1. darkbeetlebot
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    darkbeetlebot Member

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    what are the differences between evil villains a just plain jerks

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by darkbeetlebot, Mar 17, 2012.

    I want my villains to not just be a jerks, but actually be PURE EVIL.
    so what are the main differences between the two?
     
  2. superpsycho
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    superpsycho Contributing Member

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    I would assume it would be if they intentionally hurt people and how badly.
     
  3. Metus
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    Metus Senior Member

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    My opinion: Jerks temporarily injure or disturb a person. Villains intentionally and malevolently kill, torture, or permanently cripple people. The difference is in the magnitude of the action, and in the intent. A jerk is not even an evil villain if he accidentally kills someone- he only crosses that line if the murder was intentional.
     
  4. Anonym
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    Anonym Contributing Member

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    This is more a philosophical question than a literary one. At least, if you're literally talking about "pure evil".

    There are some people who don't believe evil objectively exists, myself included.

    Otherwise, there's usually some inhuman, supernatural quality to "evil". Something that manifests in people, but is not necessarily human in nature. This paradigm being typified in mythology, religion, etc.
    So really, in a way I could only see "pure evil" as being essentially otherworldly - a demon, spirit, etc. - or a human vessel possessed by such an entity or quality. As opposed to being a "jerk". People are capable of horrible things - hate, sadism, bigotry, etc. - but they're still human, and if anything exemplify the darker sides of human nature.

    On the other hand, we tend to grossly oversimplify morality in general. If "intentional murder is wrong", regardless of context, then there's no such thing as a justified war, or arguably, even killing in self-defense. Not that I necessarily feel that way, but I've heard the argument made on the premise of absolutist, objective morality (such-and-such is always good, and such-and-such is always evil). Context can be as important as intention or consequence. My point being, we need to be careful with cumbersome terms such as good, evil, etc.

    One of the most compelling aspects of morality, IMO, is its ambiguity, and the daunting, life long task of navigating its nuances.

    But yeah, this is the kind of question that would probably be better asked in a philosophy/theology forum...

    My rambling 2 cents.
     
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  5. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    This is just off the top of my head, but here goes: A person who is truly evil gets pleasure out of the suffering of others. Evil people want to destroy. It isn't really about their own egos and it's not about power. It's what Michael Caine as Alfred said in that Batman movie: "Some people just want to watch the world burn."

    A jerk, on the other hand, is simply someone with a fragile ego. He can't stand the idea of someone getting the better of him in any situation, so if someone does, he overreacts and lashes out in some way (verbally, physically, or in some other way). He can't deal with losing. It isn't that he's trying to hurt people; he's just trying to make sure that he doesn't go to bed thinking he's lost somehow. He's not about destruction, he's about "You're not better than me! I'm better than you!"
     
  6. Kaymindless
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    Kaymindless Contributing Member

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    I'm with Anonym. The fact remains, one could go out daily and torture and murder people, but then they go home and play tea with their daughter. You lose your pure evil status then. You're just demented and cruel.


    Though, pure evil villain is a flat character. Write a character who has no redeemable characteristics. I mean a jerk is the idiot who does the small, mean things we deal with in daily life.
     
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  7. HorusEye
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    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'd disagree that "Some people just want to watch the world burn" hits the nail on the head in terms of what might be considered evil. If anything, Alfred points out the anarchist -- the one who demands change in opposition to stale order. The anarchist sees himself as a freedom-fighter, an agent of change.

    Generally when people talk of absolute morality it makes my skin crawl, because to me, what they're really saying all too often is that they know what is right, all the time, and such an unreflected certainty has been the root of countless cruelties throughout history. Never the less, if I'd have to approach a definition of what most people would accept as evil, the word malice comes to mind. Malice is the motivation to see others suffer, for whatever reason, and being aware of it. It is intentional hurtfulness. It is what I sense a glimpse of in people like Hitler, behind their general insanity.
     
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  8. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    Jerks are shallow, with pathetic motives like simple greed, envy etc. Also they are cowards and mediocrities, their "evil deeds" basically constitute of bullying and unsophisticated ridicule or set-ups. They are simply a hinderance.

    Villains are intelligent, forces to be reckoned with. Often not many people can comprehend the true extent of their evilness. Their motives are complex, somewhere in their past, something happened, something the reader can empathise with, but the villain chose not to deal with his pain appropriately so they become bitter and twisted, deluded even. Their motives are usually revenge or greed on a huge scale, but it can be love or any other noble motive perverted into something sinister (like obsession etc).
    Often, the most interesting characters in stories are villains so you can have a lot of fun creating one, but complexity is key imo.
     
  9. Show
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    I pretty much agree with everyone else's assessments, generally speaking. (Although I definitely DO believe in evil. I don't really like sugarcoating what evil is.) If you want to make your character really evil, he's gotta do really bad things. lol

    Although, I think saying what you want your villains to be generally is not the best approach to writing them. (Unless that generally is referring to "well-written" or something along those lines. lol) You might find that you want a villain who isn't pure evil sooner or later. I've written pure evil villains. I make no apology for that and I don't find that such people are totally unbelievable either. But sometimes you also wanna write a villain who isn't either pure evil or a jerk. Those villains can be fun too.
     
  10. Nakhti
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    Nakhti Banned

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    Like Anonym, I don't believe in pure evil.

    For a start, to be a villain one has to consciously know they are a villain. Their morals may be warped and perverse, but unless they know they are warped and perverse they're not really a villain, they're just a loony. Someone who has lost touch with all sense of morality or empathy and consequently doesn't recognise their actions as evil is insane.

    As someone else has said, evil is intentional cruelty. In order to be intentionally cruel you have to know what is right and wrong, what will hurt and cause pain and not care. (See Aaron the moor in Titus Andronicus - he knows what he does is immoral and causes others pain, and he loves doing it for that reason) So, a proper villain has to be aware of the common morality code of their society, and deliberately subvert it.

    So, the way I see it there is a very fine line between evil and mental illness, but the dividing line is self awareness.
     
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  11. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    Actually, such a dividing line doesn't exist. Evil is not a disease; mental illness is. Doing things society doesn't like because you feel compelled to do them is a mental illness. Doing nasty things just because you like them is self-indulgent (ie, evil). Self-awareness doesn't have to present in either case, and simply being self-aware won't change the first. And of course, people do "evil things" thinking they have to in order to reach the betterment of mankind (the end justifies the means).

    But in writing, a character that is 'pure evil' is indeed flat, and usually not believable.
     
  12. Nakhti
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    Nakhti Banned

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    I think you saw the 'mental illness' label and jumped on the defensive, therefore missing the point i was trying to make. I said virtually the same thing as you; doing nasty things knowing they are nasty, simply because you like doing it, is evil. Doing nasty things without knowing why you are compelled to or why they are wrong means you have become detached from reality to such an extent that a court would find you certifiably insane. Maybe it's more of a legal definition, but someone who has self awareness cannot be called insane.
     
  13. sarahg1988
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    sarahg1988 New Member

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    I think a "jerk" would just want to be mean rather than actually injure (mentally or physically), or kill someone. Also when discussing someone that is evil I think there needs to be something in the "air" of the character that is disturbing to show his/her wickedness.
     
  14. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    Many mentally ill know their behaviors are not 'the norm', but they still can't change them. But you are correct - the legal definition of insane is whether or not one knows what they did was wrong. Which is why one really shouldn't base opinions on the mentally ill on what the law says. It's horribly antiquated.

    At any rate, I was only trying to point out that 'evil' and 'mentally ill' are not really related.
     
  15. Nakhti
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    Nakhti Banned

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    I never made the connection in those terms - you're implying I said they were synonymous. I was drawing a distinction between characters who are portrayed as 'evil' and those who are just insane - I personally don't think someone can be both. Insanity and mental illness are not synonymous either, and I never implied they were.
     
  16. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    "there is a very fine line between evil and mental illness" - that is what I was replying to.
     
  17. Nakhti
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    Nakhti Banned

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    Well of course, when taken out of context of the rest of my post, that could look as if I meant it that way.... but you'd have to be willfully disregarding everything else I said :D
     
  18. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    Oh, no. I definitely didn't disregard the rest. This just seemed like the 'gist' of your total comment. :)
     
  19. Erato
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    Erato Contributing Member

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    IMO totally evil villains are like jerks only a hundred times more so. They tend to be much less convincing because most people aren't totally evil; they have some motive or belief that gives more depth to their character that plain "I am evil and I want to destroy everything because I am evil." Jerks can be depthened. Totally evil villains can't really be. I prefer jerks for bad guys; they're more convincingly human; but sometimes you do want an evil villain, like if you're doing an updated fairy tale. I don't suggest them in general.
     
  20. Jetshroom
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    For me, Jerk to Evil is a matter of scale.
    A jerk is more intimate, personalised. Evil is grander, it's global.
    A jerk won't try to enslave the world.
    Evil won't (necessarily) pull a girl's pigtails. (Though maybe it would.)

    That said, as you can deduce from the comments above, evil is subjective.
    I don't imagine Hitler thought he was being evil, but he's considered by many to be evil.
    Your main characters will determine whether your antagonist is evil or a jerk, as will your audience based on what's presented to them.
     
  21. Ettina
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    Ettina Active Member

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    Another person who doesn't believe in evil here, by the way.

    But regarding the difference between a villain and a jerk, I'd say how much threat they represent. For example in Buffy the Vampire Slayer season 1, Cordelia is a jerk, the Master is a villain - Cordelia just says cruel things to Buffy and her friends and encourages others to ostracize Buffy, while the Master kills one of Buffy's friends, tries to kill Buffy and her other friends, and is planning to destroy the world. Basically, a jerk could safely be ignored, while a villain must be stopped.
     
  22. mcpout
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    mcpout New Member

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    I personally think it is impossible to make the definition of the character in context like that. what maybe viewed as a pure evil act by the writer might not come across to their audience as such. take something like stoning for example. From a Western perspective it is a horrible vial evil act, an yet, to some Eastern cultures it is a recognized practice . Or something even as simple as the death penalty, to some the ultimate answer and to others murder plain and simple. The characters actions alone, can't be judged but the context and tone of the subject mater as a whole must be considered before anything like that can be decided. Create you're character to fit the story and nothing else. Let the reader decide on what scale they are "evil". As others have already said judge them by there actions but also by their situations.
     
  23. killbill
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    killbill Contributing Member

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    Motivations, in one word. Plain jerks don't have deep rooted motivations and they usually don't try to justify their actions. Evil person convinced themselves that what they are doing is the right thing to do.
     
  24. Kaymindless
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    Kaymindless Contributing Member

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    This.

    Society and culture creates our moral compass and that includes our definitions of good and evil.
     
  25. Trilby
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    Trilby Contributing Member Contributor

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    An evil person causes pain, heartache, distress and no end of suffering for pure malice; he knows exacty what he is doing.

    A jerk may cause pain etc. but he possibly see himself as an harmless joker.
     

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