. Last week I did find Escape From New York. I don’t know that I had ever watched it before. I can see why it was popular when it was released, but it seemed really dated. I liked Kurt Russell but felt like the rest of the cast’s acting was stilted. It’s possible my enjoyment was hampered by me being distracted while watching.

TV – As expected, I watched a lot of sports. The Braves played the Nationals and the Orioles, so they were on TV every night. Unfortunately, they did not play their best against the O’s. I also watched NFL football and a little college football. We watched the latest episodes of Transplant and Coroner. Both very good Canadian shows filling spots while other shows are still off air. I watched more Hart of Dixie. I’m happy to see dates for return of some of my shows next month and November.

Books – I finished two books this week:

The Hollow Ones by Guilermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan. It starts with two FBI agents responding to a case of a man on a rampage who is heading to his house to kill his family. When they arrive, one of the agents subdues the suspect but then goes to kill the last kid, forcing his partner to shoot him. While she is on suspension, a retired FBI agent directs her to a strange man who can help her with her case. He tells her there are beings out there who inhabit a body and go on murderous rampages and he can stop them. I enjoyed it and I hope that I am correct that there will be another one.

Long Bright River by Liz Moore – I found this one while checking in books at the library. Mickey is a cop in Philadelphia. Her sister Kacey is a drug addicted prostitute who has gone missing at the same time there is a string if murders of women in their neighborhood. The story is told in then and now segments so we see Kacey and Mickey grow up and how they became who they are. Their stories are compelling. The murder mystery is well done, I would highly recommend it.

On Deck – Still no movies from the library. The Invisible Man is on HBO tomorrow nhttps://www.paypal.com/paypalme/theycallmetateright so I will record it. I recorded two shows that premiered on HBO Monday night: The Third Day and We Are Who We Are. I will attempt to try them this week so if I know if I should keep recording them. I have a copy of The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead from the library to read.

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My Last Two Weeks in Books, Movies, and TV 7/31/20

I don’t have a lot of note to report in regards to TV and movies. I spent a lot of time outside over the past two weeks. I did actually finish two books since my last post.

Movies – I’ve been trying to remember if I watched any movies over the past two weeks. I’m sure I watched at least part of some random old movie at some point. I don’t think I have actively watched a movie since the last post. I could be wrong. I just don’t remember. We did watch Hamilton again. It’s still very good. I have an old Frankie Avalon movie, Ski Party, playing in the background as I type this. I’m trying to turn the news off once I get the highlights in the morning. I usually have The Today Show on in the background, but these days I need less news in my life.

TV – We have been watching two new shows recently – United We Fall and Tough as Nails. United We Fall is a dumb sitcom with an annoying laugh track. It is a standard family sitcom. Nothing special, but my daughter kind of likes it so it is a good change of pace from our regular shows. Tough as Nails is a reality show hosted by Phil from Amazing Race. It has a group of blue-collar workers competing in challenges. There are individual and team challenges. The overall winner gets a big prize, but each week the winning team gets money as well. When you are eliminated from the individual competition you stay and work with your team in the team challenges so you still have a chance of winning some money. We like it more than we expected to like it.

Books – As I mentioned above, I finished two books since the last post:

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins – This is a prequel to the Hunger Games series with a young President Snow as the main character. It takes place when he is a student and acts as a mentor during the 10th Hunger Games. I thought it was an interesting look at the early games and how they evolved to what they were in the original book. She did a good job of getting me invested in the characters, even while I knew the main character would become a villain. I think we need more of the story to really understand how this version of Snow became the villain he was in the original book.

The Poppy War by RF Kuang – This is the story of Rin, a war orphan in the poor Rooster Province, who aces the test to go to school and is sent to the most prestigious military academy in Nikan. The first part of the book is her experience at the school. The second half of the book is her experience during the next war. I really enjoyed the school portion of the story. How she goes from the poor kid who looks different than the rest to the star of the class. Her work with eccentric lore master Jiang. The first part of the war story was decent. By the end of the book, I felt like I was reading just to finish. I likely won’t read the next book in the series.

On Deck – I have 1917 and the new Jumanji movie from the library to watch. My family wants to watch the new Disney Channel movie Upside Down Magic, so I am recording that. The newest season of Shameless is now on Netflix, so I have something to watch when I am the only person awake in the house. I am reading Hearts Unbroken by Cynthia Leitich Smith.

My Week in Book, Movies, and TV 6/19/20

Here we are. The end of another week. Only 10 hours until my sweet freedom of the weekend. Here is my recap of what I’ve watched and read this week.

Movies – We watched several movies this week as we did not find a new show that we all loved enough to watch every night after work is over. We focused on old moves that my daughter had never watched. It started with Clueless last weekend. As suspected, she really liked that one. We were shocked to discover that she had never actually watched Back to the Future. She blames our parenting skills. So, we watched all three of the movies over the week. She disagrees with my assessment that the second movie was not very good. She seemed to like all three of them. It’s possible we watched something else over the week, but those are the only ones I can remember.

TV – I finally finished the latest season of On My Block. I’m glad there will be another season. I would hate for it to end the way it did. We are now watching Survivor – Australia. It’s still weird watching the old seasons. So much has changed over the years. We watched the latest episodes of Stargirl and Snowpiercer. My daughter continues to watch Zach and Cody on Disney Plus at the end of the night while I sleep on the couch. I started to watch Castle Rock on Hulu but discovered it started me on season 2 for some reason. I will have to go back and start over now. I still see parts of old Grey’s Anatomy in the afternoons while I work and my daughter watches TV.

Books – I finished two books this week. I finally finished Deathless Divide by Justina Ireland after putting it aside several times to read books for work. It is the sequel to Dread Nation. It is set in post Civil War America that is overrun with zombies. The first book started in Baltimore and ended in Kansas. In this one, they head to California It is a long book and it took me a while to get into it since I kept having to put it aside but once I got back to it I liked it as much as the first. I also read The Art of War after I was asked to fill in for the person who does the nonfiction book club at work. It was a quick read, but I can’t say I enjoyed it that much. I’m not sure I really retained any of the text.

On Deck – We will likely keep looking for old movies to watch with our daughter. We need to watch Jest Mercy while it is still free. Selma is on TV tonight. I will probably record it since we all mentioned that we never watched it when it came out. TV will depend on who is awake and free when. I will probably watch Castle Rock this weekend when I am inevitably up hours before everyone else. Yellowstone comes back Sunday, so we will watch that. I will try the new Perry Mason show on HBO.  We will watch more old Survivor. The Belmont Stakes is tomorrow. It will be nice to have a live sporting event to watch. I need to find a book in the house that will hold my interest. The ARC I started this week is not compelling me to read.

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