August 15, 2013 at 12:48 pm #1569
In Chuck Klosterman’s book, I Wear the Black Hat he asks, what’s worse a villain with a motive or a villain that doesn’t seem to have one? I know someone, somewhere will argue the point, but the Joker from Dark Knight Rising may be one of the best villains ever created. The man’s only purpose is chaos, as opposed to the revenge fantasies that often fuel the actions of lesser villains. His purpose, if there is one, is to show that Batman cannot exist without a counterpoint. If Batman kills the Joker, he also kills himself, in a sense.
So, with that in mind, this week’s roundtable asks, what’s scarier, a villain with a motive or a villain without one? Give us your best examples but remember to save some for the GeekCle Book Club meeting at the end of this month!August 15, 2013 at 1:45 pm #1574
I think its pretty scary to think that someone “just wants to watch the world burn” but can’t that be considered a motive?August 15, 2013 at 1:48 pm #1575
I would say that a villian without a motive or with a simple motive is much scarier than one with a motive. If only because by having a movtive the villian is then presented as having some kind of rationale and can there for be reasoned with and/or stopped.
The perfect example of villians without motive are zombies. Although they have been used to death (see what I did there?) Zombies are scary because they want nothing but to eat you. They have no other reason for being. You can’t ask them to stop, nor can you feed them something else. Your only options are to slow the inevitable by putting as much space between you and them or cutting them down before they rip the flesh from your bones.
A villian that wants nothing save distruction will always be scarier than one with a clear plan. Chaos will always be more terrifying than order.August 15, 2013 at 2:26 pm #1576
I go both ways. I think there is something to be said for a clear motive in complete opposition to the hero, one where the audience can identify with the villain. When done well, the audience starts to identify more with the villain than the hero, which can be pretty disturbing. We see this as a trend (although not a new one) with Walter White and Dexter. Although, the first one that comes to my mind is King Lear. Bad guys the audience is pulling for. It is all the creepier because we identify with these villains and want their redemption so when they fail it feels like we’re failing, too.
Then again, I think about Willow’s fall in Buffy Season 6 (and again in the comics). She has a legitimate grievance the first time, but then she loses complete control of herself and just wants to destroy everything for the sake of destroying the world. Of course the Joker does the “I want to watch the world burn thing better” because of his seemingly lack of a conscience to negotiate with.August 15, 2013 at 3:16 pm #1577
I suppose wanting to watch the world burn or wanting unbridled chaos could be viewed as a motive but my roommate had a good point. Villains like the Joker aren’t invested in the outcomes. He really doesn’t seem to care one way or another if things do or don’t go according to plan. They are terrifying because you can never really predict what they will do next and any appeals to reason or mercy would most likely fall on deaf ears. At least zombies are predictable and for zombies that’s what makes them so scary, the inevitability. They will always outnumber you, and they are always hungry. But someone who just honestly and truly doesn’t care? That’s scary.August 15, 2013 at 3:35 pm #1578
That’s a great point. I agree that a character that truly does not care about anything including the success or failure of their own plans is worse. No basic understanding of how ones actions could have negative reactions, absolutely no connection to empathy or right and wrong, that’s pretty scary.August 16, 2013 at 2:28 am #1579
coincidentally here is an article from iO9 on the topic on villians and their actions.
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