Tauriq Moosa is writing about villains in computer games. It was weird, it started out reminding me of me.
Stereotype dictates he be male, control a horde of minions, and have a fortress somewhere lit by flashes of thunder. His plans are some unfathomably weird concoction of revenge and pure malice, directed at something unachievable and vague – like “world domination” – and born from some dark deed or horrid wrong done to him or a loved one. He probably is talented at creating weird gadgets and weapons which, without fail, will fail.
Except for that last sentence. My plans never fail! NEVER! Mwuahahahaha!
Moosa’s point, though, is that that kind of fictional villain is boring — there’s no depth, no motivation, he’s just there — and describes a couple of video games where the bad guys are more complex.
I thought of a transitional form: Dr Horrible. It’s done for humor, but the pieces of the stereotype are all there. The villain is just a villain for villainy’s sake at the start, and he’s also got all the toys of the stereotypical mad scientist, but then it slowly becomes clear that he’s really craving the prestige of being recognized by bigger villains, and it gets all messy and complicated with the introduction of a hero who is a manipulative stuffed shirt, and The Girl…who complete tangles up The Villain’s motivations. And then there’s the inevitable Tragedy.
What makes it interesting is that it’s all told from the villain’s perspective, and he goes from moral simpleton to…moral simpleton who’s aware of the magnitude of his mistakes. That’s what makes the story interesting, is that the character changes and grows a little bit, in this case just enough to realize what a screw-up he is.
Isn’t that really what we expect from a good story? That people change in interesting ways over its course?