|Sarcastic mathematician v. Tyrannosaurus rex: it doesn't take Freud to figure out why I think this is cool .|
So I realized I was missing one essential villain category: villains I want my hero to fight.
This might be partially because the original question as a I phrased it to Roger was "What villains do you want to be?," not "What villains do you like?"
The original reason I asked that question after the "heroes question" - "What hero would you like to be?" - is that I was curious about Roger and I thought the hero question was running into the same problem that I think of as the "Don Giovanni problem."
The "Don Giovanni problem" is a problem related to determining whether or not people actually like or are interested in different topics, stories, etc.; it got its name from my experience trying to determine if people were fibbing when they said that they like opera.
If you ask someone if they like opera, some will say "yes," but a huge percentage of those who say "yes, I like opera," when asked "Which ones?" will respond with "Oh, Don Giovanni is my favorite."
If you say you like Don Giovanni you are either very, very into opera or know just enough where you know you're supposed to like Don Giovanni. In other words, either you are lying and don't really like opera, or you're far more into opera than I am.
I like opera, but I'm not some high brow connoisseur. I like the light operas in particular, especially silly ones like Così fan tutte and Die Fledermaus and fairy tale operas like La Cenerentola and Hansel und Gretel. I do like darker operas - Faust and Carmen are two of my favorites - but when I really think of the ones that I love to watch multiple times, the comic operas and the fairy tales really stand out.
So, I devised a method to out posers: rather than asking which operas are people's favorites I now ask which operas they hate.
Opera is like any other type of story; not all are good, and some down right suck. If a person doesn't dislike any opera, I know they're fibbing because there are some terrible operas out there. I'll even take "This particular production sucked because..." as evidence that someone really likes opera simply because there are many great operas that have been totally ruined by awful stage production.
|Des McAnuff. Handled stage production for Faust at the Met. Somebody needs to drop a chandelier on this guy's head.|
I realized that it's easy to say what heroes we like because we know we're supposed to like them. It's okay to like a hero and there are some heroes that are so culturally ubiquitous that we know we have to like that hero.
Thus, what heroes we like aren't very telling. But what villains we like? I think that's very telling indeed, as long as someone is honest about it.
Another layer to the question is, however, is what villains do we want our hero to fight? That's totally different from cool villains or the villains we want to be.
[Danger! Spoilers lurking about!!!]
The monstrous reptile created by weird science (e.g. Jurassic Park, Godzilla) are great ones for heroes to fight. Much like the whale in Moby Dick, they're unstoppable forces of nature. However, unlike the whale in Moby Dick, they will chase you down to eat you and they're man's own fault. Furthermore, they're a great example of what makes for a great fight: the villainous giant reptile is a genuine, immediate danger to the hero.
Nasty serial killers are awesome for my heroes to hunt (e.g. Tooth Fairy from the book Red Dragon, the serial killer in Se7en, Scorpio from Dirty Harry etc.) They're clever or at least devious. It takes science, psychology and detective work to catch them. Also, those stories have some of the heroes that I have fantasized being the most: Special Agent Graham, Detective Somerset and Inspector Callahan (Dirty Harry.) If I had read those books and seen those movies instead of the science fiction I largely consumed growing up, I think I might have tried to follow a different career path.
The devil, Satan or other devil-like characters are awesome villains for my hero. Part of this is that they are actually evil and you know they're irredeemable. If they were redeemed, then they'd have to get a new job, wouldn't they?
Some cool devil characters I love my heroes to fight include:
|Darkness, from the 1985 movie Legend.|
|The Devil (Lucifer) from the movie End of Days|
|Mephistopheles in "Faust." The Mephistopheles above is Samuel Ramey, an opera singer who had played the devil in so many operas he has a compilation CD called A Date with the Devil. Really good "intro to great, approachable opera" CD.|
Aliens are also an excellent villain for heroes to fight. What could be nobler than saving the entire human race and its home?
Zombies [Resident Evil, Dawn of the Dead (both original 1978 film and 2004 remake), Sean of the Dead, 28 Days Later, and on and on and on...]
|If you like to shoot, you probably know that you can buy zombie targets and zombie novelty bullets made by Hornaday, a legitimate ammunition manufacturer. You don't want to know how many people I know have bought zombie bullets. Also: yes, card 3 is a zombie Osama bin Laden.|
|I have friends who are ready for a zombie attack...|
|In the Matheson novel "I Am Legend," the "vampires" are more similar to what we think of as "zombies" now.|
|Not all zombie literature is created equal. And even Stephen King fails sometimes. Cell is a truly terrible book - prescient, but poorly written.|
Hitler and/or Nazis (everything from Raiders of the Lost Arc to Captain America: The First Avenger to The King's Speech to 1945...)
Hitler and Nazis probably shouldn't count as villains I want my heroes to fight simply because they're not really imaginary. There really were Nazis. It blows my mind away that happened, but there really were Nazis and people - normal, nice German people, the close ancestors of people I've worked beside - looked at Hitler and what he was saying and thought "Hey, that's a good idea."
(Kurt Vonnegut had some interesting opinions on how WW2 fractured the American mind. America fought pure evil and won. That's pretty bizarre and damaging to a national psyche. I'm glad we won, of course, but I agree that it shorted out a psychological fuse at the national level.)
Regardless, this is about fighting Nazis and why that makes for an awesome movie.
|This is Eisenhower. As far as I know, there is no movie about Eisenhower. I'd be interested in seeing one, though. Anyways, genuinely handed Hitler his ass, which is why I'm posting a pic of him.|
What makes Nazis awesome villains is that they're:
- Actually evil
- Badass technological geniuses (they were - pretty tragic, but they were. If you're like "Uh, huh..." come through the looking glass and learn more about Operation Paperclip here at the BBC and here at the National Archives. Evil is often smart.)
- Actually dress evil, which should have made them easy to identify as "the bad guys"
|"I have a skull on my hat, but naw, I'm totally a good guy..." Nazis were, imho, pretty easy to ID as genuinely unpleasant.|
Pazuzu (The Exorcist, book and film)
First, The Exorcist is a great book. Somewhat philosophical, it and the sequel Legion explore a lot of the ideas that I ask about a great deal. Where do we come from? What is spirituality? And so on.
That being said, Pazuzu is the freakiest evil I can think of. A demon who loves to play mind games? Gaslights and makes everyone around you believe that you're insane when, in fact, it's slowly consuming your soul? Basically a child molesting demon creation that actually infests the child? That is the worst idea in the world.
Pazuzu is one of those rare villains where I don't want to fight it. I'll be... somewhere else. Someone else can take on Pazuzu. I'll happily shoot a zombie myself or hunt a dinosaur. Even fight the Nazis, really.
But Pazuzu? Pazuzu isn't what I'd want to fight - but it's the #1 evil I'd like my hero to fight.