An Embodiment of Evil: Villains that Defy Reason

“Don’t kid yourself, Ukitake. No one ever stood atop the heavens before. Not you, or I, or the gods. But the unbearable vacancy of heaven’s throne ends now. From now on, I will stand at the top.” – Bleach (Tite Kubo)

Last time I talked about villains and their goals. Stemming from that topic is a subject that I tend to rant about, so if this starts sounding like a cat hissing, you are forewarned. I am touching upon one of my greatest pet peeves: villains who defy reason. I’m not speaking about villains who defy logic, or who’s goals are totally bizarre, but the type whom you read about, and then sit back and think, what? Really?

First, there are the villains who are simply too smart. You know the sort; the hero makes an amazing entrance after chapters of tight spots and desperate moves, and the bad guy is sitting in his chair and says something like, “I anticipated all of your moves. And by the way, that secret ability of yours is now completely useless.” Which leaves me the reader mentally shouting how could you possibly know that he knew that secret way in or he just learned that new move, how can you have anticipated it when the hero didn’t know about it?! Unless it’s been established that this villain is some sort of evil genius, these twists really irritate me. There can only be so many Professor Moriartys in the world.

Second, the villains who are always stronger than the hero. It’s all right and somewhat expected that the hero is weaker than the villain at the beginning of the story, but I can’t tell you how irked I get when I spend dozens of chapters with a hero learning some secret technique, and the bad guy counters it without batting an eye in the first encounter. Not only does this make the hero look pathetically weak, but it makes me wonder about the villain. If he really was that strong, why doesn’t he just destroy the hero and be done with it? Why drag it out and give the hero more time to get stronger? Sorry Tite Kubo, but your villain hits both pet peeve one and two.

Third, the villains who monologue about their evil plans when they haven’t even captured the hero to whom their blabbing! (pant pant pant). At some point, the villain’s true motive must come to light. In fiction, it often occurs in the villain’s monologue when he informs the hero that he doesn’t have a chance, because of XYZ. If this villain really were cunning enough to have such a plan for whatever, why would he spill all the pertinent info with his enemy? Who in their right minds would do that? (and villains have to have some sort of mind, since most of them come up with that plan).

And fourth, the villain who just doesn’t die. They get run through by a sword. They get shot off a building and fall seven stories into a river. They fall over waterfalls, or their spacecraft blow up. So why are they still alive? I once watched a show where the villain is shot twice in the head, his mech explodes and falls into the ocean with him in it, and he’s still breathing in season two. Seriously? In my household we call the character who dies and then reappears alive phenomenon the “Mullin Effect,” named after the first character we saw who displayed this. This is a writing flaw. Unless you have a really good reason for the hero to think that his job is done when it isn’t, then just let the guy die.

Most of these pet peeves of mine can be avoided simply by having a reasonable explanation given to me, the reader. Thus it really isn’t a problem with evil geniuses, or immortal villains who blab about their secret plans, but the amount of willingness the writer has given me to suspend my disbelief. So take care writers, to make your villains reasonable, even if they aren’t confined by logic.

3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. wovenstrands
    Mar 02, 2011 @ 00:35:32

    I applaud you! In my house hold when all of the above happens all we say is “it’s a show/movie/book, what do you expect” basically it’s un-relatable.


  2. Andy Straub-Walden
    Mar 04, 2011 @ 08:13:47

    The Mullin effect, huh? I’m not surprised. Is there an Immelmann effect I should know about?


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