Favorite Villain. It’s sort of an oxymoron. Why would I ‘like’ a villain? But as I explained in my first post on villains a few weeks ago, villains are often likable because they are not people, but characters. In fact, there are plenty of stories where the villains are more likable than the main character! Luke Skywalker was iconic as the coming of age hero, but he always suffered from poorly written lines and a lack of flair. Now his nemesis, Darth Vader, had a lot better material to work with, not to mention an awesome black costume and the ability to choke at a distance.
Darth was one of my favorite villains for a long time. Granted, George Lucas sort of destroyed the mystique in the later instantiations of Star Wars, but the original Darth Vader, complete with redemption scene at the end of Return of the Jedi, has to rank as one of the all time, great villains.
But as of a few years ago Darth was finally knocked from his pedestal by an even more delicious villain in an even more epic story. There were people who didn’t like Avatar for being ‘derivative,’ but I invoke the universal adage, “Good artists borrow, great artists steal” which must mean that great art is stolen. Regardless, James Cameron’s screenplay has perhaps the most perfect structure of any story that I’ve ever watched or read. And his villain is perhaps one of the most perfect examples of villainy the art has ever seen – Colonel Miles Quaritch. I mean, how can you not love, “If there is a Hell you might want to go there for some R & R after a tour on Pandora.”
But honestly, what’s the appeal of Quaritch? In the end, it is the same appeal as Darth’s. The same appeal as every great villain – certainty of purpose. You see, despite the horrible things that Miles Quaritch does, in the end he’s just doing his job. He believes in his mission for reasons that make sense to him and he never wavers from it, a quality that also makes him a strong leader. He will do whatever he can to see his side prevail because he believes the other side to be in the wrong. And while we can see that he is misguided, the fact that he never wavers from his duty is appealing. Of course it never hurts to have great lines, big guns, and amp suits at your disposal, but none of that matters without the certainty of purpose that we can all relate to.
Today’s Writing Prompt: Compare two villains, one that you like and another that you don’t. What makes you like the one and dislike the other?
John C. Brewer is a lifelong soccer player, the author of Multiplayer, an adventure for young adults, and The Silla Project, a North Korean nuclear romance. Find out more about what he is doing at johncbrewer.com.