Most great stories have to have a good guy and a bad guy. People love to see the ‘hero’ of the piece overcome adversity to triumph over the ‘baddy’ in the end; it’s an age-old pattern that people never tire of. It works for all forms of story-telling, whether it be book, film, or even theatre. Is there such thing as a ‘baddy’ though?
I was reminded of a past conversation I had with actor Andrew Langtree, who is currently playing Carl Bruner in the West End production of Ghost The Musical. Even though his character is portrayed as the ‘baddy’ of the show, Langtree has always said that he doesn’t consider Carl to be a bad guy. He spoke about it in an interview for this site last year, saying that, “I don’t really think of him as a baddy at all. Just as someone who has a slightly wonky moral compass.” Langtree looked between the lines with Carl to explore how he came to the point where he would do these terrible things, realising how easily a, “sane, normal person like you or I could take a slide out of control with just a few poor choices and the right/wrong environment.” Langtree isn’t the only West End star who has a different viewpoint when looking at some of the show’s ‘baddies’; I interviewed Les Miserables’ Hadley Fraser in September 2011 who, in discussing his character in the show, said, “I don’t think Javert is inherently evil, I think he’s just massively misunderstood. He has his version of justice and what is right and is animalistic about how he establishes that.”
I remember when I was studying Psychology in college and had to explore the reasoning behind why someone becomes a suicide bomber. From our perspective, terrorists are just evil people who take the lives of innocent victims. Looking at it from their perspective though, there is a social and cultural belief that what we call an act of terrorism is a means of achieving honour and status for you and your family in death and being rewarded. It’s not something we can understand perhaps and of course I’m not condoning the awful attacks they have made on us, but I can open my mind enough to realise that evil is in the eye of the beholder; it’s all about perspective. When you lift the curtain to look at how someone become the ‘baddy’, you’ll often see that there were actually a lot of things that led them to that point and that, in fact, they aren’t the all-out bad guy you first thought they were.
Wicked is a show that is exactly about that. It explores the untold story of the witches of Oz and completely turns upside down everything that we thought we knew about the Wicked Witch of the West, and once you’ve seen it, you’ll never look at The Wizard of Oz in the same way again. I’ve also always found it interesting that a character like the Phantom has become so beloved with audiences. People willingly overlook the violence, the kidnapping and the murders that he commits in The Phantom of the Opera, and do you know why? Because they are also given a glimpse of the torment, loneliness, rejection and prejudice he has experienced in his life because of his facial disfigurement, which allows them to understand how such an existence could twist someone’s mind enough to make them do the things he does. If the audience didn’t see these things, then they would most likely see the Phantom as being simply evil.
Whichever show/baddy you look at, I think you’ll find that if you move away from the absolutes of black and white/good and bad, then you’ll see in the shades of grey that the quintessential ‘baddy’ actually doesn’t exist.
By Julie Robinson (@missjulie25)
Thursday 12th April 2012