What goes into an antagonist?

Recently, I’ve been mulling over the effective traits of antagonists, so it was ironic that  the commercials of a particular yogurt company I’d been aware of worked as a primer in creating those traits.

The first two commercials, which aired around mid-year 2015, featured a kind of spunky brunette in 60s mod fashion who danced around while a voice-over in mock-French accent proclaimed good news–the product had reduced its sugar content by 25%. And, as the French-accented voice insisted, the yogurt still tasted good–or “gyud”.

That high-pitched voice didn’t sell either sincerity or ‘gyud-ness’ to me, but I thought she’d make a ‘gyud’ devil in angel’s clothing type of antagonist. After all, who’d think this cutesy innocent capable of malevolent activities, of acting on some deep-seated personal desire, or capable of vengeance? Terrific!

Then came a commercial featuring a burly bald man in a lovely gray suit who looked like he belonged either in a boxing ring or working for the mob. His stomach rumbled as he strove to convince us that dining on his tiny cup of yogurt with what appeared to be a demitasse spoon would assuage his hunger.

i didn’t buy it. Of course, this actor’s been seen on TV and in the movies, and surprise of surprises, among his many roles he’s played a boxer and a bounder. Well, he’d work as an antagonist based on his all-too-cultivated malevolent looks alone. I mean, he looks like a bad guy. But if satiating his hunger with tiny spoons and such manly victuals as yogurt is his thing, I fancy him as my type of quirky brainiac antagonist; perhaps, the industrialist ex-Nazi type who plans to eliminate mankind and create a new world a la Ian Fleming’s Dax character, highly if bizarrely motivated (at least to finish his yogurt).

After those two, the company released a commercial that features some poor fella on a ladder waiting for permission to pick fruit, while a young woman in farm duds stands below in the orchard. After telling him ‘not yet’ a few times, she finally yells “Pull that peach!”

Of course, I didn’t understand her command the first few times the commercial aired, and when I finally did, I thought the exercise silly.

But I know what kind of antagonist she’d play, a dominatrix, maybe seeking a partner with sticky fingers for a bank heist. Clearly, he’d play her minion–no, not like Stuart, Kevin or Bob–but the unquestioning dupe in her evil plans. I can see her hiding her nefarious deeds, using her minion as a foil. As for him, I presume he’d be an adaptable minion, and therefore, in the end, might overtake his dominatrix antagonist out of revenge and claim supreme power–bwah-ha-ha!

The most recent commercial viewed features mom, dad, son and daughter, lounging about the kitchen spooning yogurt into their mouths. Of course, as their mouths are full, all they can manage are eyebrow wiggles, smiles, and a lot of ‘mm-mm’s.

This cast put me in mind of happy-go-lucky soldiers of the dark, the zombies who unconditionally follow their evil master’s commands, their brainlessness mirrored in their empty smiles and their ‘mm’ing sounds. In the end, they too, might turn on their leader and become more amorally ruthless than he was.

So, yes, all of these commercial characters are candidates for antagonists, either with annoying qualities that would enhance their vicious deeds, or with innocuous qualities that clearly must hide a diabolical mind.

So ultimately, what goes into an antagonist? Yogurt. And no, I don’t remember the brand.

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