How we perceive the “evil other”

Personal Perspective:

Mr. Charles Montgomery Burns is the well known villain from the tv series, The Simpsons. He is a very rich and powerful man who’s sole desire is to increase his wealth at the expense of other, less meaningful people. This picture shows him in the midst of his trademark sinister cackle. If I had never seen The Simpsons, I believe that I would easily be able to point out Mr. Burns as the villain of the show based on his appearance alone. The attached shadows on his face and hands indicate that he is the “evil other” because they make him appear dark and evil. He was created to represent the dark side of corporate America. He is greedy and full of hatred but, I love how we find humor in his relentless, abusive behavior because it gives us the opportunity to laugh at someone else’s expense without hurting anyone’s feelings.

Historical Perspective:

Mr. Burns made his debut in 1989. Interestingly none of the characters on the show have aged over the past 19 years. Mr. Burns was created as a character that would only appear on the show occasionally to give Homer some grief but, his character has become one of the most popular over the years and now it is very rare for him not to appear in every episode. He was voted the 49th best villain of all time by Wizard Magazine in 2006. Historically speaking, Mr. Burns fits the bill for how we perceive the “evil other” because he is almost always presented with his head down, looking up with beady eyes and a furrowed brow line. If his head is not down then he is usually depicted with heavy shadows, much like he is in this picture. He always tents his fingers in a way that leads you to believe he is contriving evil thoughts and he almost always has an evil smirk on his face.

Technical Perspective:

In this particular picture the key light is coming from below giving Mr. Burns a sinister high contrast appearance. It is a close-up showing his trademark hand gesture and bad posture. His long pointy nose could be viewed as a graphic vector that leads your eyes to the direction in which he is looking.

Ethical, Cultural, & Critical Perspective:

The Simpsons is a show that is known for making fun of American issues. There is always a moral dilemma that is to be resolved ethically. Many people (including my parents who have always found The Simpsons to be ethically distasteful) feel that stereotyping and displaying bad behavior is not the best way to teach a lesson, especially in cartoon format. It is said to encourage children to behave similarly but, I disagree. Why not learn from other people’s mistakes before we make those mistakes ourselves? Culturally, Mr. Burns is an exaggerated version of how we perceive corporate America. Money hungry, take all, do whatever it takes to get to the top state of mind. Mr. Burns is a perfect example of how we perceive the “evil other” because he is relentless in his attempts to prevent anyone else from gaining success. A villain would not be seen as evil if he/she was not given the specific characteristics such as those found in this picture of Mr. Burns.  

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