Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The New Story: "Oh, My Poor Villain"

I had always thought life first as a story—and if there is a story, there is a storyteller.”—G. K. Chesterton

Here goes charging into waters that are probably over my head. So, I preface with a disclaimer:

  • This is not a literary analysis of the intrigue and value of an antihero in a story.
  • This is not a witty movie critique.
  • It is not a denial of the power of the past to influence and inform the present.
  • And it is certainly not a denial of redemption—even for the most villainous of us—or of the power of love.

This is, however, a warning. I’m concerned we (all of us, Christians included) are enjoying our skate on a glittery lake and ignoring the warning sign: Danger-thin ice. The ice looks pretty solid to us, so we skate on, oblivious to the melting beneath our feet.

And this is a reminder to myself that things are not what they seem. We experience only one small portion of a bigger universe, which exists beyond our senses, often ignorant that it is, as C.S. Lewis put it, “a universe at war.”

A reminder that there is good and there is evil. There is a hero and there is a villain. And maybe there are millions of little antiheros—us, as we play our brief parts in our own little stories.

Perhaps that’s why we are so fascinated with, so sympathetic to, the antihero in our movies and stories today, why we’re losing patience with honorable heroes and vile villains.

We want someone more complex, like us, to be a hero. Someone good but flawed. Someone whose revenge is justified because of a horrible injustice done to him or her. Someone who has a right to blame the world/society/ his mother/ her lover for why she or he does what they do. Someone we can understand because we see ourselves.

But I am concerned that we are buying into a big deception. We prefer the sign on the other side of the lake that has a scene straight out of a Currier and Ives Christmas card of ear-muffed skaters on solidly frozen ice, which doesn’t look at all as though it were thin.

Recently, I saw the impressively visual Maleficent. I too, sympathized with her once I understood the wretched betrayal that triggered her evil revenge. I oohed and awed as I watched “true love” soften her heart. I applauded her heroic willingness to endanger her life for another.

Love. Redemption. Self sacrifice. All good Christian themes, yes?

But I’ve learned to note the end of a story, to see what message, what “take-away” the author is wrapping up with. This is what I heard at the end of Maleficent. (I didn’t take notes, so this is a paraphrase, understand.)

We’ve been told the wrong story. The story is not of a hero and separate (very bad villain) but of a flawed hero/villain—all in one. (Just like us.)

Why do I think this is a dangerous message? Because I too, can be lulled into a sleep and forget that there is a very different story.

It is story whose author and hero are all Good, all Love, all Justice and Mercy. No evil. The prince in this story will come and bestow the redemptive kiss and take his bride away to the castle.

We are in this story, too, and have a part, but it is not about us (as much as we’d like it to be). We do not need to take our own revenge, deal out justice for injustice because our hero will take of this for us. We do not need to let past wrongs define who we are now because we can receive freedom from the hatred of unforgiveness.

The villain in this story is evil. Pridefully, arrogantly evil. He wants to change the story--steal it from our memory and if not ours, then that of our children. He wants us to believe the “new story.” 

The one that makes him the hero.

So which storyteller are you listening too?

I think movies, stories of any kind are conveyors of messages. They have great power to influence how we think without our even knowing that we’ve been beguiled.

The answer isn’t to avoid them, to hide our heads in the proverbial sand, but to live wisely and to use the power of story, visual or otherwise, to teach our children well, lest we all forget.

May you have great hope and confidence in the part and time in the Story he has placed you.

P.S.S.  Excuse me while I make my blog appear and disappear in an attempt to freshen it. Even though I use backup--it goes away and I don't find it!



  1. So true, Marcia. Ah, the power of a story.

  2. Impact filled post.

    My take away line is, "We do not need to let past wrongs define who we are now because we can receive freedom from the hatred of unforgiveness."

    Write on!


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