Victim, Villain, Hero

I am in a trial. No worries- am not on trial. Along with feeding and watching  (the ED version of 'Eat, Pray, Love') I also do some law.  This has been a crazy summer of trials and they tend to suck everything into them like a black hole.  So, have had little time to sit and get a blog post out (extra energy is directed to above noted feeding and watching) but litigation has me thinking about conflict and stories and eating disorders (like, I said....everything gets sucked into the black hole...even eating disorders).

There is a classic conflict story with 3 characters:

1. The Victim
2. The Villain
3. The Hero

Actually, you could argue that these 3 characters are in every classic story full stop.  The conflict triad is the basis for a primal narrative script that all (not just conflict) stories use (think of your favourite fairy tale or any soap opera or every Hollywood blockbuster you have seen):    Victim (damsel in distress/underdog/orphan who lives under the stairs);   Villain;  Hero (Hollywood especially loves when the Victim becomes the Hero).

Our brains know and love this script.  It feels written into our subconscious and we respond.  Ok- here is my ED leap-

I have been seeing stories of Kesha in my news feed for the last few weeks and they all follow that script:  Kesha is the victim; the Villain is either the "big bad Media" or the "Music Industry"; and, the Hero is rehab/Insight/self-acceptance empowerment (Keshia has the power to love herself no matter what the pressures of the industry).

Same story over and over.  Writers write this story; readers respond to this story. So, I do we reframe? Can we use the same script but recast the players?

Here is my recast:
Victim: Kesha or...Any of our kids
Villain: how about "the perfect storm" or "biological brain disorder" or "precipitating weight loss" or "severe symptomology"
Hero:  "Proper Treatment" or "access to experienced evidence based support" or, maybe even just plain straight up 'Science'.

Let's use the script to our advantage.


  1. So odd that today in fact I was at the doctors and watched an interview with Kesha on a talk show and she did not discuss her ED treatment at all. And I was dismayed. A perfect platform I thought, a rapt tv audience of care givers perhaps who could have been touched. There was about it. Lots about songs with Flo Rida and Ludakris, But not one word about heroes, villains. Wish there had been a hero there.....
    ( I do however like Demi Lovato for speaking out during her own NEON lights concert tour intermission about her ED and treatment, urging kids and parents at her concerts even to get treatment. I was pleasantly surprised. Moved to tears actually. Mom why are you crying? There was a hero right there...

    1. Kinda neat to hear talk of treatment and 'families' in the middle of a concert. Something powerful in 'normalizing' proper treatment The right kind of 'public' conversations really do chip away at the stigma.

  2. I really like the way you framed this. I think you've nailed it. It isn't the villain/victim/hero story that is the problem it is who we all see in the roles. It has been so hard, over the years, to get people to rethink the villain of the piece, which would of course alter the hero's job.

    While, as Amoma notes, the message of GET TREATMENT is the point of all these stories if you think the villain is society (or, once upon a time and sometimes still: mom) then the treatment will focus on that. For too long, it has, and it hasn't worked very well at all.

    A new rallying cry: "Change the villain!"

  3. ...and 'changing the villain' can't help but shift the understanding of 'victim'.

    I think my least favourite ED pop-culture villain is 'low self-esteem"- and I think partly why I have such a difficult time with that one is all it (erroneously) implies about the 'victim'.


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