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The Means Make the Villain

Tantz_Aerine at 12:00AM, May 2, 2020

There are the mustache-twirling villains, that enjoy being evil. They're deliciously fun!

Then there are the nutjob villains. Those that are basket cases one way or the other, psychopaths or antisocial, unfettered madmen with a logic of their own that wreaks havoc upon the world. They're also very entertaining, and larger than life.

And then, there's the villain that doesn't know they're evil. They have a purpose, a reasoning, a calling even that actually isn't wrong. They might be trying to save the world, help their friends, make things right or try to keep bigger disaster from occurring. They may be trying to restore justice, or deal with an unjust situation.

They are the villains that say the things we're all thinking of when it comes to social issues, to crimes against humanity, to abject horrors being committed at the expense of one group or another. If things were different, they'd be the heroes.

So why aren't they?

Granted, the narrative will present the hero in the positive light, and the villain in the negative light, but it's more than that which tilts the balance, if the story is written properly.

It's all about the means.

The remedy for the problem that the villain is attempting to apply is simply more devastating than the problem. It will involve any or all of these:

a) pure innocents as victims (e.g. bystanders, random people, children, etc)

b) mass destruction of non-problem-related areas

c) huge collateral damage they willingly are prepared to cause

d) a deal with the devil (however that might translate)

e) no actual guarantee that the remedy will work, despite its high cost

The villains with a cause we could all get behind are villains because they aim to serve the cause through means that are unacceptable.

In short, it's the means that make the villain- and whether they can or cannot be justified.

Have you written villains of this type?

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Jason Moon at 10:06AM, May 3, 2020

The powerful sexy female villains always get what they want. ALWAYS.

marcorossi at 7:56AM, May 3, 2020

The way I see things, a good villain is always the protagonist seen from a different light. Because if this wasn't the case there would be no moral value in overcoming the villain. Take the example of Karate Kid: the Cobra Kai dudes are a bunch of assholes, however in some sense they represent a sort of ideal for Daniel because they represent a strong macho male identity, which is what Daniel would really like to be in his deep dreams.

usedbooks at 5:03AM, May 3, 2020

I think some of the best examples of this kind of villain are in the Kingsman movies.

bravo1102 at 3:18AM, May 3, 2020

@plymayer: Villain? I'd rather say "ethically ambiguous"

plymayer at 1:37AM, May 3, 2020

Perhaps we are all villains in some one's comic.

Banes at 7:18AM, May 2, 2020

The one I always think of is Satan from the Incarnations of Immortality novels. He's the villain in all the books, and the Incarnation of Evil. Near the end of the series (which tells the stories of the Incarnations of Death, Time, Fate, War and Nature) we actually get a book about Satan himself. It's the best in the series, and illuminates him and the reasoning behind his approach. He's no longer a villain to hate, but becomes a good character.

Banes at 7:10AM, May 2, 2020

In my comic I haven't had many villains. A few here and there. And the ones I've had, even the non-life-threatening ones like romantic rivals or whatever, have been sort of the moustache-twirling types. They have a home in comedy/action comedy.

Banes at 7:09AM, May 2, 2020

Excellent stuff. Great example in your gif. Makes me wanna see The Rock again. I do think there's a risk, once we relate to or understand the villain more. The risk is undercutting the danger of that Antagonist. Of course it depends on the genre, and on how it's done. The revelation about Ed Harris in the Rock, about lines he wouldn't cross, kind of ended him as a villain (this is not a criticism - they just had to change things up a bit to get all the way to the end. I liked it).

usedbooks at 4:18AM, May 2, 2020

Pretty sure I have all these types of villains in Used Books. One is motivated by love and wants to help the less fortunate. (He's modeled after a 19th century slave owner and feels he is "better" than the "less fortunate," whose best help is being completely controlled.) He even butts heads with other villains who he thinks may harm his wards/property/love.

Ozoneocean at 3:47AM, May 2, 2020

Black 87 is a great example of that. It's a western set in Ireland. The hero is a guy who's comes back from the war to find the family home destroyed and family members dead. He goes on a psychotic killing spree, committing horrific murders left, right and centre. But because his cause is "just revenge" the audience automatically gives that crap a full pass. The people who oppose him are all slightly dogey, slightly arrogant brits, but anyone who tries to stop JUST REVENGE is evil 😅

Ozoneocean at 3:41AM, May 2, 2020

I agree that this is true for many villains in the main part, but there is another factor: getting your audience behind a person... That way even if the "hero" is an amoral piece of shit people still root for them and against the "Gillian" because the villain's job is to go after the hero 😔

bravo1102 at 2:50AM, May 2, 2020

Westerns really explored this too. Try watching something like Warlock with Henry Fonda and try to figure out who's really the good guy and who's just doing what they believe is the right thing.

bravo1102 at 2:48AM, May 2, 2020

One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter. As a student of history and movies, international cinema can really flip the script on the villain and hero. Imagine a Chinese movie about the Korean War and who are the faceless enemy? The US. The Men of the Yamato or Thunder over the Pacific or Peregrine Falcons where again it's the Allies who are the enemy. Gets you to thinking. Then there's something like Red Dawn where reading between the lines the kids turned freedom fighters could just as well be Vietnamese and the Russian invaders the US. Doing the wrong thing for all the right reasons or doing the right thing for all the right ones. Who really is the villain, who is just looking out for themselves and trying to do the best they can?

roma at 1:31AM, May 2, 2020

My favorite villains are the ones that don't see themselves as evil. They genuinely want to do good but their path to it is littered with horrible decisions and double crosses.

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