I've talked about villains before and how they can be very nuanced in their motivations (without those motivations being redeeming) but today, thanks to Emma Clare's Friday post, I became inspired to talk about abject, absolute, abominable villainy! The twirling mustache type, the one that is so pure that nowdays it is considered cartoony and inappropriate to use in a story if a story is to have good writing.
While nuanced villains that toy with the idea of redemption are insanely fun, so are those that seem to have been born devils!
The classic Disney villains, from Maleficent to Hades represent this latter kind: villains that bask in their villainy, are in no self-deception that they are not being villains and boisterously and buoyantly advertise the fact that they are, indeed, the worst of the worst, and that's exactly where their talent lies.
These villains can be incredibly fun, and not only in fairy tales. King Joffrey from Game of Thrones and Moriarty from …well, most… iterations of Sherlock Holmes are also excellent examples of that sort of villain.
What makes for a fun, pure evil character then, that doesn't follow the now-popular way of nuanced layers that provide motivation for the villainy they do?
General consensus seems to be that they all tend to share these traits:
1. They have little or no background story
The audience doesn't know where Maleficent comes from or why she is the way she is.
(and when they did, they didn't like it…)
At best, they get a simple background about what they're trying to achieve within the particular story's plot rather an existential explanation about who they are and why they are the way they are.
2. They love doing what they do
These types of villains aren't reluctantly committing their crimes. They're flamboyantly doing so, they exalt in the very essence of causing harm or devastation and they show it. They thrive in what they do, so much so that the very act of villainy is its own motivation to a big extent, even if they didn't have some kind of plan or goal. They, in a sense, wear their miserably black heart on their sleeve.
3. They have simple and self-serving goals
While it can be (validly) argued that all villains have self-serving goals, the pure evil character's self-serving goal doesn't bother with pretense. They are doing what they're doing to serve their own selves, from getting power (“Rule the world!”) to simply being amused by feeling smarter than anyone else because the heroes can't touch them.
4. They have flamboyant, high-relief personalities imbued with complete confidence in themselves
The pure evil villain has a big, larger-than-life personality, from calm and suave to tacky and burlesque to grim and intimidating (or even icky).
Whatever their personality, it's one that stays with the audience- and often one we love to hate.
5. When they lose, they lose it
The pure evil villain's confidence is built on the very precarious impression that they are invincible. If this impression that they have about their own self and their capacities is shattered, then they shatter with it, acting out in a sort of mega tantrum. It's extremely satisfying to the audience to see, and it signals that the villain's demise is near.
Have you ever written a purely evil character? Was it fun for you, the audience, or both?
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Tantz_Aerine at 12:00AM, April 20, 2019
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