The Framing and Production of Villains in a Capitalist Society

Conference: The Asian Undergraduate Research Symposium (AURS2021)
Title: The Framing and Production of Villains in a Capitalist Society
Stream: Culture, Popular Culture and Cultural Studies
Presentation Type: Virtual Poster Presentation
Rifal Imam, New York University Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates


Is the human being innately selfish? What does it mean for something to be innate? Do all human beings share the same innate motivations? What makes a villain a villain, and who decides? Is selfishness equitable with evil? This essay explores the influence of capitalism in creating a framework for how modern villains in western society are produced. The essay utilizes a sequential analysis of multidisciplinary theories to analyze their application on capitalism and its consequential effects on society’s understanding of the human. Moreover, the essay analyzes the emergent framework produced and its application in art, particularly literature, further utilizing The Devil Wears Prada as an exemplary case study. Capitalism has functioned as more than just an economic system in the modern Western world, spreading its influence into disciplines such as psychology, biology, politics, and most significantly art, or literature in particular. Authors, representative of the common citizen, recreate the framed “evil” and “good” into narratives through the creation of a character. In the Western capitalist society, the evil character is an exaggerated primal selfish figure whilst the hero is the unattainable truly altruistic character. Approaching characters through a different lens illustrates that the idea of evil may not be as universal as western theory likes to promote and is, instead, a build-up of interdisciplinary theories.

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