Comic Talk and General Discussion *

The trope of villain who kills their subordinates constantly is stupid
Ozoneocean at 6:42AM, April 30, 2022
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I hate incredibly stupid trope of a villain who thoughtlessly kills people all the time, especially their subordinates. Unless the person is a psychopath and killing is basically the point of their villainy, then they should never do this.

Why? Because murder tends to create more problems that it solves, and they lose well trained personnel.

In terms of organised crime, killing subordinates is done for a specific purpose- when a person has become a traitor and all the rest need to see it as an example to so no one else does the same thing, or to solve internal power struggles. There's usually good reasons for taking such harsh measures. They don't just kill a person because they make a joke or wear the wrong pants…

Darth Vader kills a general in the first Star wars movie to show the audience how dangerous he is, to indicate how evil the empire is, but also (within the story) it's to consolidate his power at a high level within the military structure.

In those examples there are good in-universe reasons for killing.
I was just watching a series called “The Catch”. A character who is the head of a high profile international criminal organisation thoughtlessly murders subordinates and rivals. It's a great example of piss poor writing.
The reason they do it is to show that he's a psychopath with no regard for human life, but within the world of the story what it actually does is undermine the character-
By killing trusted subordinates he losses experience, training, and loyalty, weakening the structure of his organisation.
By needlessly killing low level enemies it undermines his own premise- why does he need to be the head of a criminal organisation that constructs clever cons to steal millions if he's perfectly happy to murder (and deal with the complications that causes), he can simply slaughter his way to what he wants…

In reality that type of behaviour would mark them for death within their own organisation.
 
Genejoke at 7:56AM, April 30, 2022
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Yup.

I guess a lot depends on the tone of the story, it can be played for laughs well. Really like all tropes, it's not the trope that is the issue but the execution. More accurately it's the piss poor execution and writing like you pointed out.

dpat57 at 10:46AM, April 30, 2022
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It's a weakness in writing for sure, and for the villain boss character, a risky action – unless he's surrounded by a hardcore bodyguard group he never touches, who will shoot any subordinate who attempts revenge for the death of the guy he just killed. Or maybe it's allowed if the victim is an outsider, separate from his inner henchmen cadre. Click, trapdoor, piranhas, the penalty for failure. Everybody else, pull your socks up! YASSSS BOSS!
bravo1102 at 11:08AM, April 30, 2022
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Pre modern world life was a lot cheaper and a powerful person could kill subordinates as they wanted.
Reading some Anglo-Saxon history and they usually killed everybody whenever they overcame someone. Put them all to the sword. The Normans were a breath of fresh air because they just imprisoned people because there were the first slivers of chivalry.

But a modern crime boss? He's going to run out of followers.
Ozoneocean at 12:02PM, April 30, 2022
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bravo1102 wrote:
Pre modern world life was a lot cheaper and a powerful person could kill subordinates as they wanted.
Reading some Anglo-Saxon history and they usually killed everybody whenever they overcame someone.
People considered enemies perhaps yes, but not people in general, your own villagers or family or subordinates.
It's a trope that all life was cheap in the past but there are a lot of reasons it wasn't…

- We've had legality for as long as there have been people, and killing unlawfully was punishable. Even in the simplest tribal groups.
Now the big caveat is that it could be lawful for a lot of reasons, like the person was part of an enemy culture or ethnicity, they went against the king or ruler, they're a slave or a prisoner or hostage, they did something criminal. etc.
- Incurring revenge and feuds was a good reason not to kill. BUT once you HAVE incurred them then they would drive people to kill, but not randomly.
- Life really wasn't that cheap, there weren't as many people around, man-power was important, people were living repositories of valuable skills, and family connections were important.

Though it depended on the culture. Roman emperors seemed to get away with a lot… till they didn't.
 
hpkomic at 2:22PM, April 30, 2022
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I only had a villain kill someone who worked for him once, but that was because he had betrayed his employer by trying to change the deal.

The villain tasked a thief to get something, but the thief decided to take the money, steal the thing, and then try to sell it elsewhere. Didn't work out for him.
bravo1102 at 3:37PM, April 30, 2022
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Except that with modern research techniques they've found that there was actually depopulation larger than previously thought. At one time it was thought to be exaggerated or extreme and life really wasn't all that cheap and now with more detailed means at hand to count a population impact on the land– oh boy, it really was that bad.

The trope has turned out to be true as more research is done using various ways to see the impact of population on the land. Like William the Conqueror's “harrying the land” as it's called in the Anglo-Saxon chronicles. Definite population decreases all documented. Same seen any number of other occasions, even down to blood feuds wiping out families.

But someone in power could kill wantonly. He'd be labeled and censured but he would still kill. There were some who literally had to kill something every day. The books are full of people in charge killing their minions. You don't kill a skilled minion or an important flunky, but there's always some worthless skank around to kill because you can. People will care, might call in a religious type to curb your impulses and make you do penance but the killing will happen.

So if you have a psycho in charge there can be wanton killing. People scurrying around trying to covef it up, but an awful lot of inconvenient people conveniently dying is a sign that there's some killing going on.

But there are always consequences. That is what makes for better story telling. Life is still cheap but there are consequences. It depends on who you are and who you kill. You don't kill the craftsman but there are always others. And then you wonder why the taxes are down. Because you killed everyone!
last edited on April 30, 2022 3:43PM
Ozoneocean at 1:09AM, May 2, 2022
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bravo1102 wrote:
Except that with modern research techniques they've found that there was actually depopulation larger than previously thought. At one time it was thought to be exaggerated or extreme and life really wasn't all that cheap and now with more detailed means at hand to count a population impact on the land– oh boy, it really was that bad.
I think your interpretation is off here-
They could kill people from another culture, ethnicity, or rival group with a different political affiliation, but killing your own people, even by someone in power, wasn't the norm.
It WAS the norm (at times) to utterly wipe out people considered as enemies.

It's exactly like the tribal groups in most places were more than happy to completely wipe out every member of any other group, down to children and pets, but harming a member of their own group was a completely different matter.

So “life” wasn't cheap, but your enemy's lives were.

——-

In places like India you have the caste system where the lives of different groups are worth different amounts, with Dalits at the bottom. But it's a highly regulated, organised system even so.
In the USA traditionally black people have had justice applied to them in an unequal manner, the same with the native peoples, so their lives were seen as not being equal to “white” lives.

Then we have Ukrainians at the moment- the West sees their lives as being worth a lot (the Russians don't), while the West considered Afghanis and Iraqis to have much less worth…


It's a long way of saying the we have the same system in place now that the Anglo Saxons did in the dark ages. :)

——-

Yes, “Consequences” are the important thing.
When there are no consequences for a killing, the killing lacks meaning. This can be waved away if the person was an enemy during a war-like situation, but when it's not and there are still no consequences then things start to unravel and the story will stop making sense.

 
paneltastic at 4:28AM, May 4, 2022
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bravo1102 wrote:
Pre modern world life was a lot cheaper and a powerful person could kill subordinates as they wanted.
Reading some Anglo-Saxon history and they usually killed everybody whenever they overcame someone. Put them all to the sword. The Normans were a breath of fresh air because they just imprisoned people because there were the first slivers of chivalry.

But a modern crime boss? He's going to run out of followers.

Yeah, there is a reason that Roman emperors were usually assassinated and it wasn't because they were great people.
bravo1102 at 5:49AM, May 4, 2022
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Ozoneocean wrote:


So “life” wasn't cheap, but your enemy's was.

But the reasons for one being the enemy could be awfully flimsy. Anglo-Saxon you were outlawed – put outside the law so anyone could kill you.

Whole areas could be outlawed so that anything could be done. Burn and pillage indiscriminately. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicles said they were “our people” the leadership disagreed. Look at the original documents and Chronicles. Puts lie to your point. Say someone is outside the law for any reason and they could have anything done to them.

The same with lynching in the US. See any number of works on Reconstruction and African-American history. Still killing but you say they aren't your people when they are.

And the archbishop was asked what were the crusaders to do if there were true believers among the heretics.

“Oh kill them all, God will know his own.”

Any reason was good enough to say a group or individual wasn't “our people” so they could be killed. Not very convincing that the killing wasn't indiscriminate even to contemporaries let alone modern sensibilities.
last edited on May 4, 2022 5:50AM
bravo1102 at 6:11AM, May 4, 2022
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Ozoneocean
Yes, “Consequences” are the important thing.
When there are no consequences for a killing, the killing lacks meaning. This can be waved away if the person was an enemy during a war-like situation, but when it's not and there are still no consequences then things start to unravel and the story will stop making sense.

You know this topic has got me thinking about what to do in my current comic. What if someone thought there were too many consequences and decided to form his own nation so there wouldn't be any anymore. So he could decide who's the enemy any way he wants to so he can kill indiscriminately. He's now the law.

But make very certain to remove all those who would disagree. Cover his butt better than a Nero or Caligula. Make sure there are enough folks honestly praising you who have lots of power, alienate and kill the powerless and rule. All the people who matter love you and those who don't you kill. Any reason will do.

But there is always someone keeping score and so you're never safe and so begins the vicious circle of paranoia that eventually so worries those once closest to you that you have to be removed before you kill them. Consequences.
last edited on May 4, 2022 6:14AM

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