Posted by: *carrie* | November 8, 2010

Megamind: The Villain’s Story

Megamind Movie Poster

Megamind, the cartoon film told from the Supervillan’s point of view, examines the concepts of how class shapes a person’s choices, women in refrigerators, NiceGuys, and makes you cheer nonstop for the Supervillan with the big, blue head.

Supervillan Megamind (Will Farrell) begins his narration at the beginning, introducing us to both the infant versions of himself and his archnemesis, Metroman (Brad Pitt). The two tots are propelled through space (from their respective home planets, which have been destroyed) and land in very different circumstances on Earth.

The plot is almost too familiar, except for the perspective we now get: we see that Megamind suffers on his journey, only to end up landing inside a prison, to be raised by the inmates. We also see that Metroman has landed in a wealthy home, where he’s given every resource imaginable. Also of note is the fact that Megamind is blue, while Metroman is white (read: people of color are more likely to be poor and in prison, white people are more likely to be wealthy and educated).

The flashback gives us glimpses of Megamind and Metroman in school together. Metroman is popular and well-liked. Megamind tries to impress and relate to his classmates, but it only ends in disaster. Eventually he realizes the one thing he’s good at: being bad.

So our classic Good vs. Evil story is born, and we now get to watch the story of Megamind unfold. At this point we are introduced to Roxanne (Tina Fey), the reporter/love interest. Roxanne first appears to be just a woman in a refrigerator, Metroman’s love interest and therefore the woman Megamind frequently kidnaps to lure Metroman into his schemes.

Roxanne, however, is bored by her repeated abductions, pointing to the tired plotline of “(white, hetero, male) Hero saves (white, hetero, female) victim”. Instead Roxanne is given agency in her personal life. She is active in rescuing Metro City. While she ends up back in the “female victim to rescue” category, she’s been allowed to develop a thorough story of her own leading up to this point. It would have been nice if she could have been made anything other than conventionally attractive (read: white, very thin, and with noticeable make up like mascara, because even cartoon women need to be sure to look their best).

The catalyst to her capture is Titan (Jonah Hill), a new villan created by Megamind. Titan was intended to be a Superhero for Megamind to fight. This is where things go all wrong, as often happens with supervillan’s plans.

Titan is propped up as a NiceGuy. Prior to being made into a Superhero, he was a slightly below-average guy with a a big crush on Roxanne. Now that he’s been endowed with super powers, he’s sure that Roxanne will jump at the chance to be with him. It turns out Roxanne isn’t necessarily interested in superheroes. This sends Titan into quite the rage, as he feels entitled to her affection. Instead of being made sympathetic (as is every other NiceGuy in film), the audience is expected to be (rightfully) appalled at Titan’s entitlement. In the end, Titan places Roxanne back in the refrigerator, cementing the fact that he never actually cared about Roxanne as a person, only that he was a NiceGuy who deserved her attention because, well, because he thought he did.

Megamind doesn’t come closs to passing the Bechdel test. But it does provide it’s only named female character opportunities to challenge conventional notions of a woman’s place in the super hero narration.

It’s at this point that we return to Megamind’s real challenge: He was never inherently bad. He had the absolute minimum in terms of opportunities, family life, education. When he made mistakes, instead of being allowed to fix them or guided by a teacher, he was constantly punished. His choice to become a villan was a direct result of his circumstances, which weren’t chosen, but handed to him.

Megamind’s not really great at being bad. Although he does have an evil cape collection to rival any villan in recent history. He loses constantly. But he’s used to loosing, and learns from his mistakes. It’s through his villany that Megamind’s circumstances change. He can suddenly have all of the stuff he wants. He can, and does, rule Metro City. He finds it rather unfullfilling after a time, being that he’s never really lusted after stuff. He’s really just wanted to fullfill his destiny and maybe be liked. It’s only after his circumstances have drastically changed that he is given the opportunity to become the hero.

There are plenty of stories about people rising up above their circumstances. Always “good” people, always people who are interested in becoming a “contributing member of society”. Megamind is notable for telling the story a different way. The character wasn’t necessarily interested in bettering himself. Other than being a blue alien with a big head, his story is much more realistic, in that people do the best with the circumstances handed to them. The film maintains the viewers empathy with Megamind throughout – we’re allowed to see what his circumstances are and come to the very reasonable conclusion that anyone in those circumstances could’ve come out the exact same way, or even worse. The film actually makes quite a bit of fun of Metro Man. Sure, he’s a good guy and devoted to helping people, but he’s kind of ridiculous and a bit self-absorbed, too.

Megamind serves as an illustration of how drastically class affects a person’s entire life. If we could view the world with those same eyes, the ones that cheered for every small victory of Megamind’s, no matter how misguided, we would see just how different everyone’s circumstances are. We might stop telling people to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and instead appreciate just what they have to do to even get their pair of boots.

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