One of my favorite questions to ask people is ‘What fictional character do you relate to the most?’ People usually need to think about it and answers are an interesting insight into that person. But I noticed a pattern recently when people answer the question.
No one ever says a villain. They always choose the hero of a story or at least an admirable side character. Which says something about how we view ourselves.
We are quick to put ourselves in the shoes of the story’s hero. I include myself in this. In answer to my beginning question, I often answer Jonah from the book The Giver. Coincidentally, Jonah is the hero of the novel, the one person who sees the world differently than everyone else. He is also the person who saves his entire village. I see my own arrogance when I answer my own question with Jonah.
We shudder at the horrifying villains of stories. But we forget that these villains are the embodiment of humanity’s evil. In fact, they often portray evil in a more biblically accurate way than our own minds. For example, I can convince myself that a little bit of selfishness is tolerable. But when I see a character in a story who destroys everyone to get what he wants, I see selfishness as it truly is: destructive and demonic, wherever it is found.
The problem is that we distance ourselves from villains so quickly that we don’t pause to find ourselves in them. When we wince away from villains, we miss a big reason stories have them: To warn us of the danger of flaws that we may already have. Of what we could become if we do not watch ourselves.
The Bible says that every human has been corrupted by evil at their root. Every man in inherently bad. Which means your corrupted soul might have more in common with a story’s villain than with the hero. I know that’s a provocative statement. But maybe a knee-jerk reaction to that statement might show the depth to which we’ve convinced ourselves that we are inherently good people. And it shows how much we need Jesus Christ, mankind’s only savior from the wickedness embedded in our DNA.
And so, I end with a challenge. The next time you watch a movie or read the book, stop to think about the bad guy instead of the hero. Try to find a similarity to him, one that you aren’t proud of identifying. And then, in Christ, ask for God’s help in crushing that evil.