Enter The Villain Of Our Story...
This is a rather interesting article on storytelling:
Not only does it have a few things to say about the historically typical villain, but it goes into some depth about the purpose and role storytelling has in society.
"In the mid-2000s I set out, along with my colleagues Joseph Carroll, John Johnson, and Dan Kruger, on a large-scale study of classic Victorian novels by such authors as Jane Austen, George Eliot, and Charles Dickens, among many others. We distributed a survey to hundreds of knowledgeable people—professors, graduate students taking courses on Victorian literature, and authors who had published articles or books in the field. The respondents rated the attributes of characters in the novels exactly as if these fictional people were actual people.
We wrote up the results in our book, "Graphing Jane Austen: The Evolutionary Basis of Literary Meaning". The main finding had to do with something we called agonistic structure, which we took to be a fundamental structural element of storytelling in much the same way that roofs are fundamental to houses. For all the variety in these novels, for all the differences in personality and gender and background of authors stretching over a century, they made strikingly similar choices regarding characterization. As a whole, Victorian novels reflect a sharply polarized fictional universe of good people (the protagonists and their allies) and bad people (the antagonists and their allies) locked in conflict. Overwhelmingly, protagonists looked to cooperate and work toward the common good while antagonists sought to dominate for selfish ends."
"The "Graphing Jane Austen" team was inspired by the work of the anthropologist Christopher Boehm, who gained renown in the early 2000s for demonstrating that the lives of hunter-gatherers were typified not by the every-man-for-himself behavior that most associate with Darwinism but by a much gentler ethic of communalism and egalitarianism. The golden rule of hunter-gather life is pretty simple: Do everything to bring the band together; do nothing to split it apart. Don’t sow division. Don’t hog up more than your share (of food, sex partners, attention). If you happen to be blessed with muscle, don’t throw it around. If you happen to be a great hunter or a dazzling beauty, don’t flaunt it over others. Be one of the good guys, in other words. Of course, if there’s an instinct in humans to get along with each other in groups, there’s also an instinct to get ahead. We proposed that agonistic structure in stories generally, not just in Victorian novels, reflects the ancient morality of hunter-gatherer life. Living in groups, as humans must, means constantly balancing our selfish impulses with group needs. Protagonists of stories properly balance individual self-interest with the needs of the group. In general, protagonists sacrifice their self-interest for the common good when the two are in conflict. Not antagonists. Pretty much the definition of a bad person among hunter-gatherers is the bad team player who reliably puts his or her own interests above the group’s."
The rest of the article has similar insight into the other parts of storytelling.
A picture for storytellers, we are as old as time itself, lol.
(By N.R. Farbman/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation)