Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Who Is the Villain?

Those of you who read yesterday’s post know where I stand on the Chick-fil-a issue. I’ve probably said more than enough on the core issue, but as a writer, I see something more interesting at play here. Who is the villain?

Often, we think of the villain as the bad guy who eats nails for breakfast and has no purpose other than to make the life of the hero difficult. In real life, that character doesn’t exist and we certainly don’t see it in the Chick-fil-a situation. Let’s look at the cast of characters. First, there is Dan Cathy who said nothing about homosexuality at all, but stated that they were guilty as charged in their support for the traditional family. There is the news media, who took that statement and turned it into a statement about homosexuality. There is Lisa Henson of The Jim Henson Company who has decided to terminate The Jim Henson Company’s relationship with Chick-fil-a. Lastly, let’s consider Boston Mayor Tom Menino, who today is taking heat from the Boston Herald Editorial Staff for saying that he would block permits if Chick-fil-a tried to build in Boston.

Dan Cathy, seems to be the media’s choice for a villain in this situation. At least he did until they saw what an outpouring of support he was receiving for his stand. Whether you see him as a villain or not will largely depend on the point of view from which you write the story. Is this a story about guy who has the courage to stand up for what he believes, or is this a story about people who want to be allowed live the lifestyle they choose?

The New Media, could fit the bill when you consider that Dan Cathy’s statement said nothing about homosexuality, but there again, it partly depends on the point of view from which you write the story. They were just trying to sell newspapers. What’s wrong with that?

Lisa Henson fits the bill if you see her as the person who is yanking toys out of kids hands. But look at it from her perspective. It appears that she believes support for the traditional family is a harmful attitude. When I remove the nature of the issue involved from consideration, I admire her for standing up for what she believes. She’s doing nothing more than what Dan Cathy is doing. They just happen to be on different sides of the issue.

Mayor Tom Menino is probably the closest thing to a character who “eats nails for breakfast.” I don’t know if Chick-fil-a has plans to place a restaurant in Boston, but Mayor Tom Menino has made a preemptive strike. But he may have good reason. He is the mayor of a city that has 50,000 homosexuals or about 12% of the population. Considering that the major cities are dealing with only about 3% of their population being homosexual and the country as a whole has less than 1% percent, I kind of see why he would take the stand he did. If he is relying on that 12% to swing the vote for reelection, he won’t want to offend it.

I believe this tells us something about writing. The villain of a story is defined as much by the theme of the story as he is by his actions. Every villain believes himself to be a good guy, but he is a villain because he stands in opposition to what the writer claims is good.