Monday, July 27, 2009

On Villains

I was watching an episode of Firefly a few days ago when something interesting occurred to me. In the episode in question, the Firefly team are noticed by an Evil Gangster (Niska by name) who has a grudge against them (particularly against the captain). Niska stops what he's doing and immediately demands of all within hearing that they bring the captain in--as any classic, powerful bad guy would do. Powerful bad guys let everyone know they really want to get this small time pisher who once got the better of them. They make public their desire for revenge.

For example, in Star Wars, Jabba the Hutt has a bounty on Han Solo. Everybody throughout the three movies knows that. When he's caught, there's gloating (as there is when Niska catches Malcolm Reynolds--the captain of the Firefly.) Villains in movies and books always gloat. It allows time for the rescue team to show up. But that is beside the point.

It occurred to me as I was watching Niska-this powerful bad guy-tell everyone to stop what they're doing and go get Captain Malcolm Reynolds, that no actual powerful bad guy would actually behave this way.

I know my tyrants. I'm a scholar of Dracula, Henry VIII, Hitler and Stalin (he's my favorite.) If any of these men (with the possible exception of Hitler since he was so crazy I don't know what he'd do) had been gypped by a small conman they would never let anyone know--regardless of their desire for revenge. If anyone *did* happen to remember the incident (and I believe these men would have been more likely to eliminate their own men who'd seen them getting gypped than the guy who gypped them) and did happen to mention that the small time operator who'd once got the best of, for example Josef Stalin, was back in the neighborhood, he (Uncle Joe) would probably just laugh a very big laugh, pour a shot of vodka for everyone, and say something like "That man's got very big balls-coming back here. Here's to his big balls-may they stay attached to him." After this, Stalin might or might not (depending on his mood) very quietly find the guy and kill him. Possibly with his own testicles in his mouth. But no one would be told about it.

These guys would *never* publicize their defeats to those beneath their touch.

This is not to say that they'd never talk about their kills. Stalin did say "no man-no problem." Goring admitted (possibly falsely) to starting the fire in the Reishtag. It's just that if some small time operator had burned them and they still held a grudge no one would know, because that would damage their credibility and the perception by their followers that they were anything other than a big time operator.

S'all I'm sane.

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