Sunday, March 7, 2010


Without villains, there’d be no literature. Or cinema or television or theatre. Even in non-fiction and documentaries there’s usually a villainous disease, political power, corporation or philosophy to overcome.  

We love our baddies. The badder the better.
We like their swirling capes, high cheek bones, thick moustaches and husky baritones.

We're entertained by evil, cruelty and mass murder. Have you noticed how many successful TV shows are about crime and criminals, i.e. villains?

Neither literary nor cinematic, those vile QUANTS or financial engineers (mathematicians and physicists working for bankers) who invented the sub-prime mortgages for Wall Street, must be mentioned here. Are they evil or were they just obeying orders from their Wall Street employers? By the way, why have those people not been named and shamed, not to mention, ARRESTED? Someone knows who they are, why are they being allowed to get away with causing global suffering? Is it because they're they only ones who know how to fix the mess and are using that to escape punishment?

But, back to show-biz villains. We seem to like formulaic and fairly sanitised bad guys with colorful personalities and lots of redeeming qualities. Have we been brainwashed by Hollywood in this respect? Even Tony Soprano, a cold-blooded killer, has been made cuddly and audience-friendly.

An exception to these run-of-the-mill villains can be found in Annie Proulx's writing. Her characters are almost never evil. She mostly lets cruel circumstance and accidents be the villains in her stories and they are far more cruel and implaccable than any fiction.


myshorterstories said...

You are right! Syndrome (The Incredibles) is not nearly so interesting as Bomb Voyage, who only gets a cameo. The Nazgul & Sauron in The Lord Of The Rings are very meaty, non-fluffy villains.

Nora Lumiere said...

Hamlet's uncle is a juicy villain, as are Bill Haydon, Zalachenko, Medusa,
Bill Sikes, Humbert Humbert, the very cruel Marquise de Mereuil and
Jack Ripper in Dr. Strangelove: calm, calculated and completely nuts.
Don't know about LOTR villains as I gagged on the book and avoided the films, not being a fan of Tolkien.