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                “How do you shoot the devil in the back, agent Kujan?  What if you miss?” 

                The Usual Suspects could be looked at as a study of creating the perfect villain.  Why?  Simple.  Everything that we know about Keyser Soze comes from stories.  We don’t actually see him do anything.  We just hear stories of who he is and what he’s done.  Part of the beauty of it, is we don’t even know the truth from the lie.  Ordinarily, we see the “bad guy” do something bad.  In this case, what we know is made up of the best, or worst, stories told by those that believe them.  The characters telling the stories have created the perfect villain.  They’ve created someone that they are afraid of.  Even more, it’s not just fear, there’s also principle.  Keyser Soze is a man to be feared because he has a code that he believes in and follows, no matter the consequences. 

                So, when creating a villain, or adversary, there are two important elements:  Power.  Conviction.    

                Power.  As mentioned in the hero perspective, the adversary has to be more powerful that the hero.  That power doesn’t have to be physical.  It could be intellectual, or political, or economical.  Take Lex Luthor for example.  What makes him an equal for Superman is his non-physical power.  He’s the perfect adversary for someone who has such physical power.  Superman can’t fight him with brute force, and he can’t fight Lex on his level because he’s not capable.  Lex Luthor almost always maintains the upper hand.  The same can be said for the Kingpin.  The difference in this case, is that Daredevil and the Kingpin can duke it out.  But, even if Daredevil wins the fight, he still often loses the battle.  Like Lex Luthor, the Kingpin has the money and connections to fight a battle without lifting a finger. 

                Conviction.  In the hero narrative I used Magneto as the example for absolute belief in their “by any means necessary” actions.  But, I’m going to pull a little switcheroo this time and go with something a little more esoteric (if you will) and topically current.  Skynet.  The Terminator franchise features an almost unbeatable and for all intents and purposes intangible adversary.  Skynet, an autonomous self-aware computer program that believes for its own survival the human race must be obliterated.  Quite a different view from the Machine City of The Matrix, who sees a connection between their survival and the existence of the human race.  In the case of Skynet, the program, for lack of a better term, goes to extreme measures in carrying out its goals; infiltration robots, time travel, and human experimentation.  One thing that is never mentioned, is what does it do if it wins.  If Skynet succeeds in wiping out the human race, then what?  A world run entirely by robots.  There’s nothing in any of the stories that gives us any indication that the program wants a robotic utopian society, but that doesn’t matter.  Its ultimate goal is survival, pure and basic.  This is something that anyone can understand and relate to.  For me to live, you must die.  Now, this might not seem like much of a conviction, but honestly, who needs much more than that?  I’ll ground this with another example.  Dr. Doom.  Now, the motives of this masked man may seem more egotistical to those that only know him from the movies, and not the comic books, but his core belief and driving force has a great deal more weight.  Doom is driven by a belief that the world would be a much better place if he ran it.  Ok, not a very unique ideology among megalomaniacs, but Doom has one very special thing going for him-he’s right.  In his country of Latveria, he is revered and loved by the people.  He protects them, takes care of them, and make sure that everyone is treated as equals, though lesser than him.  He rules with an iron fist, and because of this not all of his subjects are happy under his rule.  This view of Dr. Doom isn’t shared by all, but just stay with me or the purposes of this study.  In addition, check out the Emperor Doom graphic novel, if you can find it, and see for yourself what a Doom run world would be like. 

                There’s more that goes into creating a adversary than just these elements, and depending on who, what, and why you’re creating them they don’t all apply.  In addition, they aren’t all equal parts.  Look at them like cakes.  You’re going to have more flour than you do sugar, and more sugar than you do milk.  The amounts maybe less, for necessary reasons, but you taste them all.  If you look at some of the best villains/adversaries written, you’ll see these components will make up the bulk of their character. 

 

Jerale C

Mindseyechronicles@comcast.net

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1 Comment »

  1. The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist 😉

    Comment by Jadielady — May 27, 2009 @ 8:05 pm

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