Archive for February, 2011

The Wicked Witch of the West: A Villain We’d Love to Hate

“I’ll get you my pretty! And your little dog too!”

These are the famous words of one of the world’s most iconic villains, the Wicked Witch of the West, the antagonist of the classic film The Wizard of Oz.  She appears to be the epitome of villainy:  purely evil and selfish.  There is no ambiguity in the Witch’s ruthless evil.  However, a fairly new musical titled Wicked counters the classic film and turns the story of the Wicked Witch of the West into a lesson on perspective.  We are just as invested in great villains as we are in heroes.  We especially thrive on villains who are complex and troubled, who make us think and wonder about the true nature of good and evil.  This is exactly what the combination of The Wizard of Oz and Wicked does for us.  Just like with heroism, villainy is in the eye of the beholder.

We should all be familiar with the story of The Wizard of Oz.  The protagonist, Dorothy, is swept into the magical land of Oz by a tornado, where she meets Glinda the Good Witch, who gives her the ruby slippers of the Wicked Witch of the East and tells her to get home she must go see the Wizard of Oz.  Along the way, she meets several friends who join her on her journey.  Throughout all this, the Wicked Witch of the West—who wants the ruby slippers—plagues the small group of friends, doing everything in her power to foil their trip to the wizard, or so it would seem.

In Wicked, we are given a background story to the Wicked Witch of the West.  She was unfortunately born green and ridiculed all her life.  This immediately builds sympathy for her.  We know the story, and we know she is evil, but we can’t help but relate to her.  We begin to wonder if she could’ve been a good person in another set of circumstances. The Wizard of Oz does not do this for us; it leaves her in the archetypal evil villain format.  As the Wicked Witch, or Elpheba as she is known in the musical, moves through her years at school, she befriends Galinda—who will later become Glinda the Good Witch.  Throughout the musical, we come to realize that the events in The Wizard of Oz are not as they seem.  Oz is a messed up place.  The seemingly malicious acts of the Wicked Witch are actually a series of misunderstandings resulting from Elpheba’s efforts for autonomy and freedom from persecution.

This leads to the question of whether or not the Wicked Witch of the West is actually evil.  In The Wizard of Oz, she is an undeniable villain.  In Wicked, the decision is much more complex.  Evil—even if unintentional—results from her actions.  Do motivations and/or perspective matter when it comes to perceptions of villainy, or is the resulting harm all that matters?  The true beauty of it is that it is completely up to you to decide.

performance of Defying Gravity in the musical Wicked:


 

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Lord Voldemort: The Villain Who Must Not Be Named

Lord Voldemort is the primary antagonist to the Harry Potter series. The Harry Potter series is essentially a story about good versus evil and how good always beats out evil in the grand scheme of things. In Harry Potter the Series, people have special magical powers that they can defend themselves with and for these people with magical powers, they go to a special school for wizards and witches. The main source of evil is portrayed in Lord Voldemort, who is a villain that have is driven by a passion for power. Like most non-fiction villains, Lord Voldemort’s character is taken to the extremes in which Lord Voldemort is downright cruel and even fanatical in his search for Harry Potter and other wizards not born of pure magical blood.

Lord Voldemort draws some comparison to villains such as Adolf Hitler. Just like Adolf Hitler, Lord Voldemort jumpstarted and was the leader of a genocide that accounted for the death of many human lives. In Lord Voldemort’s genocide, he wanted to hunt down wizards and witches that were not born from parents with magical powers. Lord Voldemort created a group of followers called the Death Eaters with their main goal in life was to capture Harry Potter and kill any non-magical born wizards and witches that got in the way of their goal of capturing Harry Potter.

What makes Lord Voldemort any different from other villains in the Harry Potter Series? As a student at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Lord Voldemort excelled in his craft beyond his years as a wizard. As Lord Voldemort grew more skilled and powerful in his craft, he began to start looking into the dark magic. By studying dark magic, Lord Voldemort soon became void of human sensitivity and feelings and started to feel no remorse in killing people. Lord Voldemort is described in the Harry Potter Series as the most evil wizard for hundreds of years. In Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry there was a mirror called the Mirror of Erised which allowed one to look into the mirror and see what they most desire. When Lord Voldemort looked into the mirror, all he saw was himself, all-powerful and unbeatable. This just comes to show just how power hungry Lord Voldemort was.

As the story progressed, Lord Voldemort became powerful enough to control most of the magical world. Everywhere he went, non-magical born wizards were killed on the spot and even magical born wizards were in danger as well. Lord Voldemort was ruthless in his search for Harry Potter and the cleansing of the magical world of non-magical born wizards and witches.

The ruthlessness of Lord Voldemort and the extreme passion for killing and purifying the world of non-magical born wizards and witches puts him in the same category of those who also led genocides such as Adolf Hitler. Therefore, even though Lord Voldemort is fiction, he is considered one of the most evil icons of our modern day and age.

 

 

 

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Pat Tillman: The Hero Who Chose Patriotism Over A Paycheck

 

Pat Tillman was a professional football player in the National Football League during the years of 1998-2001. When many of us hear the name Pat Tillman, we think about the football player that retired from his professional playing career to serve his country as a patriot or we may just think of the football player who played safety for the Arizona Cardinals. However, what we did not see is Pat Tillman’s lifelong dedication to integrity, honesty, and loyalty. When Pat Tillman joined the National Football League, Pat Tillman signed with the Arizona Cardinals. Then after Pat Tillman became a free agent, the Saint Louis Rams offers him a five-year, nine million dollar contract, a more lucrative offer than offered by the Arizona Cardinals, which Pat Tillman declined because of loyalty to the Arizona Cardinals. Pat Tillman’s dedication to the Arizona Cardinals franchise is unique in a professional football player in this day and age. Only after Pat Tillman had fulfilled his contract agreements with the Arizona Cardinals did he choose to enroll in the United States Army.

Pat Tillman was a role model to athletes and citizens all throughout the United States. Even when Pat Tillman was financially successful and had a bright future ahead of him, Pat Tillman sacrificed everything in order to serve America. This just comes to show the world and young adults of this modern world that sometimes money is not everything. Pat Tillman motivates everyday citizens to help the world by doing everything in one’s power to contribute just a little something to make the world a better place. Also, Pat Tillman’s shows that when one person is in the position to help the world, that person should take that opportunity to help serve a greater good.

After several tours in Afghanistan, Pat Tillman was killed in combat by friendly fire. After Pat Tillman died, the Pat Tillman Foundation was founded to inspire positive change in the world and to share Pat Tillman’s legacy throughout the world. Pat Tillman embodied the ideology that one should take patriotism over a paycheck. Pat Tillman was a prime example of someone who gave up everything for an ideology, just like Martin Luther King Jr. gave up his life to promote civil rights and equality. Ghandi also spent his life in solitude and rebellion in order to show the world that battles can actually be won with nonviolence. Therefore, Pat Tillman can be considered a hero just like Martin Luther King Jr. and Ghandi because all three of these men gave up their lives to serve their ideologies and try to make the world a much better place.

Pat Tillman, an undersized player with an oversized heart, is a selfless hero who chose patriotism over a paycheck to serve his country as a true American Hero.

 

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Ishmael Beah: Revival of Hope and Morality

Human kind has a natural obsession with the “flawed hero”.  We crave redemption, hoping that the particular hero finds that inner motivation for a better life and chooses moral behavior over selfish interest. And though there are many stories about the rise of heroes, none are as dramatic and outstanding as the story of Ishmael Beah, author of A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier.

As a young child, Beah was entangled in Sierra Leone’s violent civil war, struggling to cope with horrific actions and events of vicious hostility. After Beah, his brother, and his friend went to a neighboring village for a hip hop talent show, the rebel army pillaged their home village of Mogbwemo. Displaced from home, the boys were forced to rummage for food. All hell broke loose when the rebels invaded the new village where they were staying, forcing them to escape into the jungle. Being plagued with morbid dreams and haunted by the deaths of many fellow people, Beah continued to scavenge and scrounge for food until another rebel attack separated him from his brother and his other companions.  Immense feelings of loneliness and fear tormented him, incinerating his innocence as each day passed by. Eventually, Beah was captured by government militia and was forced to fight as a child soldier. The war morphed his mind, convoluting his perception of “good” and “evil”. To numb himself from such a horrifying experience, Beah succumbed to the pressure brought upon by the soldiers and became addicted to drugs.

Despite seeing his friends die and living with pure hopelessness, Beah did recover; he enrolled in a rehabilitation center run by UNICEF. At this facility, Beah rediscovered his inner child and regained some of his boyish innocence.  Even though his experience was heart-wrenching and ultimately damaged his persona, Beah was spared.

And as time went on, Beah discovered the importance of spreading his experience. In 1998, he moved to the United States and enrolled at Oberlin College. After graduating, he began advocating for the plight of child soldiers, not only in his country but all around the world. He published his memoir and addressed this issue at many events, including at the United Nations General Assembly.

Beah’s transformation is a clear beacon of hope in light of such terrible civil unrest. He needed to have such determination and strength to endure the tragedy of death that surrounded him and the coercion of war that portrayed the bleak circumstances of a morally bleached society. And even though he had committed foul deeds during that time in order to survive, Beah revived his persona, understood his past faults, and strived to change himself, and in turn, society as a whole.

Ishmael Beah, to this day, continues to advocate for the child soldiers whose innocence is painfully wrenched away. He provides people with a sense of hope as illustrated in his book: “When I was young, my father used to say, ‘If you are alive, there is hope for a better day and something good to happen. If there is nothing good left in the destiny of a person, he or she will die.’ I thought about these words during my journey, and they kept me moving even when I didn’t know where I was going. Those words became the vehicle that drove my spirit forward and made it stay alive.” Such a philosophy to life is why he is a true and inspirational hero.

Ishmael Beah at a talk at Starbuck's

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The Joker: The Perfect Villain

             

            Growing up, I was always a huge fan of Batman and his movies. He is the hero that everyone idolizes because he is a hero that saves people and asks for nothing in return. In fact, people do not even know who he is because he does not want any recognition. He was my childhood hero and that is why I grew up despising the Joker. The Joker, one of the most recognized villains in popular media, is an eccentric psychopath, who uses his intelligence and humor to create havoc in Gotham for Batman. In the movie “The Dark Knight”, the joker is portrayed throughout the movie as the crazy villain, who will not go away until Batman is dead.

            The Joker was the new villain in Gotham, who was trying to take over. He creates a bad his reputation for himself by robbing a mafia-owned bank and having the perfect get away without being caught. Although the rest of the mob bosses were impressed by the Joker’s brilliance, they were threatened by him because he could take over all crime operations in Gotham, which were being monitored heavily by the police. The mob was being prosecuted by the courts because of their drug-related crimes. This is when the Joker took over the mob and started putting his focus on killing Batman. Joker announces to Gotham, through a gruesome video of him killing a police officer, if Batman does not reveal himself to Gotham that people will die every day that he doesn’t. Batman does not reveal himself, so the Joker kills the judge presiding over the mob trials and Commissioner Loeb. Bruce Wayne then decides to reveal himself as Batman, but Harvey Dent, the district attorney, beats him to the chase. This leads up to the point in the film when the Joker reveals his sick brilliance.

            Harvey Dent, after he lied about being Batman, was in danger because the Joker was pursuing him. However, the real Batman came to the rescue and saved Dent and also captured Joker. While Batman was beating and questioning him in prison, he managed to still capture Dent and his girlfriend, Rachel Dawes. He had Harvey Dent in a certain location on one side of the city, while Rachel Dawes, Batman’s secret lover, was on the opposite side of the city. They were both attached to explosive devices and tied up in chairs. In order for Batman to stop beating the Joker, he explains the situation to Batman. He tells Batman that Rachel was in the place where Harvey Dent actually was and that Dent was on the other side of town. So Batman goes after Rachel, while the police go after Dent. When Batman gets to the location he realizes what the Joker had done, but it was too late so he saved Dent. Meanwhile, Rachel is killed on the other side of town. This is the perfect example of how brilliant and sick the Joker was. In the end, the Joker gets away and continues his disturbing crimes.

            A villain is the antagonist in a story and has a negative effect on the other characters. The villain is the “evil” character who disturbs the peace and has no appreciation for the law. The Joker is the perfect example of a villain because of his negative effect on Batman and the rest of Gotham. He believes that he is not required to follow the laws of Gotham and has all the characteristics that are opposite of a heroes. This fictional character is the definition of what it means to be a villain.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rIj2uL2f1rE

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Dwyane Wade: More Than Basketball

           

            A hero that I idolize is Dwyane Wade, a NBA player for the Miami Heat. Dwyane Wade was born on the South Side of Chicago, Illinois. Wade attended college at Marquette University on a full scholarship to play basketball. Throughout his collegiate career he excelled on the basketball court and in the classroom. He did not receive a degree, but he was so successful on the court that he decided to skip his senior year of college and enter the NBA draft. This is a common theme amongst college athletes to forgo their senior year, if they are skilled enough, and enter their professional careers. This decision turned out tremendously for Dwyane Wade and his career.

           After Leaving Marquette, he was selected 5th overall by the Miami Heat and has played there ever since. In 2003, He immediately impacted the Heat with his athleticism and leadership. He averaged 16.2 points per game, while leading them to the conference semi-finals in the playoffs, only to lose top-seeded Indiana Pacers. Dwyane Wade kept working and by the 2005-2006 NBA season he became a super-star. Only his third year in the NBA, he led the Miami Heat to the NBA finals against the Dallas Mavericks. The Heat had lost the first two games, but because of Wade’s leadership they came back to win the Finals. He scored 42 points in the third game, 36 points in the fourth game, and 43 points in the fifth game to revitalize the struggling Heat. Dwyane Wade also scored 36 points in the sixth game to lead the team yet again and won NBA Finals MVP trophy, along with a world championship trophy. Many saw his performance in the finals that year as one of the best performances in the NBA’s playoff history.

           The NBA and fans were not the only ones that recognized Wade’s accomplishments. Marquette University decided to retire his jersey in 2007 to honor his success both in college and in his professional career. The All-time leading scorer and assists player of the Miami Heat, received many accolades throughout his professional career that label him as one of the best to ever play the game. He is a seven time NBA All-star, a five time All-NBA player, a three time All-defensive player, and he won the NBA scoring title in 2009. Along with his NBA career, Wade has an Olympic career, which consists of a gold and bronze medal. He is an amazing basketball player that is enjoyable to watch, but the greatest work that he does is off the field. This is the work that makes him a hero in many fan’s eyes.

            In 2003, he created the Wade’s World Foundation, which provides support for community-based organizations education, health, and social skills for children in need of help. In 2008, Wade purchased a house in on Christmas-eve in South for a woman in South Florida, who recently lost her house because of a fire. He even bout her furniture and clothing for Christmas. In 2010, Wade co-founded the Haiti earthquake relief with former teammate Alonzo Mourning. The relief raised over 800,000 dollars to help the citizens of Haiti from the natural disaster. He is taking advantage of the opportunity he has to be a hero and make a difference in the world. Many athletes have this opportunity because they are heavily idolized by the youth, but do not realize it. Dwyane Wade is a hero because of his stellar athletic ability and his actions off the court, which reveal his true character and leadership.

http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=dwyane+wade+2006+nba+finals&aq=2

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Welcome!

Dear Heroes and Villains class,

I’m looking forward to seeing your blog posts!

Doc A

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