Thursday, July 24, 2008

Batman and Mad Men

“The best men are not consistent in good—why should the worst men be consistent in evil?”

The Lady in White by Wilke Collins

On Monday, my husband David, son Michael, and I played hookey and went to the 11:30 a.m. showing of Batman. We expected to have the place to ourselves.

The theatre was packed. And we soon saw why.

OH MY GOSH. Heath Ledger’s Joker is one creepy bad guy. The small facial tics, the darting eyes, the uncertain voice chilled me. I watched audience members sink down into the stadium chairs the way you do when your body says, “Run!” But your mind says, “You have to see what happens next.” I found it nearly impossible to reconcile the Heath Ledger in this, The Dark Knight, with the one who charmed me in A Knight’s Tale. (Ironic titling, eh?)

The Joker’s backstory was both believable and cleverly delivered. He was at his most horrifying when he forced characters to make heinous choices in the name of love.

When the movie ended, we walked out of the theatre stunned. I think Ledger deserves an Oscar. (I also wonder if a part of the portrayal seeped deep into his psyche and corroded his sense of well-being.) Check this out

That evening, David and I continued our marathon watching of Mad Men. The central protagonist there—“Don Draper”--moves between being a total jerk and an honest observer of himself and of human nature. Other characters—especially “Roger Sterling”, “Joanie” and “Peter Campbell”—also move from despicable to sympathetic. Each character is true to his/her internal rules, his/her internal world view. In fact, EVERY character in the show is a bit of a sh*t, in his or her own way, which is one reason I think the show has won so many fans.

This has given me a lot to think. Anne Perry says that your hero will only jump as high as your villain makes him. I want my heroes to set new Olympic high jump records.

For my writer friends: What do you consider when you write a villain? How do you make your villains believable? Complex?

For our readers: What makes for a good villain? Have you seen Mad Men? How do the characters strike you? If you haven't, check out the link below


Felicia Donovan said...

Haven't seen the movie nor do I care to. They ruined it when "Pow" and "Ka-Boom" stopped popping up on-screen during the staged fights, IMHO.

For me, a good villain is flawed and has cracks of humanity that sneak through. It's the tyrant who gently cradles the cold kitten because they, themselves, were left out in the cold growing up.

Joanna Campbell Slan said...

Felicia, I think you're right and I love the comment "cracks of humanity."

Cricket McRae said...

Villains don't believe they're evil -- or if they do, they are able to justify it by saying it's for the right reasons. I think the key is for the reader (or watcher, in the case of a movie or tv show)to be able to understand the why of a villain's actions. A bad guy who's just somehow inherently evil for no good reason is kind of boring because we can't relate to someone like that.

Which is pretty much just another way of agreeing with Felicia's "cracks of humanity," eh?

; - )

Anonymous said...

Teresa is running a thread on Mad Men over on Edittorrents blog if you're interested in the show:

She has analysed various scenes and characters. Have a look. Unfortunately we don't have the series in Australia. I was only able to see the pilot first episode. And that's sad, because an MC in our book we are revising is very similar to Don. I'd love to see how he changes over time.

G.M. Malliet said...

Jon Hamm doesn't know it yet, but I've selected him to portray my detective, DCI St. Just, in the BBC-TV adaptation of my series. ;-)

Seriously, he's perfect.

jbstanley said...

Man, I loved Batman. In fact, I'm ready to see it again. It was so dark and interesting...True, I think I would have edited out about thirty minutes of film, but none of the Joker's part.

I've heard a ton about Mad Men and may rent Season 1 from Netflix. With all this entertainment and Weeds starting a new season, who has time to write anymore?