We only cheer for the bad guys!
I was watching professional wrestling with my wife last night, and I made the following remark to her: “It must be frustrating to write a narrative in pro-wrestling. The “smart” fans only want to cheer for the villains, no matter how heinous they act.” We had just finished watching the latest faction of bad guys cheat their way into a victory and subsequently beat the hell out of their fallen opponent. The crowd cheered and chanted for them, despite clearly being presented as the villains.
This is nothing new in pro-wrestling. Stone Cold Steve Austin became one of the most famous wrestlers in history because of that fan reaction. But while it’s nothing surprising, I can’t help but look at that reaction and feel frustration. It’s happened to me a few times over my career, even here in STAR POWER once or twice. Sometimes, no matter how villainous you make your villain, there are going to be people who cheer for them and, perhaps most frustratingly, make heroes out of them.
It happened to me and Garth here with the introduction of Black Hole Bill.
When he first appeared, way back in the second chapter of The Ninth Wormhole, there were some folks who saw him as not a villain but a scoundrel, an anti-hero, or even a potential love interest for Danica. Never mind that he had shot an innocent Shulentin in the head to cover his tracks. Fans of villains saw their potential guy and were starting to make rumblings. In the opening chapter of The Search for Black Hole Bill, he made his escape and some people were defending him. Never mind that he had beaten a Galactic Defense officer to death and almost killed Grex to make his getaway. I believe I received an email that stated “Black Hole Bill did nothing wrong.” I was starting to get worried.
I had a talk with Garth about this. I pitched him a scene that made him so uncomfortable he didn’t think he could go through with it. I said, “If it’s giving you chills, then we have to do it. Black Hole Bill was always meant to be despicable and we need to hammer this home.” And so we made the scene where Black Hole Bill destroys his loyal steed, Black Sunshine, to cover his tracks. The reaction to that scene was strong, and with one page we made our villain the villain. To this day, I consider it one of the best character scenes we’ve ever done, because it defined Black Hole Bill’s evil beyond a shadow of a doubt.
Sometimes I still wonder why we had to go that far in the first place. Shooting Shu Lato in the face wasn’t enough. Beating Officer Doro Thunden to death in front of Grex, and then nearly killing her, wasn’t enough. There were still some arguments of “he’s not that bad” or “he was only protecting himself” until he killed Black Sunshine, his loyal steed.
Some fans only want to cheer for the villains, no matter how heinous they act.