Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Where Have All the Villains Gone?

It’s tough to find a good villain nowadays. I blame it on psychology, muddying the waters with motivational and emotional issues to explain away actions. Enough of that nonsense. I want my villain to be bad all the way through. Discovering Voldemort was an abused child named Tom Riddle tainted his death at the end. I’ll even admit to a cheer when Dumbledore plummeted out the window. With Tom’s tragic past evident, Dumbledore became an arrogant ass who should have been banned from being around children decades before. After all, he had also allowed Harry to be raised by tormenting sadists who kept him in a closet. If only he had gotten Tom counseling at the start, none of the resulting mayhem would have happened. Frankly, I would gladly have pushed Dumbledore out the window myself.

I don’t want my villains redeemed, either. They should be bad all the way through. Once redeemed, they evoke sympathy and teeter on becoming a hero. If they’re punished, I don’t get that gleeful feeling of righteous satisfaction anymore. I love that feeling. One of my favorite childhood villains was the Wicked Witch of the West. What can be more evil than someone bent on destroying a ten year-old child? Did I cry when she melted? Hell no. Recent writers have delved into a fictional past to explain away her evilness. Pah! I don’t care. Be rotten. Stay rotten. That’s my motto.

Tut, tut, you say. A purely evil villain is only for children’s stories. In order for an adult to enjoy a book, one must understand the character’s motivation. What makes them tick? What is their background? Their psychological imperative? Hell no. Exceptional villains abound in fiction; Count Dracula, Professor Moriarty, the White Witch from the Chronicles of Narnia, Sauron from The Lord of the Rings, Shakespeare’s Richard III. You’ll note, some were written specifically for children, but some are for adults. All are great fun.

In my opinion, one of the most compelling scenes in all literature is the meeting between Richard III and Lady Anne. She’s a grieving widow and hates him—I mean really, really hates him. After all, Richard is responsible for the death of her husband and father. No way will she have anything to do with the conniving hunchback, but as his charming lies unfold, he wins her over with pleas of love and repentance. After she leaves, Richard gleefully admits in his soliloquy he’s going to drop her like a hot rock as soon as gets what he wants. What a scumbag. I adore him.

Keep your psychological explanations. Enjoy your philosophical discussions of right and wrong without me. I want my villains to get their due comeuppance at the end and feel satisfaction as they meet their doom. (I insist on doom, too.) My favorite villain from the movies was Hans Gruber in Die Hard; handsome, charming, debonair, and one nasty son of a bitch at heart. He was not just bad. He was gleefully bad. Maybe because Mummy never made his favorite pudding and Daddy wouldn’t buy him a puppy. I don’t know. I don’t care. Every time Hans plummets to his death at the end of the movie my heart sings. Take that Anakin Skywalker and your wussy abandonment issues. Take that.

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