Heroes and Villains

Today I would like to do something a little bit different than my usual posts – I would like to share a writing sample with you (other than what I usually write in this space). Here is an essay that I wrote for my composition class that I am comfortable sharing with you now that it has been submitted and returned with a grade…. 

Villain – Misunderstood Hero or Misunderstood Nanny?

What do Darth Vader, Saruman, and Loki have in common? Other than being in my favorite movie franchises, they are the villains of those franchises. On a number of occasions I have been asked to play Darth Vader only to be cut in half by my own lightsaber (a tree limb in the back yard). I’ve played Saruman and his army of Orcs only to be brought to an end by three Hobbits and their Nerf guns. My favorite role to date however has been Loki, the God of Mischief…of course I met my demise at the hands of three – yes, three – Captain Americas…with Spiderman’s web slingers.

Why have I been playing these villains you may ask? For the last seven years I’ve been babysitting and working as a nanny. Kids like imaginative play and I have found that more often than not they enjoy being the heroes, even if it means all three brothers playing Captain America…or Frodo. When everyone wants to be a hero that leaves only one logical choice for the villain and that would be the adult in the room, be they parent or babysitter.

It doesn’t take much to play a convincing villain, in fact depending on the audience all you have to do is stand still and get whacked with plastic lightsabers…or sticks from the backyard. Sometimes it means joining in the fun and arming yourself to the teeth with foam darts and a gigantic Nerf weapons. Sometimes a convincing portrayal will be required if you find yourself asked to play Darth Vader and the six year old pretends to cut off your legs it is helpful to fall to your knees and remain there until the ten and twelve year old have vanquished you, their enemy.

There will be times when you as a villain will still have to take care of responsibilities including but not limited to diaper changes, lunch making, and the occasional load of laundry. It is possible to remain the villain while taking care of these responsibilities, you just have to know how to play the cards in your hand. While making lunch, take the middle child hostage with use of a Nerf sword and require them to set the table to gain their freedom, all the while fending off an attack from their brother and sister who’ve ambushed you from the basement stairs.

Depending on the age of the heroes you’ve been facing off against you may find yourself playing the most powerful card you have in your hand: nap time. This is your super power – forget making kick-butt mac n’ cheese, making a mean pillow/blanket fort, or designing backyard obstacle courses, nap time is the Kryptonite you hold in your hand. Use the Kryptonite only if need be, you’ll know when you need it – when the heroes begin to turn on each other – verbal disagreements, physical tussles, or occasionally one or more of your esteemed heroes dissolving into tears; This is when you as the villain (and responsible adult) have to bring temporary peace to The Universe, the Death Star, or Middle Earth.

Usually this temporary laying down of arms will take place in the afternoon, anywhere from two o’clock to three o’clock depending on how grouchy your young foes are. While the heroes go to their separate fortresses to rest and develop strategies for how to overtake you post-nap, use this time to do a little resting and strategizing of your own. You might consider dividing up the hundreds of Nerf darts into equal piles for each hero (maybe a few extra for your own stash…just in case). You could make some repairs to the ramshackle pillow fort – couch cushions make a more stable foundation – or prepare a few snacks…in my experience young heroes enjoy cheese and crackers, various fruits and peanut butter but will turn their little hero noses up at celery or carrots.

Before you know it, nap time will be over and you – the unsuspecting, villain who was only trying to read a chapter in the novel you brought along with you for your own bit of quit time – will be ambushed from all sides with various calls for snacks, or shots to the head with foam darts that you thought to stashed away somewhere they couldn’t be found. This is the time that you employ the strategy you devised during nap-time – redirect your heroes’ course – if the weather is nice, send them on a quest for the mystical object they are in search of outside; if you find yourself dealing with a cold and rainy day lead them to the basement and their revamped pillow fort (also, this may be the biggest, most open room in the house giving you and your heroes ample room for play with minimal risk for accidental injury).

You will soon find your time facing the young heroes winding down and they may be getting restless for a solution, preferably a peaceful one. Determine what your heroes want– are they looking for a peaceful capture of you the misunderstood villain or, do they want you vanquished, brought down by your foolishness and pride? Once your outcome has been determined, ready yourself for defeat – pack your bags, set your things by the front door, and load your pockets with spare darts…now you are ready to face your doom (the heroes have chosen vanquish you).

It is time for your final campaign, you are Loki facing The Avengers, Darth Vader facing off against two Han Solos and an Obi-Wan Kenobi (because who wants to be Luke Skywalker?), you are Captain Hook against two Peter-Pans and Belle (favorite princess always wins out against the movie’s actual heroine) be prepared to face your final minutes with dignity – don’t go down without a fight but please, no cheap shots: don’t shoot anyone in the back or head, or threaten an extra nap-time for the next day. This is probably the most important part of being villain for a day – retain your dignity – you will find yourself in the company of these heroes again and you want them to know that you are a worthy adversary…don’t fall on your sword.

You walk down those stairs with your head held high, your Nerf gun heavily loaded, and you unleash your wrath. Don’t worry if the majority of your shots miss – the heroes are fast, they are dodging your shots – finally you are out of darts, it’s time. You move out from your protected spot between the pillow fort and doll house, surrounded by heroes…they unload their weapons on you, and you fall. Die with dignity…and by that I mean, put on a show because that is what the heroes are after.

Stagger to the pillow fort, clutch at your chest, then fall to the ground – make sure when you fall that you point your body toward the pillow fort, it will soften the fall a bit, you may be the villain but you are not getting any younger…a fall straight to the floor will hurt you. Once you’ve reached the ground play dead. I cannot stress this part enough: Play. Dead. If you play dead they will celebrate and stop shooting you. If you struggle to stay alive or try to crawl away they will reload (possibly steal your weapon) and continue to shoot.

The battle is now over – the villain has been vanquished, the Ring of Power is in the hands of the Hobbits, Darth Vader is dead, and Loki is on his way to an Asgardian prison. It is time now for the villain and heroes to form an alliance, to work together as a team…it is time now to clean up the mess. Have the young Hobbits return the couch cushions to their rightful place, ask The Avengers to return any and all weapons to the bin from which they came, and ask the young Jedi to fold up the roof of the pillow fort and return it to the blanket basket by the couch.

You and the heroes fought valiantly but now it is time to hang up your capes and caps, put the weapons and foam ammunition away and get ready for the return of the parents. You work together to clean up the house, put everything back in its rightful place and before you know it mom and dad are home and you are on your way out the door.

Don’t worry, you’ll come back…and when you do, the kids will have a Nerf gun loaded and waiting for you when you walk in the door. Good luck.


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