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Storytelling on The Dark Side: What Gets Us Rooting for the Bad Guys?

Remember that movie you got twisted by the villain? We figure out which elements of Storytelling got you that! Understand this phenomenon better.

A good story must be composed of at least four basic elements: a protagonist, a purpose, a conflict, and an antagonist, upon which the narrative will be constructed.

Contrary to what may seem, the role of the antagonist is very important because it will be the cause of the conflict, directly or indirectly. It does not necessarily have to be a person, it can be represented by an animal, a disease or a force of nature, for example.

But in this article, we will speak more specifically of the antagonist in the way he is constantly represented in the film industry: in the role of villain!

We can point to several unforgettable movie villains such as Hannibal Lecter, Michael Myers, Freddy Krueger, Joker (without controversy over the best interpretation!), Voldemort – or “the one who should not be named” – and the most recent, Loki.

Among these, some are feared as they should, others are considered even comical, but what is the explanation for villains such as Hannibal Lecter and Loki to end up being liked by the public?

To understand this better, I researched the secret of one of the most beloved villains of the past 42 years: Darth Vader! Do you want to know which one it is? Stay with me!

May the strength of storytelling be with you!

I promise to try not to give spoilers, but let’s face it, even if you’ve never seen any Star Wars (where you’ve been for all those years?), You know who the father of whom, who’s brother, and so on, then any carelessness will be forgiven, right?

The first episode of the Star Wars saga, released in 1977, was a booming box-office hit, which would be surprising as the film’s theme was quite innovative for the time. Were it not for the acumen of screenwriter and producer George Lucas, who relied on powerful storytelling techniques.

Lucas inserted into his galaxies very distant elements that were familiar to anyone. Many of the extraterrestrials were humanoids (which have human characteristics), the fast cars used were similar to race cars and Han Solo wore cowboy outfits.

In addition, we clearly see in Luke Skywalker a narrative structure based on the Hero’s Journey , in which the protagonist is forced to embark on a journey, facing conflicts and experiences that compel him to fight and adapt so that, in the end, he leave a changed person. But what about Darth Vader?

The storytelling on the shadow side of the force

In this first film, Darth Vader was a villain like any other, who fought the good guy, became well known and even frightened (I was scared of that cavernous breathing as a child), but it did not arouse any feeling of sympathy. Until in 1980 the second movie was released, Star Wars – The Empire Strikes Back and things started to change.

“The secret, little padawan, is that the storytelling he used.” – Master Yoda

Star Wars Yoda GIF - StarWars Yoda Interrupted GIFs

Okay. Master Yoda never said that, but he could have said it! Because it was exactly that one of the secrets that made Darth Vader one of our evil favorites.

Remember the Hero’s Journey? Then, from this moment, George Lucas begins to show us the character arc of Darth Vader. Which is precisely the trajectory of this journey that, in the end, will transform it in some way, for better or for worse.

Check out other content combining Storytelling and Entertainment! (I.e.
• Big Fish: The movie that teaches you in practice the power of storytelling
• Stephen King: 5 lessons in writing and storytelling for you to learn
Iron Man: The hero’s or idiot’s journey?
• Gray’s Anatomy is the secret to success even after 15 seasons!
• This is Us: one of the best Storytelling cases in the current pop industry!

“I’m your father!”

The moment of revelation that Vader is Luke’s true father is, in addition to one of the most iconic scenes in geek culture , the beginning of a much more humanized villain, by whom we begin to feel a certain compassion in realizing that there is an internal struggle good versus evil. Does this sound familiar?

IAm Your Father Darth Vader GIF - IAmYourFather DarthVader GIFs

Storytelling is nothing more than the ability to, through stories, empathize and emotionally access your audience – be they spectators, readers or listeners. And, according to psychology concepts, no one is totally good or evil then, when we identify those same characteristics in a villain, we are fascinated by having identified with them.

Luke interweaves the classic narrative of the struggle of good versus evil with a deeper connection between the protagonist and his antagonist. This makes conflict, which was once only a fight of lightsabers into something real and understandable.

In the following films Vader’s fragility becomes increasingly evident – for those who do not know, the order of the films is a bit different, the first three releases are actually episodes IV, V, VI – when their story is told from their poor childhood to the crucial events of adult life.

Note that Vader’s character arc was built on more than one base, that is, the motivations that led him to change were many, such as his family history and sad loss (no spoiler!), Thus the probability of generating empathy with the public was much larger.

Almost subconsciously we identify family relationships, friendships, loves and feelings of fear, disappointment, frustration and anger that we always struggle with. The same ones that made him yield to the dark side of the force.

There is no denying that Darth Vader was very bad, but Anakin Skywalker was also a good person and, in the end, had his moment of redemption. And that’s what makes him a great villain.

Darth Vader Star GIF - DarthVader Star Wars GIFs

Long time after, in a galaxy far, far away …

And that’s what made a whole movie room – including myself – thrill with its few minutes in the movie “Star Wars – Rogue One,” eleven years after its last onscreen appearance.

Let’s face it, the impression we have is that the Star Wars franchise will last forever. His ability to create new stories, always with elements familiar and close to our reality is incredible and makes all his films hit box office records and continue to win thousands of fans for generations.

Stories are powerful, especially if built with authentic characters, with normal weaknesses and defects. Even if it is set in a galaxy far, far away.

In the end, we discovered that it was the storytelling on the dark side of the force that made us like both Darth Vader, with his good side and his dark part, as well as all of us. But, do not worry, that does not make us villains or bad people, just humans.

Now, if you want to create your own stories with captivating villains like Darth Vader, learn all the powerful tools in Rock Content’s mini-storyteller course .

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