Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Seven Deadly Characters

By Alissa Vidulich

The seven deadly sins have been popularized in the narrative poem Dante's Commedia, through major motion pictures such as Se7en and by the official Catechism of the Catholic Church. Pope Gregory the Great proclaimed that the seven deadly sins were (in order of increasing severity): lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy and pride. The origin of the concept of “capital” sins can be traced back to Proverbs 6:16-19 of the Bible where it is written, “There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him.”

Deadly sins or what one might today simply refer to as 'character traits' can be seen around us every day in varying degrees. From celebrities with gluttonous narcotic addictions to the sloth-like teens who waste away in a haze of Mountain Dew and World of Warcraft.. if the seven sins are truly as god-awful as implied by the scriptures then, in the words of Marilyn Manson, “it's a long hard road out of Hell.”

In no fashion are such sins better personified than through the devices of cleverly-crafted cinematography, a striking score and an arresting actor or actress (and in some cases computer generated characters). It could just be that because the seven deadly sins are so dramatically personified through characters in film that such 'sins' being committed throughout many societies are now merely seen as character traits.

While they may not be entirely to blame for the world's growing desensitization to sinful acts, there are many characters of film who personify and exaggerate the capital sins to noteworthy degrees. Here are seven cinematic characters, who could just be the best of all time when it comes to rendering the deadliest of sins. The list follows the Pope's order of increasing severity as you descend further down the wailing depths of despair toward the crestfallen accommodations of the prideful.

The vampires Lestat (Tom Cruise), Louis (Brad Pitt) & Claudia (Kirsten Dunst)
Interview with the Vampire

Tagline: “Drink from me and Live Forever”

Lestat's ceaseless lust for blood, Louis' unfulfilled longing for death and life's meaning and Claudia's undying urge for normalcy, together the treacherous trio form a lustful league of deadly proportions. Of course, they're vampires, so whether they're subject to the same degree of eternal damnation as humans are for their sins remains uncertain. Perhaps Anne Rice would be the one to ask on such matters, her screenplay for the film is based on her novel of the same title, the first in a lengthy series dubbed The Vampire Chronicles. The film was released in 1994 and was directed by Neil Jordan (The Crying Game, The Brave One). The iconic Dracula and American Beauty's Lester Burnham are tied for second in the lust category.

The Blob
The Blob

Tagline: “Scream now, while there's still room to breathe”

The Blob is the epitome of gluttonous. This red shapeless creature crashed to earth from outer space in the 1988 flick and quickly began consuming everything in its path with no discrimination. At least Monty Python's Mr. Creosote attempted to turn down the wafer thin mint before his stomach exploded. The Blob's entire 'body' appears to a gigantic gelatin stomach, and grows bigger and bigger as it consumes people, buildings, the world. The film was a remake of the 1958 version where much of The Blob's gruesome gluttony is implied rather than shown in great detail, as in the scene where The Blob devours a woman through the kitchen sink drain. The Blob was directed by Chuck Russell (Nightmare on Elm Street III, Eraser).

Ebenezer Scrooge (Michael Caine)
The Muppet Christmas Carol

Scrooge is perhaps the most iconic character when it comes to greed. He's a miser, makes his employees work on Christmas Eve and cares nothing whatever of the feelings of others. Ebenezer Scrooge originates from the classic novel, A Christmas Carol. The Disney version of the Charles Dickens character even swims in a vault of gold. While there are several films, which feature the character Brian Henson's 1992 version of the film captures the emotion of the characters better than the rest, which is odd considering most of the characters were puppets rather than on-screen actors.

Peter Gibbons (Ron Livingston)
Office Space

Tagline: “Work sucks”

The tagline of this film says it all. Peter Gibbons hates his job as a software engineer so much that after becoming hypnotized he slithers into a sublime state of sloth. He drinks booze, watches ninja movies and shows up to work at his leisure. He simply wants to do nothing and at the thought is perfectly content. It's not a good source of inspiration for aspiring software engineers, or anyone who wants food and shelter outside of living in prison. Office Space was released in 1999 and was directed by Mike Judge, creator of Beavis and Butt-head, the personifications of sloth on the small screen.

Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen)
Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith

Tagline: “The saga is complete”
Anakin Skywalker, who becomes the infamous Darth Vader, is a shining example of wrath by Dante's terms. Dante described wrath as the “love of justice perverted.” When Anakin is told he can save his wife from death by joining the dark side of the force his noble desires evolve into a form of wrath so vicious that it leads him to murder children. Eventually his intentions and actions are so perverted that he becomes someone else, in body, mind and spirit and sets out to destroy the Jedi in the chronological remainder of the series. In a recent Yahoo! Poll Darth Vader was voted the greatest villain of all time. The film was released in 2005 and was both written and directed by George Lucas.

Saruman (Christopher Lee)
The Lord of the Rings (trilogy)

If envy is seen as a lust for possessions that lie in the hands of someone else, then Saruman's envy of Frodo and his ring fits the frame. His envy leads Saruman the White to build an army of immense destruction to destroy Middle-Earth and attain the ring of power. The character Gollum is also holds a dangerous envy for Frodo's ring and attempts to murder him for it, but it seems he is more so truly mad than altogether evil like Saruman. The films were directed by Peter Jackson and were released from 2001 to 2003.

The Devil

The Devil is a character that befits the greatest of all capital sins. He has been portrayed in countless films including The Devil's Advocate, Pure Evil and Hellraiser, but they all have one thing in common, lust for supremacy or pride. In this character's world he is number one and will sacrifice anything and anyone to attain ultimate power, supremacy over the earth and over God himself. Lucifer, Satan, Mephisto are only some of the many names used to describe the fallen angel. Call him a character of evil truth or call him the most vile creation of fiction, the Devil is without a doubt the embodiment of the worst kind of pride.

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