The villain is the hero of his or her own story. It’s an interesting proposition, and I have to admit, the best villains have good reasons for doing what they do. A smart, strong villain makes Our Hero’s ultimate win a more worthy one.
So, if we have a strong, smart villain (with a fatal flaw, of course), why not expand the analogy out to his henchmen, or henchwomen, as it were? And if two characters happen to have a certain chemistry, a twisted but loving symmetry, why not give them a romance of their own?
I stumbled upon such a bad romance on YouTube this morning. I’ve never watched Rio 2 (or Rio 1, for that matter), but this song between Kristin Chenoweth and Jemaine Clement encapsulates a romance between two vibrant characters who happen to have big problems keeping them apart. Jemaine’s character Nigel is an evil cockatoo, and Kristin’s character Gabi is a poisonous tree frog. While Nigel is sleeping, Gabi sings of her impossible love for him in “Poisonous Love”. (YouTube link; lyrics. YouTube link; animation.)
As Shakespeare says, “The course of true love never did run smooth,” and that goes for couples with lots in common. These two meet in captivity, are of different species, and then there’s the poison thing – as the song says, if Gabi touches him for too long, he’ll croak like a frog. I adore a good unrequited love story, and the set-up here is beautiful. I love how the whole thing is shown and told in three and a half short minutes, too.
If you enjoyed that, you may also like Nigel singing “I Will Survive” with back-up vocals from Gabi. (I have to admit, I’ve adored Jemaine Clement ever since I discovered The Flight of the Conchords and got the TV series on DVD, and Kristin Chenoweth ever since I got the cast recording of Wicked. I don’t think the character of Nigel does justice to Jemaine’s talents, but Gabi is a wonderful vehicle for Kristin, who is so very, very good as conveying subtle shades of good and bad.)
Just as every villain has a fatal flaw, every villainous romance should also be flawed, as well. Even in these two short videos, one gets the feeling that Gabi isn’t in love with Nigel so much as she’s in love with the Idea of Nigel. And as for Nigel, one gets the feeling that he takes Gabi completely for granted. Perhaps there could be a My Fair Lady sort of “I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face” moment in their story when their basic conflict (the poison thing) is resolved, and Gabi decides she deserves someone who can see her. In cases like these, I prefer a Pygmalion ending, where the girl leaves the jerk hero, and goes off to open a flower shop with the cute guy who adores her.
I’ve read the Wikipedia page and the IMDb page for the movie, and I’m afraid the villains’ love story won’t have a satisfying comedic end, nor will wind up as a gorgeous, operatic tragedy. I suppose that would steal too much thunder from the real hero and heroine of the movie. But still, I’m intrigued – I think Jemaine and Kristin would make wonderful placeholders for a romantic story between two minor characters or even two villains. They help me remember that the villains are the heroes of their own story, and deserve the same kind of care and development as the main couple.