Howdy all! It’s great to be back in Wildflower Junction. I’ve missed my P&P Fridays!
I really enjoyed Cheryl’s post yesterday and it got me to reevaluating my topic for today. One of the main reasons I love Romance is that guarantee that no matter the struggles our hero and heroine’s go through, good will always prevail over evil…and the cowboy will always get his gal–once she’s put him through his proper paces, of course. But what about our villains? Can they also find hope and redemption through the course of our hero and heroine’s journey? Do we want them to find new peace and understanding so that they can have a happy ending as well…or are they so bad they simply…have got to go? A year or so ago I began writing and exploring a new kind of villain…bad guys who earn their villain moniker, but have chinks on their hardened exterior, revealing a somewhat chivalrous intention behind their dastardly deeds, and a vulnerability in their character which gives them an eery appeal, and room to grow.
A few nights ago I rewatched one of my favorite movies, 3:10 to Yuma. While this film lacks a central romance, it has villain characterization in spades! Aside from absolutely stunning dialogue (not a single word wasted), I’m enthralled by the villains of this movie—and there is a whole cast of them! A bounty hunter, the deputy henchman of the railroad, and a band of murdering thieves (among others). These villains have varying degrees of villainy, and at the center of them all is the bible-quoting bad-guy ringleader, Wade—a fast gun with a quick mind and a cold heart. And yet, from the beginning we’re given glimpses of decency in this villain, his tendency to protect the innocent. He seems to admire those who try to live an honest life. Even though at times his claims otherwise, he defends the true good guys at the risk of his own life.
Is Wade bad? Oh yeah! He’s a hardened killer, and professes to be rotten as hell. And yet, he also reveals a method to his badness. While the bounty hunter and the railroad henchman wear the facade of good guys, it’s the villain Wade who sees them from what they are—the kind of men who don’t mind harming the innocent for personal gain. For the truly bad, this villain has no mercy. The second in command of Wade’s band of thieves is the brand of villain I started out with in my first few westerns. Charlie enjoys the power of evoking fear and doesn’t show any discretion between shooting an opponent or an innocent. His loyalties don’t go beyond idolizing his leader and seeking his own enjoyment—which turn out to be his downfall. In the end, it’s the main villain who chooses good over evil, and yet…he’s still bad.
One of my favorite Wade quotes, just before he tosses a man off a cliff who’d insulted his mother, is, “Even bad men love their mamas.” As this movie progresses, you begin to see just how large a role his mama played in developing this villain’s character. At eight years old, he was a good boy who did as his mother told him. He sat at a train station and read the bible from cover to cover, just as his mother instructed, finishing it in three days. Even at eight, he was a wiz, and the bible quotes suddenly become very poignant…and sad. Every time this movie ends I’m left wondering if his mama had green eyes. Anyone else have that thought after watching this movie? If you haven’t seen it yet—it’s a MUST for any western fan!
I’ve developed a real appreciation for villains who can tug at my heartstrings. In my latest western MAVERICK WILD (Out this month!), I had a lot of fun with a cast of villains. While some simply have their day of reckoning, there are others who emerge with a new outlook on life and the distruction they cause for Chance and Cora Mae–though one or two may be forced into finding true remorse for their actions of ill intent 😉
How about you…do you love those villains you don’t know wether to curse or root for?