Personal Narrative- The Admirable Villain
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Days of Our Lives isn’t the same without Stefano DiMera. He was the puppet master, the vile wire that tied the colorful characters of Salem together. He was the one who erased John Black’s memories, hypnotized Dr. Marlena Evans into being his love slave (leaving her vulnerable for possession by the Devil), convinced Hope that she was Princess Gina, swapped Hope’s baby with a fetal-alcoholic crack baby, and convinced John that he was the father. For the past few months, Stefano has been “out of town,” and Days has degenerated into every other soap opera: a dreary, never-ending cycle of sex, secrets, and heartbreaks.
Norman Osborn disappeared on me in a similar fashion. His hatred was focused on one man, Peter Parker, also known as the Amazing Spider-Man. He murdered Peter’s first girlfriend, convinced Peter that he was a clone, and replaced his Aunt May with a dying actress. I loved Osborn so much that I bought a year’s subscription to Spidey comics, but in typical Marvel bait-and-switch fashion, Osborn was driven insane by a mystical ceremony and abducted by the Scriers in the next two issues. He resurfaced two years later, but I had lost interest in Spider-Man by then.
For each of these villains there was a hero who tried to take him down. Days had Abe Carver and Spider-Man had, well, Spider-Man. The hero couldn’t simply break in the into the bad guy’s penthouse apartment and smack him around until he agreed to be good. The master manipulator would have wiped the blood from his nose and said, “I always knew you were a savage. Just like me.” Instead, the hero had to bite his lip and wiggle a solution through the criminal justice system. Elsewhere, deep in the shadows, the villain laughed, taunting the hero for his impotence.
Although I sympathized with the hero, it was the villain I truly admired. He never questioned his own actions. He never got lonely or despaired. He didn’t care if he broke anyone’s heart or stomped on anyone’s feelings. All he cared about was his master plan and would stop at nothing until that plan was carried out. He didn’t have to avoid the hero’s moral pitfalls because, in his own mind, everything he did was right. He got everything he wanted. He was gratified by everything he got. He was satisfied with his lot in life and never sought to change.
I’ve often found myself pretending to be one of these evil masterminds. Here is one of my more recent scenarios: I once met a girl in college who was shy, voluptuous, and appreciated sarcasm, a worthy prize for someone of my intellectual prowess. Too bad she had a boyfriend. Too bad for him, that is. I wouldn’t eradicate him right away. No, I would become his greatest friend first. We would knock back beers together at the local tavern while I slowly gained his trust. When I had filled him with enough booze and companionship, he’d be bound to reveal a secret that would bring his doom. If he didn’t, I’d hire a team of retired cat burglars to sneak into his bathroom and inject lethal doses of cocaine into his toothpaste. The cocaine would no doubt be expensive, but money wouldn’t be a problem once my prostitution ring had taken off.
Of course, nothing like this has actually happened. In the real world, I said hi and waved to the girl whenever she passed by. We had some precious conversations together, often on strange topics like the merits of prostitution (she was a big fan of fictional women who used sex to get whatever they wanted). I never met her boyfriend. I never did anything more than talk with her, and I’m glad because I would have felt too guilty to enjoy it, anyway.
I had also constructed a plan to seize control of the United States. I would start in my home base of Iowa by inviting a large group of disgruntled farmers to a pancake dinner. At the dinner, I would express my sympathies toward the oppressed farmer and suggest organize a group to eliminate that oppression. Our first target would be the corrupt factory farms that have lowered the price of meat to the point where the family farmer can no longer compete. On September 22, the day of the fall equinox, a fertilizer bomb planted in every factory farm in Iowa would simultaneously explode at 8:05 AM. This would score a victory for family farmers everywhere, but I would convince the farmers that it was not enough. The US government still holds the farmer back by not giving him enough subsidy checks. That would change if I took over the government.
The farmers of America do not have enough inßuence to vote me into office. I would have to take it by force, terrorizing this nation until I was in power. With help from the farmers, I would light a fire under every hockey ring in Minnesota. I would blow Mount Rushmore into gravel. I would ßood Disney World with tear gas. I would level the Washington Monument, and ßatten the Seattle Space Needle. I would blame the carnage on the government for not giving into my demands. Even if I would not seize control of the government, I would at least affect the lives of everyone in America. Again, I had no intentions of executing this plan, but it was disturbingly fun to concoct.
Then on September 11, the World Trade center Collapsed, and everything changed. I saw the blood, the dust, and the people jumping from buildings. I could feel how wrong terrorists like Osama bin Laden were. But I could not stop watching them. Then I recognized the traits that drew me to Osborn and DiMera in Osama bin Laden: the wealth, power, and master plans. I saw the American government assume the role of hero, although it didn’t show half as much restraint as Spider-Man. CNN was my newest soap opera. USA Today, my favorite comic book. I’m sure the media portrays Osama bin Laden as a manipulative madman to grab our attention, but I’m still not sure why these madmen grab our attention.
It might be their unpredictability. I remember going to classes on September 11 wondering what these terrorists would attack next. When I saw someone watching the news, I asked if any new buildings had collapsed in my absence. I was convinced that these terrorists could destroy the world by the end of the day, and I wanted to know exactly when it would happen. When these bad men stopped stirring up trouble, most of the public stopped watching. I didn’t.
Perhaps my attraction is a masculine thing. After all, I’ve never known a woman to fit the Stefano DiMera profile. Men are obsessed with obtaining power and mastering others. We grin at words like dominate and subdue. Perhaps I admire these villains because they have complete control over everyone around them. They can make people cry. They can make people drive airplanes into skyscrapers. They can turn peaceful nations into foaming, bomb-dropping fanatics. They can make musicians gather for benefit concerts. I can’t even convince a girl to dump her boyfriend.
I don’t want to. I don’t want to control anyone. I don’t want that responsibility. I have desires, like everyone else, but I’m afraid of what will happen when they are fulfilled. I think that’s why I admire these villains; they’re not afraid to do what they want, even if it means ruining millions of lives. I wish I had that courage. I would know what to do when I wake up in the morning. As it is, I grit my teeth and do what I think I’m supposed to do. Does that make me a hero? Yes, I think it does.
Despite the seductiveness of the villain’s life, I think all of us would rather be the hero. Very few people act out their megalomanical fantasies. I think that’s why we hate characters like Stefano, Norman, and Osama so much. They seem to lack the basic shred of decency that keeps us from ruining people’s lives and knocking down buildings. But we need these villains because without opposition the decency in each and every one of us would seem rather dull. That is why I want Stefano DiMera to return to Days of Our Lives. He brings out the good in all of us.