Hello everyone and welcome back to #theorythursday. Last week I talked about who the protagonist in the story is so check that out if you haven’t already. Today I am going to be talking about who the antagonist in the story is.
So let’s dive into Theory Thursday.
Who is the antagonist?
In literature, the term “antagonist” traditionally refers to the main opponent of the main character, the person who is the thorn in the protagonist’s side, the person who is working against the protagonist.
I mentioned last week how the term “protagonist” has become associated with the idea that the protagonist is the “good guy”, and that the term “antagonist” has become associated with the idea that the antagonist is the “bad guy”. Now, this can often be true, and when I am discussing movies, I tend to make this general association simply because it is easier, but while the antagonist of a story is often the “bad guy”, it is not the case every single time.
I think that sometimes the antagonist is not a bad character, but they are simply the counterpoint to the protagonist. If one was to look at a movie like Legally Blonde as an example, I would argue that Vivian may seem like the “bad guy” at first, but actually she isn’t the bad guy, she isn’t even the antagonist, she is simply the opposite of Elle. This type of scenario can happen often too so it is important to not confuse counterpoints with the “bad guy”. I also think it is important to acknowledge that someone disagreeing with the protagonist doesn’t automatically make them the “bad guy”.
It depends on the narrative, but some stories end with the protagonist and the antagonist finding a point of understanding, whereas in other narratives, they remain opposed. There is also the idea of the “anti-hero”, but this is a concept that I will discuss in detail on another Theory Thursday.
Why is it important to understand who the antagonist is?
It is important to know who the antagonist is because they are a key part of the narrative, they are where the conflict lies, and without an antagonist, the protagonist doesn’t have a challenge. I would argue that the antagonist functions to challenge the protagonist and make their arc meaningful. In the antagonist’s point of view, the protagonist is their challenge, and it is important to always remember who is telling the story, because a story told from the antagonist’s point of view could paint an entirely different picture.
This has been Theory Thursday. Happy Friday Eve.