It’s Hard To Find A Universal Bad Guy

And this is a real problem for the entertainment industry – particularly the television and movie ones that hope to make money.

The audiences for the visual stories are all over the world today; the Americas, Europe, Africa, Asia. And Manangatang. A bid to get them to watch some action thriller needs to have a good guy who triumphs and a bad guy who dies – but it is awkward trying to place praise and blame these days – everyone wants their country/culture/religion to be on the good side. Few accept being cast as villains…or worse – as savages. Even if they have been eating raw human livers until last Tuesday they still want to be seen as modern, cool, and sophisticated.

As a practical illustration, who would you portray as baddies; the Chinese or the Japanese? Depends entirely on which century you’re filming, which decade, which war, or which government. And where you expect to sell the most screenings.

That idea gets even murkier for other countries in the Asian market: Thailand, Singapore, Vietnam, Cambodia, or any one of the numerous Koreas. They are all sensitive people who try to be polite and never cause trouble to each other unless they’re sure they can get away with it.

So no Asian villains. Russians? Well, Slavs in general are angered by any suggestion that they are not peace-loving, and they have the tanks and anti-aircraft batteries to back that up with. Plus they may have invested heavily in the film production company. It’s safer to have babushka dolls and balalaika music and let it go at that.

Jews and Muslims? Israelis and Arabs? Well, there you go. Choose your side and whoever is on the other one is wrong…but if you want to sell your film in their cinema you can’t say that.

Of course you can always go the classics: Kaiser Wilhelm II if your audience is into period films and smart enough to tell the difference between Wilhelm and Edward VII. Even there the German audience will boo you out as they know the truth about Willi and Eddy.

Hitler? Good choice. Nothing there to like…but you can’t add him to every film or people will start to realise that you have run out of ideas.

The Americans? Well, you can sell them as enemies to the UK, Canada, Australian and New Zealand, and any other former allies – they’ll accept the idea. Bit awkward if you need them again, but if push comes to shove you can always destroy the video tapes. And blame the CIA. Or General Lee.

Or you can get Mike Myers to be evil. He’s Canadian so it’s easy.

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