Originally published in the Albany Student Press, 9/15/05
This sounds a little crazy, I know. However, have you ever noticed how there are “good guys” and “bad guys” and, really, no middle ground? The wicked witch in Snow White, the evil stepmother in Cinderella, the Sea Witch in The Little Mermaid.
My favorite, though, is the old crone in Hansel and Gretel. Stupid kids are trying to eat this poor woman’s house, and then you feel bad for them. Didn’t your parents teach you about trespassing?
Hollywood and Broadway capitalized on the fairy tale method of storytelling. My favorite example is of the play Oklahoma!, where all of the Good Guys had blonde hair, and all of the Bad Guys had dark hair. The only ambiguous character was Ado Annie, a “good guy” but also a “girl who cain’t say no,” therefore not a “good girl.”
My point being, we tend to villanize the antagonists in our lives. During the Cold War, the U.S.S.R. was Evil. Now, the Middle East is Evil. Some of us think that certain elected officials in our own country are Evil. It is done on a smaller level, too. My friend refers to her ex-boyfriend as “Evil Boy.” If he was so evil, why did you stay with him for three and a half years?
Yet, it seems to be easier to hate the enemy if the enemy is “evil.” If we look at the villains in our lives as three-dimensional, as having reasons for their actions, and we walk a mile in their shoes, it is not so easy to think of them as The Enemy any longer. In fact we just might, *gasp!*, see where they are coming from. We still may not see eye to eye with them, but we can respect their points of view.
However, this is easier said than done, as the high road always is. A couple of years ago I discovered Gregory Maguire, who is the author that penned the inspiration for the now-hit Broadway musical, Wicked. Maguire takes the fairy tales of our childhood and gives them three dimensions. Penning the wicked guardian of Bianca de Nevada (Italian for “Snow White”) as the deeply troubled Lucrezia Borgia, and Glinda the Good Witch more like Glinda the Elitist Bitch suddenly makes one think twice about the original protagonists of our favorite stories. Maybe – just maybe – they were not the paragons of virtue we have come to idolize.
When I told my mother of my newest literary find, she was uninterested. “The Wicked Witch is evil. Making her out to be a good guy ruins all of the fun!”
That is sort of the point. Hating should not be fun.