By M. Gregory Kendrick
Each society has its lineup of depraved, unethical characters—real or fictional—who are considered as villainous. This ebook explores how Western societies have used villains to style insiders from outsiders and determine behavioral norms to aid concord and future health. There are 3 elements: nature and “barbarians” as sinister “others” bent on destroying Western civilization; tyrants, traitors and “femmes fatales” as demanding situations to beliefs of valid governance, patriotism and gender roles; and gangsters, grifters and murderers as types of evil or unprincipled habit. the writer additionally discusses comparable phenomena: the dramatic paring down of what's thought of villainous within the West, and the proliferation of over-the-top villains in popular culture and mass media.
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Additional resources for Villainy in Western Culture: Historical Archetypes of Danger, Disorder and Death
In religious instruction and Western history classes, these good sisters introduced 2. Sybarites and Savages 35 me and my classmates to the heroic struggles of early Christians with a whole range of “barbaric” pagans, heretics, and inﬁdels. Among these fallen folk, considerable time was given over to the study of the decadent ways of Rome’s idol-worshipping citizens and their besotted, often mad, emperors. Through readings from the lives of holy martyrs and reproductions of paintings and sculptures by Jean-Léon Gérôme—Pollice Verso (Thumbs Down), Last Prayers of the Christian Martyrs, Departure of the Cats from the Circus, The Gladiators—we were treated to a view of the Roman Empire as a tyrannical slavocracy in which ostensibly civilized men and women wiled away their hours attending chariot races, gladiatorial combats, orgiastic banquets, and events where the adherents of Jesus were either fed to wild animals or used as fuel to light up imperial gardens.
While city dwelling barbarians were more like us in terms of being settled, literate, more technologically savvy, and reasonably clean, they also appeared to be every bit as brutal, sadistic, drunken, gluttonous, and sex crazed as their horse riding, sea faring brethren. Add to these distinctions the fact that all of these communities spoke foreign languages, worshipped heathen gods, and were the bondsmen and slaves of tyrants, and there was no other conclusion possible but that these were very bad people.
Over time, however, both the Greek barbarous and the Latin barbarus are deployed increasingly as expressions of opprobrium directed at individuals and groups that are regarded as • accursed “others” with different languages, customs, ethics, and forms of governance; • hard “wild peoples” living in nomadic, illiterate, subsistence societies on the frontiers of soft urban civilizations with literacy and a high level of material culture; • vandals and/or raiders fond of violence and mindless destruction; • pagans and inﬁdels; • ignorant, superstitious, irrational folk living in an “unreﬁned” manner; and • any of the indigenous non–Western civilizations and tribes subjugated and exploited by the West’s colonial powers.