Why Our Villains Are Different Now (Thanos, The Joker, Killmonger) – Wisecrack Edition

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  • Published: 20 November 2018
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    Something is happening with today's villains. In this Wisecrack Edition, we argue that a shift is occurring in how villains are made. To understand what the shift means, we survey cinematic villains from the 1950s to today.


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    Written and Directed by: Amanda Scherker
    Research by: Jeanette Moreland
    Narrated by: Jared Bauer
    Edited by: Mark Potts
    Assistant Editor: Andrew Nishimura
    Produced by: Emily Dunbar
    Opening Wisecrack Animation by: Michael Sinclair (diedfamo.us)


    © 2018 Wisecrack, Inc.

Comments • 5 337

  • Todd Lafferty
    Todd Lafferty  2 hours back

    still stuck on the line that the Ewoks were reminiscent of the Vietcong....a throw away line, WTF?

    • Wade
      Wade  2 days back

      The dude in 'No Country For Old Men' was off the damn chain..

      • Boki
        Boki  3 days back

        You gonna say America is better than USSR, or Nazi's? I dont think so.

        • Maskedduelist 13
          Maskedduelist 13  3 days back

          Speaking of relatable villians...
          The Grinch.

          • Benbeasted
            Benbeasted  3 days back

            Screenslaver is the opposite of relatable and her whole existence is a result of moronic contrivances and Disney's quota for twist villains.

            • Crowald
              Crowald  4 days back

              Senator Armstrong from Metal Gear Rising comes to mind when I watch this video.

              • brown fox
                brown fox  4 days back

                Because people love to know more.
                Back then, people only wanted black vs white type of conflict. It was very enough to have a protagonist vs antagonist in a good story. We never felt or cared for the villains. We only wanted the hero to win no matter what.
                Now, people wanna see the backstory of the villain. The origin, motivation and breakpoint.
                This only makes the the conflict much deeper meaning. Some villians are heroes in their own perspective and it's interesting to watch from their point of view.

                • Antonio Lee
                  Antonio Lee  7 days back

                  Super Dope video, I really enjoyed this one!!!!!

                  • Reed
                    Reed  1 weeks back

                    I think you missed the ideological aspect to this. Two face is taking extreme action to counter crime, an authoritarian move to go beyond the power of existing power structures while the villains in the kingsmen movies are fighting climate change and the war on drugs. generally anti existing power structures stances that are also portrayed as authoritarian power grabs in those and with similar enemies. A third type seem to have a more politically neutral stance, like thanos that see suffering in the world/universe and try to alleviate it through authoritarian control through mass murder as part of a God complex. Some of that is pandering to audiences of one part of the spectrum or another but I think there is also some expression of fearing corrupt systems, the problems they are failing to address, but also the solutions proposed to those problems.

                    • s1monster
                      s1monster  1 weeks back

                      Why Our Villains Are Different Now - Our more immediate fears are that of the known, rather than that of the unknown suffice to say ,popular opinion dictates within our intellectual realms, and are reflected by their depicted familiarity.-Your Welcome

                      • Mati Vardé
                        Mati Vardé  1 weeks back

                        He said Metropolis instead of Gotham... that’s really annoying

                        • Sharil Shahed
                          Sharil Shahed  1 weeks back

                          I thought he was referrring to the city structure as a Metropolis, not the name of the city itself.

                      • Malachi Comics
                        Malachi Comics  1 weeks back

                        Wait...you make philosophy videos?

                        • devynchapman
                          devynchapman  2 weeks back

                          Why is killmonger even next to thanos joker or Vader

                          • Christian Tompkins
                            Christian Tompkins  1 weeks back

                            Feeling bad for a villain doesn't automatically mean agreeing with his goals.

                          • devynchapman
                            devynchapman  1 weeks back

                            @Hershey Cookie no, he is relatable to young racist and a racist agenda smh, NOT IN THE SAME LEAGUE AND IT MAKES ME SICK THAT MOVIE WON AWARDS FOR BEST MOVIE WHEN IT REALLY WAS THAT GOOD

                          • Hershey Cookie
                            Hershey Cookie  1 weeks back

                            devynchapman because it’s very relatable to the young people of today

                        • Adam Harris
                          Adam Harris  2 weeks back

                          Very good. Plenty of food for thought.

                          • bioniccrouton
                            bioniccrouton  2 weeks back

                            What is considered villainous is a sign of times. What many praised as heroic or admirable qualities are being broken down. Why are they doing it and who does it benefit or hurt?

                            • HudlessLoresman
                              HudlessLoresman  2 weeks back

                              The next villain is a social media mogul who uses their influence and reach to amass a large following of zealots. Then uses that following to try to overthrow progress.

                              • Kaworu Nagisa
                                Kaworu Nagisa  2 weeks back

                                Smersh (short for "смерть шпионам", death to spies) was a real counter-espionage agency though. And a really hardcore one. My grandpa was part of it during WWII, and you _don't_ want to know what his mental health was like in later years.

                                • Juan Jose Molina
                                  Juan Jose Molina  2 weeks back

                                  He confused metropolis and Gotham, wtf

                                  • Arvid Moby
                                    Arvid Moby  2 weeks back

                                    We need more movies where the villian actually wins over the protagonist and it stays that way

                                    • Trap69
                                      Trap69  2 weeks back

                                      Undurrated comment

                                  • Johnny Eclectic
                                    Johnny Eclectic  2 weeks back

                                    Why do the Wakandans care more about relatively rich black americans being slighted than it cares about an entire continent of desperately poor black africans actually struggling to claw their way into the 21st century?

                                    • Johnny Eclectic
                                      Johnny Eclectic  4 days back

                                      @Christian Tompkins Pretty much all black americans, along with all the other americans. Compared to the areas surrounding Wakanda where some people can't even afford to drink water

                                    • Christian Tompkins
                                      Christian Tompkins  1 weeks back

                                      What do you mean 'rich black Americans"? Wakandans only cared about themselves until the end when T'Challa opens the country to the rest of the world.

                                  • Never Ending Party
                                    Never Ending Party  2 weeks back

                                    I do think they have changed and have gotten more complex, does it have anything to do with an increase in complexity in protagonist, more complex people should have more complex problems to solve and question for there to be any intrest, no?

                                    • Gogsgc
                                      Gogsgc  2 weeks back

                                      toothface hahahahah

                                      • themultifacetedone
                                        themultifacetedone  3 weeks back

                                        The entirety of Lloyd Webber's musical/movie Jesus Christ Superstar is told from the perspective of Judas, and had the audience empathise with him (the movie is accused of Antisemitism because only the Jewish priests are portrayed as truly evil), and even Star Wars, despite it's simplicity (as you say) has generated a landmark. It's most famous character is its primary antagonist, Darth Vader. The villain is clearly "lovable" if they become the most popular character of their movie.

                                        • aoife aries
                                          aoife aries  3 weeks back

                                          no hannibal lectre?

                                          • Bettina-Maria Winter
                                            Bettina-Maria Winter  3 weeks back

                                            cool motive, still murder

                                            • Robert Levy
                                              Robert Levy  3 weeks back

                                              Ewoks are the Viet Cong? You are apparently an idiot :/

                                              • Davis Harper
                                                Davis Harper  3 weeks back

                                                The greatest villains are not the ones who are mindlessly over-the-top evil with motivations so outlandish. When you can empathize with a villain, when you can understand their motivation, and even when you sort of like them, they have the power the transcend the mundane and become iconic.

                                                • Jon Davis
                                                  Jon Davis  3 weeks back

                                                  It's weird that you blamed the decline of trust in government on Nixon, when it clearly started with Johnson... even visible on your graph.

                                                  • Rock Peterson
                                                    Rock Peterson  3 weeks back

                                                    The world doesn't need any more heroes. The world needs a better class of villain.

                                                    • Steffan Blanco
                                                      Steffan Blanco  3 weeks back

                                                      Nothing wrong with some of the anti-USSR or communist propaganda. Most here never lived through or in them and experienced their attrocities

                                                      • IsThisLeftUnity?
                                                        IsThisLeftUnity?  3 weeks back

                                                        and yet most people today have a far more nuanced view of the USSR then people in the 50's.

                                                    • thecaneater
                                                      thecaneater  3 weeks back

                                                      18:53 No, Killmonger does not have a valid viewpoint. He is a racist tyrant who wants to commit genocide against half the world.
                                                      21:07 Holy shit. You actually said it. You think Killmonger wants to "affect good change". Wow. You thinking killing white people and becoming a tyrant over everyone is a "good change"? Wooow.
                                                      I didn't think you were evil, but you just admitted to it.

                                                      • har ley
                                                        har ley  3 weeks back

                                                        I didn’t like screenslaver

                                                        • YowLife
                                                          YowLife  3 weeks back

                                                          I think Shazam had a good villain

                                                          • Felix Cuvreau
                                                            Felix Cuvreau  3 weeks back

                                                            What's next for Hollywood bad guys? Not being guys.

                                                            • Felix Cuvreau
                                                              Felix Cuvreau  3 weeks back

                                                              Seem to barely mention my generations villains, businessmen, and fathers who are workaholics.

                                                              • DrumLord111
                                                                DrumLord111  3 weeks back

                                                                I still hate Thanos!

                                                                • [REDACTED]
                                                                  [REDACTED]  4 weeks back

                                                                  Villains today are not real villains, but people stuck in the wrong place at the wrong time, and trying to fix a problem that cannot be fixed, or need to be fixed but the price is too high.

                                                                  • Christian Tompkins
                                                                    Christian Tompkins  3 weeks back

                                                                    [REDACTED] Or just people who use their messed up backstory as an excuse to do crimes

                                                                • Jeremy Kwee
                                                                  Jeremy Kwee  4 weeks back

                                                                  Bbbbjhjjjoppppppknnn

                                                                  • Earl Warner
                                                                    Earl Warner  4 weeks back

                                                                    Killmonger's take on things was decided for him mainly because he fell for the lies told by people in power. Lies they still spread daily.

                                                                    • SS - 07BC - Hazel McCallion Sr PS (1549)

                                                                      I will summarize the current-gen villains in a sentence. Do good but with evil execution.

                                                                      • Eren Denburg Niederhoffer

                                                                        Well that explains a lot.

                                                                        • nel 9
                                                                          nel 9  4 weeks back

                                                                          Every single cowboy is the bad guy versus Native Americans in westerns , it's all backwards , history is a joke . movies too.

                                                                          • Shadow Of Light
                                                                            Shadow Of Light  4 weeks back

                                                                            Yeah, it’s interesting to be able to relate to a villain, but it’s just not how it works. You don’t say “Hitler was bad... but I can relate to genocide”

                                                                            • r g
                                                                              r g  4 weeks back

                                                                              Smersh was not “imaginary”

                                                                              • Milton77
                                                                                Milton77  4 weeks back

                                                                                I'm not a huge super hero movie fan, but the Dark Knight is among my favorite movies of all time and it's all due to the Nolan/Ledger Joker. In my view, the Joker is the absolute star of the movie, and almost makes batman a side character. Although I agree with much of the way this video categorizes movie villains over time (obviously grossly simplifying things, but that's what you do in building a theory), I don't feel the Joker in the Dark Knight is done justice by just stating he's a nihilistic terrorist.


                                                                                To me, what makes this character stand out so impressively, memorably and durably is the extent to which Nolan and Ledger were able to keep and his motivations, identity and character so ungraspable, while positively packing the movie with close and seemingly revealing scenes of the Joker.


                                                                                What I see most movie critics get wrong about the Joker in the Dark Knight, is that they take his statements for truth. Most notably, when he talks to Harvey Dent in the hospital and describing himself as an agent of chaos. In actual fact, by that point in the movie we've already been given a dozen examples to show you can't trust the Joker in what he says he is or what his motivations are. One of the most brilliant examples being the two stories about how he got his scars. The only deeply disappointing thing about the movie was when the Joker began to explain his scars in such a mundane way as a violent father that cut him…only to absolutely blow my mind when later in the movie he simply tells a completely different story. In the hospital scene, the Joker accuses society and its elite of being full of schemers. He says he has no plan and is like a dog chasing a car, not knowing what to do with it if he ever caught one. But this is just after he has just successfully masterminded and executed a plan that was intended to make Dent, Batman and Gordon believe they were entrapping the Joker, when in actual fact he wanted and needed to get caught to get to his objective (Lau) and successfully got away with Lau and the gangsters’ money. This guy is not a schemer? This guy doesn't have a plan?


                                                                                The thing that makes this villain so unique is that you can feel in your bones that something relentless is driving him, but you can never fully make out what it is. You never really can tell when he’s following a plan and when he lets chaos and randomness rule or how and why he chooses to follow one or the other. All attempts to classify him fall short of grasping the full picture, even including Alfred’s description of a man that just wants to see the world burn.
                                                                                In light of this video, I think that puts Nolan/Ledger’s Joker in a whole new category of his own.

                                                                                • Christian Tompkins
                                                                                  Christian Tompkins  3 weeks back

                                                                                  Milton77 All the villains in the movies are assumed to be common criminals at first but turn out they want to destroy the whole city with their philosophy. The way Batman ends up apprehending the Joker is through surveillance technology. It reflects in real life how Government does the same toward citizens to try to catch terrorists. That’s why they had Lucius Fox being skeptical of it.
                                                                                  Bane/Talia’s plan was really all about making Bruce suffer and having watch his city be destroyed and using his own technology against it. They free Harvey Dents prosecuted criminals like the Joker wanted, and yes sought to destroy the city like Ras al Ghul wanted. It was all revenge toward Bruce so he can suffer knowing Batman totally failed. That’s why Bruce had a TV in the pit to see it happened and Bane tell him after it’s over he has his “permission to die”.
                                                                                  Batman’s struggle is trying to prove that Gotham is above the enemies in the movies. He doesn’t want to be an executioner like Ras but Gotham is so corrupt they can’t get a fair trial. He doesn’t want the Joker to make people think they are not inherently good but the Joker causes citizens to turn against each other causes the city’s promising District Attorney who imprisisioned many criminals to go on a revenge murder spree with a half burn face. In Rises he doesn’t want the city to break their strong stance against crime thinking they’re weak without Batman because of Bane but Bane ends up taking the whole city hostage and the other police captain represents police who didn’t want to fight against Bane at first thinking they’re too weak.
                                                                                  Batman’s philosophy is that any one can be like him and try to be above their enemies. Rachel always believed. Harvey Dent believed it at first but end up disbelieved in it. Selina Kyle disbelieved at first then ended up believing it in the end vice versa to Harvey Dent- and becomes Bruce’s partner after he’s finished with Batman instead of Rachel. Donald Blake always believed that like Rachel and becomes a worthy successor hero of Batman instead of Dent. Gordon always believed it as an ally. Those characters represent morally capable citizens standing against common criminals and their transition/development in choosing in having to face enemies who want their city’s destruction and not and let themselves or other citizens in Gotham give into it.

                                                                                • Milton77
                                                                                  Milton77  3 weeks back

                                                                                  Christian Tompkins I appreciate your take on it, but think it falls a bit short. Terrorism is definitely a major theme running through these movies, but it’s used as a means to explore deeper topics: exploring principles of our society, the nature of evil and particular different kinds of evil that can’t be lumped together and sacrifice and what it really means to be a hero. All the while of course wanting to deliver blockbuster action.

                                                                                  On principles the movies explore how firm they really are (in all three movies there is a lot of emphasis on making society tear itself apart), hypocrisy of principles (“We don’t give in to thugs!” sounds noble and strong, but it comes from a man living in a closed off elite at a party where they’ll decide who they want to make the next mayor), and the cost of weak morals (“just keep our heads down” in a city about to be annihilated) and strong morals (people dying everyday until you give yourself up).

                                                                                  On evil, the movies continuously shows different kinds of evil and how they do and don’t compare. There’s a lot of fighting the mafia with a pure money-through-extortion aim. There is a constant portrayal of an upperclass that lives and acts within the letter of the law, but writes that law to their own advantage. And the terrorists aren’t all the same either. There’s the deeply ideology driven raj al gul on the one extreme and the nihilistic Joker on the other - not motivated by the same thing at all. That’s where just calling the Joker a terrorist falls short: he uses terrorist means, but a terrorist has an ideal - the Joker doesn’t

                                                                                  Finally, sacrifice is explored in many ways. From the ‘good guys’s’ eveyday sacrifices in fighting crime, to sacrificing Dent to save Rachel (only to find the Joker switched things up again), intent by Wayne to sacrifice Batman to meet Joker’s demand to his sacrifice of Batman at the end of Dark Knight Rises based on his own terms. And then there is sacrifice on evil’s side. Notice how Bane intended to be in the city and die with it to fulfill hos goal where raz al gul was wearing masks to shield themselves from the effect of the gas. The Joker is quite willing to take punches to the face, take the risk of Dent shooting him through the head or Batman running him over on his bike.

                                                                                  All in all, you could say the movies invite you not to take everything at face value and reduce everything to black and white. Such as saying that the trilogy was just about batman fighting terrorists

                                                                                • Christian Tompkins
                                                                                  Christian Tompkins  3 weeks back

                                                                                  Milton77 The whole Dark Knight trilogy is about Batman fighting terrorists enmities because this is the age of terrorism. Ra’s al Ghul wants to induce Fear, Joker wants to induce chaos, and Bane wanted to induce Pain.

                                                                              • Darth hrongl
                                                                                Darth hrongl  4 weeks back

                                                                                Incredibles two sucked

                                                                                • lurr33
                                                                                  lurr33  4 weeks back

                                                                                  Smersh was a real thing, actually. Abbreviation of "Death to spies" - "Smert shpionam".

                                                                                  • Philander Supermarkert
                                                                                    Philander Supermarkert  4 weeks back

                                                                                    on 21:17 with Sean Connery? and his hairdresser scene ? what movie is this ???