Adaptation Woobification and the ‘Tragic Villain Backstory’ Genre

This is a couple years old, but still relevant, in light of the general wtf*ery going on in the Star Wars fandom regarding Kylo , Finn, and Rey.

The Afictionado

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As I have said before, people love the pants off evil or morally ambiguous characters, and thus both fans and creators are constantly caught in the struggle between wanting to humanise them and enjoying them as the malicious beasties they are. This, it seems, has spawned a whole cinematic trend of taking well-known villains from classical tales—like Sleeping Beauty, or The Wizard of Oz or Dracula—and presenting to the audience their “untold story” which paints them in a much more sympathetic light.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with this upfront, and in fact the concept is hugely interesting—it turns our perceptions of good and evil on its head, and plays with morality and misunderstanding and wholly embraces the notion that villains are in fact the heroes of their own story. That story, however, seems to have a recurrent theme of being a sob-worthy one that aims to explain and…

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