Do they deserve it?
Backstories, are employed inside every story in depicting characters better, adding an extra depth to them, justifying their actions and their emotions, in different forms and shapes. It could be as simple as a sentence, “I have lived my whole life not knowing what fear is”, a chapter, or even an entire arc of a story.
And normally, it’s either revealed at the start of the story, or whenever the characters are in the darkest hour, seeking for motivation, purpose to keep moving, to not give up. But what truly resonate with the audience, us, is backstories that are tragic, unfathomably so.
Backstories in many storytelling medium is an essential gift that shape the characters in the stories; it tells us, the audience things that only we and the characters know, and sometimes things that even the characters themselves don’t realize. Any story, any at all, need this element. Characters, need this element.
Good, and evil.
However, it’s more impactful if villains get their share of backstories because then you’d get to see how they reached that state, and why they do these “evil” deeds. Their backstories don’t necessarily need to justify their actions, but they add deeper layers to understanding them, as not just a flat character that just seeks pure chaos.
One of the most relevant villain in this regard is probably DC’s Joker, which depicted as driven to a corner by the society, and went through tons of injustice, depression, eventually turned to the dark side in Gotham.
Take it another twist, and you’ve got the drum demon, Kyogai in Demon Slayer. He also aspired to be a writer but was ridiculed for it, and outright sneered for his talent, with his drumming hobby also mocked and goes unrecognized. This eventually drove him to become a demon, to seek for recognition in demon world rather than the human world that he struggled with.
Crafting these tragic backstories to these villains add a sense of pity, resonance to their character; it leaves just enough gap that you would’ve wondered what they can achieve or if their dream would be realized if they have just struggled a bit more, but not enough gap for the character themselves to see this bright future.
It’s this contrast that drive the characters, develops them into villains that have their own circumstances, motivation just like any hero would. The only difference is that, they are on the opposition.
Because in the end, villains are not made to be hated.
Villains seek to succeed as much as heroes do.
It’s just that their methods can be despicable, illegal, non-acceptable at times. And as such, the act of eliminating them is termed ‘the good side’, the justice executed by the prosecutors known as ‘heroes’. There are two sides to the story, two teams to choose from, and two contrasting emotions clashing together whenever either of the team wins.
However, there is one common thing that both side share, which is that they are developing characters. So, villains do deserve a backstory; they need it as much as any character does. It brings this new, unseen perspective to the audience and shifts your perspective of the entire story, and sometimes, raising an overwhelming question, leaving you pondering in the end—who is truly the villain?
Thanks for reading.