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DwayneA
11-11-2009, 09:35 AM
Lots of guidelines for making a villain say "don't make him/her evil for evil's sake". But I have no idea what this means. What does it mean when a villain is evil for evil's sake?

HelloKiddo
11-11-2009, 09:57 AM
I think it just means don't make your characters two-dimensional. Give them some depth and complexity.

frimble3
11-11-2009, 10:34 AM
It means that the villain seems to have no reason for doing evil things. Kills people for no reason, has no apparent reason for his plans, and no plans except doing bad things. There is no rationale given for his actions, except that the plot needs an antagonist. He does bad things because he is a Bad Guy.

dpaterso
11-11-2009, 12:34 PM
If you don't explain the villain's motivation -- whatever drives the villain to do villainous things -- then he may appear evil for evil's sake. And that makes him a 2D cardboard cutout.

A fully fleshed-out 3D villain might not even think of himself as a villain, he may believe he has right on his side. To him the hero is the bad guy.

If the villain has an understandable goal or point of view, the reader might not think of him as a villain either, even tho' he is the story's antagonist.

-Derek

gothicangel
11-11-2009, 01:10 PM
Lots of guidelines for making a villain say "don't make him/her evil for evil's sake". But I have no idea what this means. What does it mean when a villain is evil for evil's sake?

The reason why I would hurl the book across the room.;)

Samantha's_Song
11-11-2009, 01:53 PM
For myself, unless the story is the evil person's story, I really don't need to know the whys and wherefores of why a villain is bad, it's just so. When people are up in court for doing evil things, like murder, the judge doesn't ask him why he did the murders, so as a reader I don't need to know the baddies motives either.

HelloKiddo
11-11-2009, 09:09 PM
If you don't explain the villain's motivation -- whatever drives the villain to do villainous things

But beware. This can go horribly wrong IMO if you do the whole "serial killer who as abused as a child" thing.

Shadow_Ferret
11-11-2009, 09:20 PM
Lots of guidelines for making a villain say "don't make him/her evil for evil's sake". But I have no idea what this means. What does it mean when a villain is evil for evil's sake?

People in real life can be evil for evil's sake, but in fiction, you always need a reason. Its just one of those weird rules some people have.

DeleyanLee
11-11-2009, 09:21 PM
People in real life can be evil for evil's sake, but in fiction, you always need a reason. Its just one of those weird rules some people have.

The difference between real life and fiction is that fiction has to make sense. ;)

ChristineR
11-11-2009, 09:22 PM
The overwhelming majority of people who do evil things think they are doing good. Of course a lot of them are actually just selfish and are rationalizing what they're doing, i.e., "God wants me to rule this kingdom, no matter how many people I have to kill to accomplish it." But very few people will actually admit to doing things simply because they enjoy being bad (although they may enjoy doing things that other people think are bad). Those few who really evil just for the hell of it are typically pretty non-functional and almost never manage to surround themselves with the people and resources needed for an effective villainy.

Shadow_Ferret
11-11-2009, 09:23 PM
The difference between real life and fiction is that fiction has to make sense. ;)

That was my complaint.

Cyia
11-11-2009, 09:34 PM
I'm going to use Dexter as an example, because he's one of the biggest "good" villains out there - so good, he's the "hero" of his own show.

Dexter is a cold blooded killer. He murders people with a smile, and does so brutally, graphically, and with a big ewww factor. It's his life's work and he loves it.

Now, in most cases, a serial killer who has a family by day and dismembers by night would be reviled. The audience would be cheering on the police/CSI/BAU, whatever acronym the show relies on to find the guy and get him off the streets, but Dexter manages to be the "good guy". Why? Because he's killing the bad guys.

In real life, a man like that would still be hunted and put in jail/executed if he was caught, but in his world, he's doing the right thing. He's not murdering people, he's helping people by making society safe and killer-free.

He does evil things, but not for evil's sake.

Samantha's_Song
11-11-2009, 11:02 PM
Who's Dexter?

ChaosTitan
11-11-2009, 11:05 PM
Who's Dexter?

TV series: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dexter_%28TV_series%29

Novels: http://www.randomhouse.com/doubleday/dexter/

katiemac
11-11-2009, 11:13 PM
For myself, unless the story is the evil person's story, I really don't need to know the whys and wherefores of why a villain is bad, it's just so. When people are up in court for doing evil things, like murder, the judge doesn't ask him why he did the murders, so as a reader I don't need to know the baddies motives either.

I can't remember a book I read, though, where I didn't have some idea about why the villain did what he did. I don't think it always needs to be explained in plain terms, and a little mystery is fine, but usually there is some idea--whether it be leftover in clues, or the villain's method, or interactions with the hero--of what the villain means to get. If there wasn't any motivation apparent for the villain then I feel like he'd read all "muahahahaha" on every page. And that can get dull fast.

icerose
11-11-2009, 11:15 PM
Some obviously work but don't expect any character depth on the evil side. Jeepers Creepers, Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween, Alien, Jaws, Anaconda. All of them have pretty much pure evil or at least villans who don't really have much reasoning beyond kill. They can work, but again not much depth on the evil side. In order to really pull them off you have to go over time on the other side development.

MGraybosch
11-11-2009, 11:20 PM
Lots of guidelines for making a villain say "don't make him/her evil for evil's sake". But I have no idea what this means. What does it mean when a villain is evil for evil's sake?

It means don't write a villain who doesn't have a reason for doing what he does. You have to do better for a primary antagonist than "It's fun" (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/ForTheEvulz).

MGraybosch
11-11-2009, 11:22 PM
Some obviously work but don't expect any character depth on the evil side. Jeepers Creepers, Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween, Alien, Jaws, Anaconda. All of them have pretty much pure evil or at least villans who don't really have much reasoning beyond kill.

In all of your examples, the "evil" is either supernatural or animal. Human evil, however, should have an intelligible motive. Supernatural evil also works better if it has a recognizable motive behind it. Otherwise, you get a Dark Lord who isn't so much an antagonist as he is a force of nature.

Shadow_Ferret
11-11-2009, 11:28 PM
So, just a desire to rule the world isn't good enough?

We need to psychoanalyze the antagonist so we know why he wants to eat human flesh?

icerose
11-11-2009, 11:28 PM
In all of your examples, the "evil" is either supernatural or animal. Human evil, however, should have an intelligible motive. Supernatural evil also works better if it has a recognizable motive behind it. Otherwise, you get a Dark Lord who isn't so much an antagonist as he is a force of nature.

True, but human wasn't specified so I brought up examples where it has been in place where the killer doesn't really have true motive as we consider it.

katiemac
11-11-2009, 11:33 PM
So, just a desire to rule the world isn't good enough?

We need to psychoanalyze the antagonist so we know why he wants to eat human flesh?

All I'm really looking for, as a reader, is plausible motivation in why he's doing what he's doing. So if he wants to rule the world, then sure, that explains why he's doing what he's doing. I might not need to know why he wants to rule the world to enjoy the story.

But as a writer of that story, I don't think it hurts to know what your antagonist wants, and why he wants it. Just as you should know what your hero wants and why, and pretty much every other major/minor character in your book.

MGraybosch
11-11-2009, 11:34 PM
So, just a desire to rule the world isn't good enough?

Depends on how ambitious you're feeling as a writer. I'd like to grab a bazooka and blow the pedestal out from under J.R.R. Tolkien, so I put a fair amount of thought into my antagonist's motives. He's not punching kittens just to hear them mewling in agony.

It also depends on what sort of story you're telling. Gig, a demon in Nippon Ichi's strategy-RPG Soul Nomad and the World Eaters, spends most of the game's story insisting that he committed every one of his atrocities for fun. He's lying.

ChristineR
11-11-2009, 11:35 PM
Freddy Kreuger actually has a pretty complicated back story and supposed motive. He's doing it to revenge himself on the children of the people who murdered him. Freddy was a child molester, so the parents had strong motives, but it's implied that Freddy needed help, not violence. That's why he can come back and haunt people through their dreams--his victims feel guilty and let him in.

In Jaws, the evil shark is portrayed not so much as doing it to be evil, but doing it because humans have arrogantly exploited the ocean and disturbed the ecosystem so that he has no choice but to eat tourists to survive. The humans could easily have solved the problem simply by closing the beach and acknowledging the shark's need to live, but they refuse to do so. So again, the shark is not evil for evil's sake, and the real villains are the greedy townspeople.

The original Halloween also has a complicated back story about a handicapped child being killed, which caused the mother to snap. It's the closest to evil for evil's sake of the three I'm familiar with, but even that has the classic horror movie trope of a force of nature (grieving mother) killing teenagers who, if they don't exactly deserve to die, have certainly violated the "rules" of the horror movie.

Ruv Draba
11-11-2009, 11:46 PM
In the course of conflict, people sometimes get hurt.

We can have our characters hurt people because of conflict, but they shouldn't normally get into conflict just to hurt people.

A special exception is when a character has a strong inner conflict. Sometimes, under pressure, people pick quarrels just to vent their own hurt.

HelloKiddo
11-11-2009, 11:50 PM
Freddy Kreuger actually has a pretty complicated back story and supposed motive. He's doing it to revenge himself on the children of the people who murdered him. Freddy was a child molester, so the parents had strong motives, but it's implied that Freddy needed help, not violence. That's why he can come back and haunt people through their dreams--his victims feel guilty and let him in.

WTF? This is news to me. Of course I've never seen FC, so perhaps that's why...

icerose
11-11-2009, 11:58 PM
It was hinted at in the first movie. He was a child molester and they killed him and that's as far as they go.

I think if they would have gone deeper they would have ended up with a much higher quality movie. Perhaps the later movies go deeper, but the first one certainly does not.

Shadow_Ferret
11-11-2009, 11:58 PM
In Jaws, the evil shark is portrayed not so much as doing it to be evil, but doing it because humans have arrogantly exploited the ocean and disturbed the ecosystem so that he has no choice but to eat tourists to survive. The humans could easily have solved the problem simply by closing the beach and acknowledging the shark's need to live, but they refuse to do so. So again, the shark is not evil for evil's sake, and the real villains are the greedy townspeople.


I missed all that in the movie. He was just a big scary monster.

DeleyanLee
11-12-2009, 12:11 AM
In Jaws, the evil shark is portrayed not so much as doing it to be evil, but doing it because humans have arrogantly exploited the ocean and disturbed the ecosystem so that he has no choice but to eat tourists to survive. The humans could easily have solved the problem simply by closing the beach and acknowledging the shark's need to live, but they refuse to do so. So again, the shark is not evil for evil's sake, and the real villains are the greedy townspeople.

If you take the shark that way, then it's not just a horror movie but a cautionary tale whereas the shark is the personification (sharkification?) of the disturbed ecosystem which comes back to bite humanity in the a$$ (literally). Of course, that's totally lost by the ending when humanity is able to win, but there you go. But, then again, with humanity winning and continuing to ignore the warning, it goes back to being a horror flick. *shrug*

Though, honestly, I never saw any of that symbolism in the viewing of the movie. Sharks are Nature's ultimate killing machines and need no more motivation than that if food (which humans qualify for) makes itself available.

Personally, it depends on the story about whether or not I need an explanation for why someone/thing is evil. It's never a question why Sauron is evil. It's an epic tale, so having an epic Evil is what I expect. I can totally accept that a serial killer is just wired Evil because some people are just sociopathic. I don't need or want a detailed explanation of how he was sexually abused as a child because that's trite and unoriginal, even if it's factual. Depending the story being told, I'm happy to infer my own reasons on the baddie and just run with the story--actually, I prefer it because most times my imagination is far more satisfying than what the author comes up with.

MGraybosch
11-12-2009, 12:13 AM
Personally, it depends on the story about whether or not I need an explanation for why someone/thing is evil. It's never a question why Sauron is evil. It's an epic tale, so having an epic Evil is what I expect.

Fair enough, but I think that Saruman is the real villain. :)

willietheshakes
11-12-2009, 12:13 AM
The original Halloween also has a complicated back story about a handicapped child being killed, which caused the mother to snap. It's the closest to evil for evil's sake of the three I'm familiar with, but even that has the classic horror movie trope of a force of nature (grieving mother) killing teenagers who, if they don't exactly deserve to die, have certainly violated the "rules" of the horror movie.

Are you sure you're thinking of Halloween? Your analysis sounds more like the first Friday the 13th to me...

Halloween, from Wiki: The original Halloween (1978), written and directed by John Carpenter, tells the story of Michael Myers as he stalks and kills teenage babysitters on Halloween night. The film begins with six-year-old Michael (Will Sandin) killing his seventeen-year-old sister Judith (Sandy Johnson) on Halloween 1963. He is subsequently hospitalized at Smith's Grove Sanitarium. Fifteen years later, Michael (Nick Castle and Tony Moran) escapes and returns to his hometown where he stalks Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) and her friends as they babysit. The film ends with Michael being shot six times by his psychiatrist, Dr. Sam Loomis (Donald Pleasence).[2]

lucidzfl
11-12-2009, 12:19 AM
I disagree that people in real life are evil for evil's sakes. At the very core of being evil, is the desire to do harm. The desire to do harm derives from the desire to feel powerful. The desire to feel powerful is derived from SOMETHING.

DeleyanLee
11-12-2009, 12:32 AM
I disagree that people in real life are evil for evil's sakes. At the very core of being evil, is the desire to do harm. The desire to do harm derives from the desire to feel powerful. The desire to feel powerful is derived from SOMETHING.

Actually, I disagree. It's not always a desire to do harm. There are some people who simply don't care if they do harm to someone else because that someone else isn't as important or "human" as they themselves are. That's part of the classic definition of a socio/psychopath and that's real life. To me, that's born evil and just plain evil for the sake of evil, and that's the way their brains are wired, which is why I have no problem with some baddies just being evil.

Cyia
11-12-2009, 12:41 AM
Some men aren't looking for anything logical. They can't be bought, bullied, reasoned, or negotiated with. Some men just want to watch the world burn ~ Michael Caine; The Dark Knight

ChristineR
11-12-2009, 12:45 AM
Are you sure you're thinking of Halloween? Your analysis sounds more like the first Friday the 13th to me...

Halloween, from Wiki: The original Halloween (1978), written and directed by John Carpenter, tells the story of Michael Myers as he stalks and kills teenage babysitters on Halloween night. The film begins with six-year-old Michael (Will Sandin) killing his seventeen-year-old sister Judith (Sandy Johnson) on Halloween 1963. He is subsequently hospitalized at Smith's Grove Sanitarium. Fifteen years later, Michael (Nick Castle and Tony Moran) escapes and returns to his hometown where he stalks Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) and her friends as they babysit. The film ends with Michael being shot six times by his psychiatrist, Dr. Sam Loomis (Donald Pleasence).[2]

D'oh, your're right of course! There's no back story in Halloween, however they put a back story in the sequels. I won't bother using it to defend the movie though, because sequels suck. Michael Myers in the first movie is definitely a force of nature evil, he kills stupid and arrogant girls for no reason other than that stupid girls get killed in a certain kind of movie.

I actually read the book Jaws before I saw the movie, so I'd have to watch it again to see how much of the symbolism actually made it into the movie and how much is me muddling the book in there, but my recollection is that it was pretty apparent and that the arrogant villagers were the "real" villains.

As for Nightmare on Elm Street, I'm going to disagree with icerose. The child molestation back story was huge, and was referred to repeatedly through the film. There was only one scene I recall where they mentioned it explicitly, but it colored a lot of scenes: the infamous bathtub scene, the scene where the telephone comes to life and "kisses" her, and all sorts of sexual symbolism that implies that Freddy is "claiming" the children. He even tells Nancy "I'm your boyfriend now," at one point. Plus there's the fact that his makeup is supposed to be burn scars, which of course occurred when Nancy's mother burned him alive.

Omnipotent Jerk
11-12-2009, 03:21 AM
Some men aren't looking for anything logical. They can't be bought, bullied, reasoned, or negotiated with. Some men just want to watch the world burn ~ Michael Caine; The Dark Knight
That definately sumerizes my feelings on the matter. I believe there's no problem with a villain who's evil just because he's a sadist. You shouldn't make all of you're villains like this, though. Unless, of course, the villains are from a breed or species that is, by its nature, pure evil (and by that I mean, say, demons or the incarnation of someone's dark side). Anyway, I'm a firm believer in that most things can be done well if writer knows what to do with it, and a purely sadistic villain is no exception.

Khimera9
11-12-2009, 03:36 AM
Personally, I don't find a villain with no motive for being evil or a villain with a tragic past that makes him either. It's obvious why the no motive villain is a bad idea (if you listened to the joker in the dark knight, he was pretty ****ed up with his past, so insanity is his "motive"), but the tragic past villain is, by now, completely overused with either their dead family or something along that line.

I think the best villain can be found if you searched for some middle ground in between.

icerose
11-12-2009, 03:38 AM
Oh you're right. It was pretty huge, not to mention all the singing girls and the song. It's been far too long since I've seen it.

Still there wasn't any reason for him being a child killer or molester so I still stand by the he's evil because he's evil. He was an evil bastard before he died he was an evil bastard after he came back.



As for Nightmare on Elm Street, I'm going to disagree with icerose. The child molestation back story was huge, and was referred to repeatedly through the film. There was only one scene I recall where they mentioned it explicitly, but it colored a lot of scenes: the infamous bathtub scene, the scene where the telephone comes to life and "kisses" her, and all sorts of sexual symbolism that implies that Freddy is "claiming" the children. He even tells Nancy "I'm your boyfriend now," at one point. Plus there's the fact that his makeup is supposed to be burn scars, which of course occurred when Nancy's mother burned him alive.

Samantha's_Song
11-12-2009, 05:19 AM
I disagree that people in real life are evil for evil's sakes. At the very core of being evil, is the desire to do harm. The desire to do harm derives from the desire to feel powerful. The desire to feel powerful is derived from SOMETHING.
QFT.

Salis
11-12-2009, 05:24 AM
It means he supports a public option.

Now you know!

Salis
11-12-2009, 05:38 AM
Oh you're right. It was pretty huge, not to mention all the singing girls and the song. It's been far too long since I've seen it.

Still there wasn't any reason for him being a child killer or molester so I still stand by the he's evil because he's evil. He was an evil bastard before he died he was an evil bastard after he came back.

There are two responses to abuse: be scarred by it and survive, or be scarred by it and perpetuate it.

I think it's a stretch to say that the latter people are fundamentally evil. The difference between someone who nags their children constantly because they were nagged constantly as a child and someone who physically abuses their children because they were physically abused is, arguably, magnitude of the original abuse, not a fundamental goodness or evil.

icerose
11-12-2009, 05:44 AM
There are two responses to abuse: be scarred by it and survive, or be scarred by it and perpetuate it.

I think it's a stretch to say that the latter people are fundamentally evil. The difference between someone who nags their children constantly because they were nagged constantly as a child and someone who physically abuses their children because they were physically abused is, arguably, magnitude of the original abuse, not a fundamental goodness or evil.

We'll have to agree to disagree. True abuse begets abuse, but that doesn't make the abuse any less evil.

Samantha's_Song
11-12-2009, 05:46 AM
Some of this posting makes me think of our rubbish legal system; rapists and murderers are only getting three years or so, so I guess the judges must be thinking, Oh, poor chap, he must have had a terrible childhood so I'll only give him a couple of years. I'm not saying that anyone else on here is wrong, it's just that I don't really need to know the 'excuses' as to why someone's turned out as a murderer. Just saying...

Salis
11-12-2009, 05:52 AM
We'll have to agree to disagree. True abuse begets abuse, but that doesn't make the abuse any less evil.

Not what I'm suggesting.

My opinion on the matter: you were raped, but you didn't have to rape someone else because of it. Whatever. Your responsibility.

And while I have no strong opinion either way, I am okay with someone being put away for a long, LONG time for crimes like that...

I'm just saying, boiling it down to "well they're just evil and were born that way and we'll never know why" is really simpleminded. Knowing why something that is evil IS evil doesn't make it any less evil.

People make this mistake all the time, though, the fear that understanding something will make it alright, or make you on its side. Example: a highly religious person understanding and accepting evolution does not mean God couldn't have set the evolutionary process in motion. Knowledge is good. :D

icerose
11-12-2009, 05:55 AM
Not what I'm suggesting.

My opinion on the matter: you were raped, but you didn't have to rape someone else because of it. Whatever. Your responsibility.

And while I have no strong opinion either way, I am okay with someone being put away for a long, LONG time for crimes like that...

I'm just saying, boiling it down to "well they're just evil and were born that way and we'll never know why" is really simpleminded. Knowing why something that is evil IS evil doesn't make it any less evil.

People make this mistake all the time, though, the fear that understanding something will make it alright, or make you on its side. Example: a highly religious person understanding and accepting evolution does not mean God couldn't have set the evolutionary process in motion. Knowledge is good. :D

It might be simple minded but we're talking about fictional characters here. We never saw Freddy as an innocent. He was evil from beginning to end in the story. He was already a grown man. We could speculate all we like how he got that way but the writer never felt like explaining that so it would be speculation. In the story, in the confines of the story he was an evil bastard when he was alive and he was an evil bastard when he was dead. I don't really see how that can be contended. He kidnapped little girls, scared them, tortured them, probably raped them, and killed them, then possibly raped them again. Hence, evil bastard.

Salis
11-12-2009, 05:56 AM
It might be simple minded but we're talking about fictional characters here. We never saw Freddy as an innocent. He was evil from beginning to end in the story. He was already a grown man. We could speculate all we like how he got that way but the writer never felt like explaining that so it would be speculation. In the story, in the confines of the story he was an evil bastard when he was alive and he was an evil bastard when he was dead. I don't really see how that can be contended. He kidnapped little girls, scared them, tortured them, probably raped them, and killed them, then possibly raped them again. Hence, evil bastard.

Nah, there was a little dipping into real life comparisons, so I was talking in that realm.

When it comes to fiction, whatever, simple, complex, whichever is more entertaining.

icerose
11-12-2009, 05:59 AM
Nah, there was a little dipping into real life comparisons, so I was talking in that realm.

When it comes to fiction, whatever, simple, complex, whichever is more entertaining.

Ah okay so you were quoting me but you were using other people's examples for arguments sake.

Salis
11-12-2009, 06:03 AM
Ah okay so you were quoting me but you were using other people's examples for arguments sake.

This is the Internet. I yield only to death!

In all seriousness, my bad, I somehow muddled yours and Samantha's ideas together.

jodiodi
11-12-2009, 09:16 AM
I wrote an 'epic' fantasy with a character who started out as completely evil for evil's sake. The more I explored him (he's probably my favorite character), I realized the reason he was so evil was because he was born twisted, but mortal, and once he achieved immortality, his absolute power and control over his subjects led him to believe he was invincible. His people knew he'd always been their leader and he became almost god-like to them though they were terrified to him. (and rightfully so). He wasn't hard-wired for immortality and after a while, it turned his innate insanity into a meglomaniacal God complex.

I loved that guy.

The Lonely One
11-12-2009, 09:54 AM
First off, calling a person evil takes the blame away. Saying they did it because "they're evil," period, just means a writer doesn't know enough about the psychology of people to come up with a better answer.

There is, however, something terrifying about a villain who cannot be reasoned, though this is different than being evil. I think of, as an example, Phillip Seymore Hoffman's character on MI:3. He couldn't be reasoned with, or killed for a majority of the movie. He wasn't evil for evil's sake but we didn't really need to know his motivations to know he hid is weaknesses deep. So I don't necessarily think having a villain who is motivated and flawed means they shouldn't be relentlessly fucked up and powerful. Every villain is flawed, or else they win.

kaitie
11-12-2009, 12:56 PM
I wrote an 'epic' fantasy with a character who started out as completely evil for evil's sake. The more I explored him (he's probably my favorite character), I realized the reason he was so evil was because he was born twisted, but mortal, and once he achieved immortality, his absolute power and control over his subjects led him to believe he was invincible. His people knew he'd always been their leader and he became almost god-like to them though they were terrified to him. (and rightfully so). He wasn't hard-wired for immortality and after a while, it turned his innate insanity into a meglomaniacal God complex.

I loved that guy.

I completely agree with the idea that absolute power can corrupt absolutely. This just made me think of that. Sometimes you have a guy who might not be a bad guy initially, or maybe he's something of a self-centered jerk, but still not someone anyone would call evil, but then put them in a situation that easily fosters corruption and you can end up with a great evil wants to take over the world sort of type.

I think actually, there are two things that interest me most about a villain. One is the guy who could have been any normal, good guy, but then something went wrong. I like to think of Magneto in this regard actually. He's an AWESOME villain. But yeah, the idea that without some triggering event that shapes who the person is, he would be completely different. That's an awesome concept to me.

I'm also intrigued by the outright psychopath. That isn't necessarily to say someone does it just for fun. But a sociopath is someone who completely lacks empathy and remorse, and that's a very difficult concept to consider. The person who sees everyone in the world as pawns to be used to get what he wants...

I think it's the worldview there that gets me. A lot of sociopaths are written evil for evil's sake, but to really explore the motives, why they are acting in a certain way, what it accomplishes for them and exploring that worldview that most of us can't begin to really understand, that's fascinating to me.

It seems to me that the two dimensional villains pop up more in movies than in books. Maybe it's because books have more time to explore, or maybe movies just tend to be more formulaic.

The person with the quote about the Joker is interesting. The quote sounds like he's just evil for the hell of it, but truth is he was one of the most complex villains I've ever seen. Actually, they did an awesome job with Harvey Dent, too. I wanna go watch Dark Knight again now haha.

JimmyB27
11-12-2009, 05:05 PM
Some men aren't looking for anything logical. They can't be bought, bullied, reasoned, or negotiated with. Some men just want to watch the world burn ~ Michael Caine; The Dark Knight


The person with the quote about the Joker is interesting. The quote sounds like he's just evil for the hell of it, but truth is he was one of the most complex villains I've ever seen. Actually, they did an awesome job with Harvey Dent, too. I wanna go watch Dark Knight again now haha.
I don't think that quote does suggest that he's evil just for the hell of it. It suggests that he doesn't expect to gain anything from his evil acts, but there's still a reason why he does them. We don't know what it is, but it's there. I would assume he's suffered some sort of trauma in his life - see those scars? They came from somewhere, right?

Damn, now I want to watch TDK again...:tongue

dirtsider
11-12-2009, 05:40 PM
I can't recall if I saw it here or not but one thing that stuck with me regarding villians is (to paraphrase) that a villian may be a psycho nutjob but s/he is the hero of his/her own story. The villian's backstory or reasons for doing things may not be written into the story but the writer should know why the villians are doing the things they're doing.

willietheshakes
11-12-2009, 06:35 PM
You can play with the whole notion of "evil for evil's sake" as well. In BIW, the "villain" is, at first (by all appearances) the very epitome of wholesale evil for evil's sake - textbook, in fact. By the end of the book, though, his motivations have been revealed. And yes, he IS the hero of his own story. More than that, though, he becomes a sympathetic, understandable character and not just an amorphous threat.

icerose
11-12-2009, 06:56 PM
You can play with the whole notion of "evil for evil's sake" as well. In BIW, the "villain" is, at first (by all appearances) the very epitome of wholesale evil for evil's sake - textbook, in fact. By the end of the book, though, his motivations have been revealed. And yes, he IS the hero of his own story. More than that, though, he becomes a sympathetic, understandable character and not just an amorphous threat.

I think it really depends on the villian and the story though. There are several examples in fiction where you don't feel one bit sorry for the villian. Sauron and Sauroman for example in LOTR. Make that all the bad guys for that matter. And it still works.

In Die Hard. You don't feel sorry when Hans falls out of the building and you certainly don't sympathize with him but he makes for an excellent bad guy.

Selah March
11-12-2009, 07:23 PM
"Evil for the sake of evil" -- with no depth of motivation, no supporting back story, and no shades of gray -- makes, for me, a boring read.

"Good for the sake of good" -- "I'm the protagonist, and therefore the good guy and have no weaknesses except those that arise from being too good (overly trusting, generous to a fault)" -- is an equally boring read for me.

To me, these characters are especially odious in fantasy, where they're also especially prevalent. Give me some meat in your characterization, please. I've had enough milk to last a lifetime.

Cyia
11-12-2009, 07:44 PM
The best villains - and I think the Joker is in this category - are the ones who are mirror images of the hero, just spun 180 degrees. That's practically the whole point of Dark Knight: Joker wants to push Batman past that one line he refuses to cross so there's no longer any difference between the two.


One of the best villain lines I ever heard/saw was:

I'm not a psychopath, I know the difference between good and evil, right and wrong... I just don't care.

Strange Days
11-12-2009, 08:19 PM
Evil for Evil's sake? Hmmm... Anton Chigurh, for example. More like "evil for no sake at all", though. The man's just evil. Period. No backstory. No motives. No realization that he's evil. (At least in the movie)...

katiemac
11-12-2009, 09:25 PM
The best villains - and I think the Joker is in this category - are the ones who are mirror images of the hero, just spun 180 degrees. That's practically the whole point of Dark Knight: Joker wants to push Batman past that one line he refuses to cross so there's no longer any difference between the two.

I agree. I like these matchups because it makes the hero the best person (or the only person) able to take down the villain ... if he even takes him down at all. If you have a villain, your hero can't just be okay at fighting him, he's got to fit. That doesn't mean your hero has to be a powerhouse; it very well may just come down to the fact he has the best motivation.

Phaeal
11-12-2009, 11:24 PM
I'm going to use Dexter as an example, because he's one of the biggest "good" villains out there - so good, he's the "hero" of his own show.

Dexter is a cold blooded killer. He murders people with a smile, and does so brutally, graphically, and with a big ewww factor. It's his life's work and he loves it.

Now, in most cases, a serial killer who has a family by day and dismembers by night would be reviled. The audience would be cheering on the police/CSI/BAU, whatever acronym the show relies on to find the guy and get him off the streets, but Dexter manages to be the "good guy". Why? Because he's killing the bad guys.

In real life, a man like that would still be hunted and put in jail/executed if he was caught, but in his world, he's doing the right thing. He's not murdering people, he's helping people by making society safe and killer-free.

He does evil things, but not for evil's sake.

Not to mention that Dexter is shown to have been so traumatized as a very young child that no one could blame him for having some odd twists in his brain. Also he's not actually a psychopath -- however much he tells himself he doesn't feel human emotion, his actions prove him wrong.

willietheshakes
11-13-2009, 10:15 AM
I think it really depends on the villian and the story though. There are several examples in fiction where you don't feel one bit sorry for the villian. Sauron and Sauroman for example in LOTR. Make that all the bad guys for that matter. And it still works.

In Die Hard. You don't feel sorry when Hans falls out of the building and you certainly don't sympathize with him but he makes for an excellent bad guy.


You did notice the "can" in my post, right? Second word?

mamaesme
11-13-2009, 05:12 PM
I, personally, love the sympathetic devil character. It just adds another layer to the character that I hate when their gone.

(So says the girl who is making Heaven the villains in her story.)

icerose
11-13-2009, 05:43 PM
You did notice the "can" in my post, right? Second word?

And I totally missed it. I really shouldn't post when I'm post sick either.

Celia Cyanide
11-13-2009, 09:27 PM
The person with the quote about the Joker is interesting. The quote sounds like he's just evil for the hell of it, but truth is he was one of the most complex villains I've ever seen. Actually, they did an awesome job with Harvey Dent, too. I wanna go watch Dark Knight again now haha.

Precisely. The Joker has a backstory. He just doesn't want you to know what it is.

I need to watch it again, too. LOL!