Friday, November 30, 2012

Guilty Pleasures: Griffith

Griffith from Berserk is a great villain. His razor-sharp intelligence, immense ambition, and alluring elegance all pull viewers in and make them want to root for him, to consider Griffith the kind of villain that both dreams and nightmares are made of. All the fanboys who can't take a male villain seriously just because he's pretty, step away. Y' got no power here.

I appreciate him for all that and more. I like the fact that Griffith makes the "beauty is only skin deep" thing work for a male character, which is harder to do these days. In modern times, beautiful men are already perceived as suspect and decadent more often than they are seen as virtuous, but Griffith sells the idea that this double standard doesn't exist. What he is turns out to be is a genuine shock to the characters, who believed in him.

So what's the problem with this amazing villain? The problem is that Griffith committed rape. There's no way around this: Griffith is Femto, and Femto is Griffith, with his rape of Casca and mutilation of Guts a reflection of Griffith's desires. Griffith needed to assert his dominance over Casca and Guts, "punish" them for being "above" him, because he felt he should be the one in charge, and others his servants.

Ultimately, that is what Griffith wants: for others to be below him, and to use them. He could have said no to the Sacrifice, and continued his suicide attempt. The fact that he said yes proves that despite Griffith's charisma, and despite his fear and pain, a demon is always what he was deep down, someone who viewed others as the means to an end.

As I've said before, you can try to boil it down to statistics, to say that Griffith should be condemned more for the loyal men he sentenced to be mutilated and devoured by demons, rather than his rape of a single woman, but this isn't rational. The smaller, personal microcosm of evil is the one that punches you in the gut.

I'm saying these things maybe as a way to come to terms with the fact that even after seeing all this, I still like Griffith as a character, enjoying him as a high-quality villain. Griffith might be the guiltiest of guilty pleasures, an interest that haunts me a little, which proves the power Berserk can have when it's operating at its peak. Berserk isn't so shocking that it's immune to critique, but I admire it for being able to create violent events that would be over-the-top in other hands, and making them powerful and poignant.


  1. You know how villains often say the cliche about needing to break eggs in order to make omelets? Usually, I end up thinking that they have no interest in omelets, and that they're just making excuses for their love of egg-breaking. Griffith is different though: I have no doubt that, were he unopposed, he could make the world into one far better than it was when he was born. I also have no doubt that if it came to choosing between him and the world again? He'd choose himself every time. It's a fascinating bit of character construction, and why I consider him one of the great villains of fantasy fiction.

    I also sometimes wish the singing from the outtakes was canon. :P

    1. I think Griffith, deep down, never wanted to improve the world. Power was his goal, and he would have simply known that to rule long would be to rule well, and if he were a good ruler, he would rule longer. But it would not be because of the goodness of his heart that he ruled well, far from it.

      Griffith is scary because he has nothing to lose, nothing he wants more than power.