Blog Post #11: Evil in 2D
While animation has been used in a variety of controversial ways, to convey a variety of messages, one element that surprisingly doesn’t get at all is the concept of the 2 dimensional character. While this isn’t something that’s that much of an issue for the protagonist, for the villain and side characters it’s another story. While more recent children animations rarely have the “bad guys” painted in a totally opaque light, in the early 90’s and prior, pretty much every character that wasn’t the protagonist was shown in a simple non-conflictiting manner.
In other words bad guys had been bad guys from the day they were born, jerks had always been jerks, etc. My problem with this is that it fills kids with a pre-conceived notion that is someone is bad they’ll always be bad and there’s no way you can change them. It teaches kids to not have any emphathy for anyone they perceive as a bad guy and to not be forgiving.
While there are many flaws in having an archetype bad guy in animation, they can be used sometimes to good effect. For example In Toy Story 3, while the main antagonist Lotso was bad throughout the movie and went back and showed how he became what he was. And even after he tried to throw Woody and co, into the dumpster, he was still forgiven and helped in the end (even though he still betrayed them). Another example is Rattlesnake Jake from the movie Rango, who ended up helping Rango out, even though he was the one who chased him out of town and threatened him in the first place.
While I realize that most animation is dependent on the use of over exaggeration in everything, I think this is one element that needs to stay human. Without an understanding of what makes people go bad, kids can easily fall down the same path themselves. It’s not animations responsibility to govern the hearts of people growing up, it can be used as a medium to help shape them into a better person.