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Are we attracted to the dark side? This attraction to the dark side is not exclusive to adults, children are also fascinated and that's why they like bad characters in stories so much. But we wonder why, why do our children ask for villain costumes one year and hero the next. We wonder why they don't always stay with the good guy in the story, with the hero or the heroine, with the prince or with the princess.
Let's face it, what story could we tell about Little Red Riding Hood if we didn't have the wolf roaming the woods? There is nothing extraordinary about a little girl bringing a basket of food to her sick grandmother, is there? It is when the villain of the story appears that we have a story to tell.
The bad guys in the stories are necessary. They are the counterpoint of the caring protagonist, they are the ones that really allow children to see the values in the story that is being read or told. From the wolf in Little Red Riding Hood to Cruela de Vil from 101 Dalmatians, to the adored and hated Maleficent, the bad guys, the villains can be very different.
There are ogres, monsters, villainous people, evil witches, animals with bad intentions, beings of difficult classification. They are selfish, greedy, cruel, ugly or unfriendly and therefore strange that children like them so much. But the bad guys like them, the bad guys attract perhaps out of sheer empathy for someone who always stays in the background. In the end, the real protagonists are the good guys, right?
As we have already warned, without the bad guys there is no story. That is why we speak of an undeserved secondary role that they play in children's stories. Perhaps our children unconsciously realize this injustice, perhaps any child is capable of intuiting that without the villain he would not be able to enjoy a fabulous story.
The role that bad guys play in stories is key for the story to emerge and develop. That we love happy endings, we and our children too, but for there to be a happy ending, there must first be a long history of setbacks, like life itself!
A story, any story, has a protagonist and an antagonist. Because without antagonist, the main character has no adventures, has no conflict, has no obstacles to solve. All that is given by the villain and our children capture it, so they empathize with him or at least thank him for his presence in this story.
What else can the bad guy do besides being the true architect of the story? Well, precisely because of the contrast that it implies, making the good good. We explain ourselves. How would children know that the protagonist is good? Because there is a bad guy who is the counterpoint, because it is on the path that the wicked travels where they see positive or negative values.
And without going into considerations about moral flexibility, the truth is that the bad guys who appear in the stories are manifestly bad if only because they get in the way of the happiness of the main character. The bad guys are also the main obstacle that the protagonist has to fulfill his dreams and sometimes his cruel behavior is totally gratuitous.
Our children are going to meet many villains throughout their lives and in their first stories they can learn to avoid its consequences. Preparing for adult life? But let's not overlook that many of those terrible bad guys take a turn as the story progresses and end up on the side of the good guy. Because we all make mistakes and we all have the right to rectify.
When they say that the bad guys are not so bad nor the good guys so good, they are not referring precisely to children's stories where the bad guys are not that they are not so bad, it is that they are very bad. And despite that these characters that make life impossible for the protagonist like them. We like them and our little ones like them. It will be because of the fascination that the dark side exerts or it will be because the truth is that our children can learn many things from the bad guys in stories.
As concerned as we are about the management of emotions in our children and we had not realized how the bad guys in the stories can help us in this task. The evil characters, the villains, the ogres and the evil witches present behaviors that are present in all people and that both adults and children find it difficult to accept.
Because we all want to be good people. We do not recognize ourselves when we feel envy, jealousy, anger, anger or resentment or any other emotion that we consider negative. We are reluctant to believe that our initially kind heart can harbor such toxic feelings and sometimes malicious. And there are the bad guys from the stories to tell our children that all that exists.
It is not that our children are so bad that they can identify with the villain of the story, but it is a good moment that we can take advantage of to help our children to recognize those negative emotions. And nothing happens to have them, as long as they can identify them and can do something with them; something other than using them to make another protagonist unhappy.
Children can learn many things from the bad guys in stories, since through them positive and negative values are identified and they learn to distinguish between good and evil. And what about how good a person your son can feel when he sees that he wouldn't act like the bad guy in the story? In a way, the villain, the ogre or the bad witch teaches our children to be better people.
Given the use of children's literature to educate in values and, as a study by the National Council of Culture and the Arts of the Chilean government says, "stories and stories are fundamental for the development of life", there we have the baddies of the stories as our best allies so that our little ones realize the damage that some behaviors can cause. The bad ones represent unscrupulous or negative values and their presence is so important in the story that it is told that it is impossible not to notice them.
So what if the bad guys in the stories aren't so bad? Children pay attention to everything and, if something escapes them, for that we are reading a story to them, to point out everything that we think is important. And once we look closely, on many occasions the bad guys carry a heavy burden of traumatic childhood, abuse or injustice. As if they were bad because the world has made them that way.
It is not an excuse to justify the bad guy in the story, but it is a good excuse for children be aware that we are not perfect, that we make mistakes, that we make mistakes many times and that sometimes those mistakes have consequences for others. There is no reason to follow the thread of the story because sometimes the bad guys have no turning back, but how many times has a bad guy rectified throughout the adventure?
In the end we have to come to the conclusion that, indeed, the bad guys in the stories are not so bad. That it is normal for children to notice them and be fascinated by their motivations. Because at the end of the day, the bad guy is the one who truly carries the weight of the story, no matter how hard we try to point out the good guy as the protagonist.
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