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Jason Panella

Bad guys, redeemed

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While brainstorming for my next topic for The Curator, I started thinking more about works of art (of any type) that feature an antagonist who learns, grows, has a change of heart, etc. Can the A&F collective come up with some good examples? Yes, I'm leaving lots of wiggle room here.

Just a few that came up, and YES there are some SPOILERS:

-Spike (from Buffy the Vampire Slayer): vicious vampire who, over multiple seasons / shows, becomes one of the good guys

-The Operative (from Serenity): Learns about what the Alliance is REALLY up to, stops killing/chasing heroes, (presumably) becomes a recluse.

-Alpha (from Dollhouse...what is it with this Whedon guy?): Rogue serial-killing active with compounded personalities, eventually helps the protagonists after...well, it's a long story.

-Ben Linus (from LOST): This still might turn a weird turn, but it looks like the manipulative once-leader of the Others might actually seek redemption

And so on. Help me out, folks!

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Darth Vader.

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Clarifying note: I assume you want bona fide antagonists who improve, not just evil protagonists who improve (e.g., Tsotsi, The Emperor's New Groove, etc.)?

Here's what I've got. (Question marks indicate uncertainty about meeting your criteria, or possibly I may not remember the movie well enough to be sure.)

A couple spoilers:

S.S. Lt. Col. Herbert Kappler (The Scarlet and the Black)

Chief Paul Schaffer? (Witness)

Matthew Poncelet? (Dead Man Walking)

Doctor Octopus (Spider-Man 2)

Yubaba (Spirited Away) and the Witch of the Waste (Howl's Moving Castle)

Sour Kangaroo (Dr. Seuss's Horton Hears a Who)

Fegan Floop? (Spy Kids)

Johnny (The Karate Kid)

Roscuro? Miggery Sow? (The Tale of Despereaux)

Flambeau? (The Detective/Father Brown)

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Thanks, guys. Those are some great additions!

Steven, I mean genuine antagonists, since — no matter what the heart is like of a protagonist — I feel like the audience is asked to follow them around. I'm concerned about the guys we're cheering against.

EDIT: I should also add that if the redeemed baddie survives, that's a plus. Killing an antagonist off often feels like an easy way (as in, many in the audience might say, 'well, even if he became good at the end...at least he was punished because he was so bad!' or something).

Edited by Jason Panella

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There's about a million just in Crash, though I'm not sure whether you could call them "bona fide". (I'm also not sure whether I can type "bona fide" without hearing Holly Hunter, but I digress...).

Then there's Stef's favourite: Last of the Mohicans

Matt

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(Spoilers) I'd echo Jason in suggesting that the "redeemed antagonist" is very much a trope in Joss Whedon's creations; in "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" alone, Cordelia, Anya, Willow, Faith and Andrew could be listed alongside Spike.

Come to think of it, Edmund and Eustace in the Narnia Chronicles, and perhaps Saul of Tarsus?

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Come to think of it, Edmund and Eustace in the Narnia Chronicles, and perhaps Saul of Tarsus?

Oh, fantastic! Thanks, David.

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Come to think of it, Edmund and Eustace in the Narnia Chronicles, and perhaps Saul of Tarsus?

Oh, fantastic! Thanks, David.

Um. Does Eustace really count as a bona fide antagonist? Even in the early chapters where he's bullying Lucy I don't know if I would call him a villain, exactly -- either as Lewis presents him or as seen in the movie, where he's much more sympathetic than in the book.

As for Saul of Tarsus, which narrative version of him? One could argue, I guess, that Saul is an antagonist of the early church in his first few appearances in Acts. Is there a movie that begins by focusing on early church heroes like Stephen and the apostles with Saul as an antagonist, and then Saul is redeemed?

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As for Saul of Tarsus, which narrative version of him? One could argue, I guess, that Saul is an antagonist of the early church in his first few appearances in Acts. Is there a movie that begins by focusing on early church heroes like Stephen and the apostles with Saul as an antagonist, and then Saul is redeemed?

Good points on the Lewis-related stuff, but that didn't initially cross my mind (it's been a while since I've read the books). As for Saul, well...I AM keeping this broad, and his a good example to tie some of these in together. Don't think there's a movie, but hey, this thread isn't just about movies.

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SDG wrote:

: Is there a movie that begins by focusing on early church heroes like Stephen and the apostles with Saul as an antagonist, and then Saul is redeemed?

The 1981 TV-movie Peter and Paul certainly begins with Saul as an antagonist (and one of the first scenes is the stoning of Stephen, IIRC), but his conversion comes fairly early, I think.

The 1985 five-episode mini-series A.D. Anno Domini delays the stoning of Stephen until the middle of the 2nd episode (I'm pretty sure it cuts straight from the death of Tiberius to Stephen being dragged through the streets), and thus delays the conversion of Saul to some point after THAT (either late in the 2nd episode or early in the 3rd episode). But Saul is not quite an out-and-out villain there. The mini-series begins by introducing Saul and Stephen as members of Gamaliel's school in Jerusalem, which allows the mini-series to explore some of the debates between different kinds of Jews (Pharisee, Sadducee, Hellenistic, Zealot, etc.) at that point in history. And when Saul turns against Stephen, it is presented as a somewhat tragic choice that Saul makes against one of his "friends". So the antagonism, as it were, is an arguably qualified one.

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Um. Does Eustace really count as a bona fide antagonist? Even in the early chapters where he's bullying Lucy I don't know if I would call him a villain, exactly -- either as Lewis presents him or as seen in the movie, where he's much more sympathetic than in the book.

Thank you, SDG, I think you're quite right...

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SDG, have you actually SEEN the movie version of Dawn Treader yet?

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I know I'm rather late on this, and you've already written your article I'm sure, but as I've recently read the story and it really stuck out to me....Teufelsberst from The Cruel Painter by George Macdonald.

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