The other night I was watching the movie Independence Day and it got me thinking about villains. Now with that movie, the big bads are extremely big and very very bad. They truly have no redeeming qualities. You didn’t see them much, but they were the driving force of the entire film. They stay bad until they get blown apart-no question about their badness.
This got me thinking about a book that annoyed me a few years back (I love the author in general, so I’m not saying who it was ;)). Her villain turned nice guy. Ok, maybe not nice guy and she sort of had two layers of “big bads”, however she mellowed them too much towards the end for my taste. First, the lower level big bad went all soft and mushy (“just misunderstood, and mistreated”) then the horrific big bad guy- did the same thing. After three books of us seeing how bad he was.
Now, villains should always be thought of as being the heroes in their own story, they can’t just be bad to be bad- they need to be aiming for their own goal. Even complete sociopaths have their own twisted goals. But I had a problem with this author when she “redeemed” the bad guys. Call me old fashioned, but I don’t want the bad guys to change their minds, I want them to get their comeuppance (I’m a mean vengeful little thing ;)). I read this book YEARS ago, and it still sticks with me how let down I felt when the author had them realize the error of their ways.
Part of the problem for me was the effect it has on the conflict that had unfolded over three books- why fight when with enough psychobabble the villain will realize it was just because they didn’t have enough love and it’s all good? (And yes, I have an educational back ground in psychology, I believe in psychology, but I DON’T agree with using it as a God in The Machine.)
Another part is the hero and heroine. Your good guys (and gals) are only as strong as the foes you throw against them. What does it say when instead of being “bested” the villain gives up and everyone understands they weren’t bad really? (I am over exaggerating a mite here for emphasis, but it’s not too far off. ;))
Clearly, the aliens in Independence Day are an extreme, and valid only in certain types of movies and books. Big bads that straightforward and one dimensional won’t work for most projects. But at the same time, don’t let your villains wimp out at the end. To me the major transformative character arc should be your heroes, keep the villains multi-dimensional- but also keep them bad.
What about you? What types of villains to you love to read/watch? If you’re a writer,what type do you write?
Thanks for coming by!