1. Floran Bailey

    Floran Bailey Member

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    Rage inducing villains - How far is too far

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Floran Bailey, Aug 25, 2018.

    Okay so I have a question for y'all.

    What things make you hate a villain, and is there a limit to how rage inducing a villain is before the story stops being enjoyable to read?

    To use a popular example, why is Dolores Umbridge more hated than the titular villain of the series even though she commits fewer atrocities? Why is it that people are more inclined to find Voldemort sympathetic than her?

    (I mean this in a more general sense, the above is just an example.)
     
  2. I.A. By the Barn

    I.A. By the Barn A very lost time traveller Contributor

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    Villians actually murdering people rather than faffing about makes me hate them alot, especially if they mutilate the body afterwards or in the process of killing them. .
    And making me put the book down is when the villian has motives that the author wants to make it tragic and justified and I'm like no (this doesn't count for murderers in murder mysteries, when I mean villian I mean a fantasy sci fi superhero one because authors of murder mysteries know how to make the murder suit the motive better often). They murdered people in cold blood. No. I'd rather just have a guy who just likes killing people.
     
  3. Mckk

    Mckk Member Supporter Contributor

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    It's not the villain that makes or breaks it - it's everyone else around him. If everyone's stupid and the villain just keeps getting his way because people are just that dumb, I will throw that book at the wall. (looking at you, author of Wideacre)
     
  4. John Calligan

    John Calligan Contributor Contributor

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    I think people hate cheaters and betrayers the most.

    Murdering for money vs. Murdering someone you said you would protect (for money)
    Hacking into a bank and stealing money vs. Working at a bank and stealing money
    Selling drugs to kids vs. Selling drugs to your kid's friends

    On evil for evil's sake, look at our president. This is my favorite Trump quote of all time, and I think it is highly underrated:

    https://www.c-span.org/video/?c4684061/trump-money

    "It has been a life of accumulation. Money. Money. I want more money. I don't even know why."

    But if you had a villain in a story acting like that, you would really have to get into his heart and history to make sense of it because on the surface, that level of pseudo self awareness is hard to believe, let alone the actions that go with it.

    Edit: lol could you imagine that quote from any character, or for anything other than money?

    "It has been a life of destruction. Pillage. Murder. I want them all dead. I don't even know why."
     
    Last edited: Aug 25, 2018
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  5. Mckk

    Mckk Member Supporter Contributor

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    That sounds like a terrifying villain.
     
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  6. John Calligan

    John Calligan Contributor Contributor

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    I know, right? I'm kinda sad I threw that one out to the cosmos. Fortunately, Trump will give us all more gold to work with.
     
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  7. Mckk

    Mckk Member Supporter Contributor

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    It actually reminds me a little of the Joker. I don't know the comics - I only know the Dark Knight - but that sort of randomised evil, destruction for the sake of destruction, because it's just fun... Shudder.
     
  8. LastMindToSanity

    LastMindToSanity Contributor Contributor

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    https://www.c-span.org/video/?c4657402/money-money-money

    Not that I disagree that that's a pretty ridiculous way to think. I'd like to put this forward to add some more context to it.

    Well, I think that it probably comes down to which side they're on. I mean, yeah, Voldemort's horrible, but Umbridge worked for the government and was an authority figure that the students weren't allowed to fight against. Not to mention that she waltzed into Hogwarts and changed the whole status quo for the worse. From what I've seen, characters that force themselves into the cool place and force change that no one wants are very hated. I'd say that's because everyone knows that they don't belong, but the character act like they're God's gift to the story.

    Not to mention that she effectively banned any form of PTA between the sexes and, let's be honest, that's probably an unforgivable sin among the professional shipping crowd.
     
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  9. 123456789

    123456789 Contributor Contributor

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    @John Calligan and @LastMindToSanity are exactly right. Think about the 2016 US General Election (since politics was already brought up), both candidates were extremely flawed in numerous ways, but the one who looked like he wasn't trying to hide it won.
     
  10. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

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    Trust is a good issue to focus on. If you trust somebody and they deliberately betray your trust for some kind of personal gain ...hey. You've got a 'villain.'

    I do hate that word 'villain,' though. It conjures up silly comic-book twirly-moustache, cackly creeps. Hey, boooooo ...everybody boos a 'villain.' They are easy to spot and usually easy enough to defeat.

    Subtlety is good to cultivate, in my opinion, when it comes to writing bad people.

    Some people do bad stuff but have good qualities and/or defendable reasons for doing what they do. Some people just can't help being horrible to other people, but may have an issue with their past or personal life that makes them unable to see the effect they are having on others.

    Some of these people are actual psychopaths....and research is beginning to show that this isn't their fault. It's a physical defect—they lack the ability to relate to feelings and fears that normal people have—and the condition isn't curable or easily managed. Their brains are wired this way, and they come from all walks of life. They are often highly intelligent and easily bored, which can make them very dangerous.

    Sociopaths, on the other hand, are usually the result of a very bad environment, and they often show great loyalty to people whom they see as saviours or benefactors, while wreaking havoc otherwise. Sociopaths are often very emotional, and are prone to rages, rampages, etc. They are like dogs which have been trained from puppyhood to fight other dogs and to accept bad treatment from humans. They know nothing else, and do bad things because of this dysfunctional upbringing.

    A lot of the 'bad' stuff we deal with in real life isn't bad for everybody either, is it? Some 'good' people benefit from policies that hurt other 'good' people.

    Good people buy houses that have been built on land that was once a nature reserve, etc. Or buy a house that has been repossesed and renovated because the previous owners—who might also have been 'good' people—fell behind in their mortgage payments.

    A 'bad' international corporation that wrecks our environment and pays shit for wages does employ ordinary people, who depend on those sub-level jobs—which might be the only employment available to them, depending on where they live. Take that corporation away, and they've got nothing to live on.

    Some good people who are red-line anti-abortion supporters will vote for any candidate who claims to be anti-abortion, but who uses abortion as a cover issue to introduce tons of really 'bad' legislation on other unrelated issues. And etc.

    That's why I prefer 'antagonist/protagonist' rather than 'villain/hero.' It's a more 'grown up' way to look at life, I reckon. It avoids black and white, and deals in shades of grey instead.
     
    Last edited: Aug 26, 2018
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  11. mashers

    mashers Contributor Contributor Community Volunteer

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    Voldemort is blatant. He looks, sounds and acts evil. He does things which are clearly and unequivocally motivated by hate and bitterness, and is consistent throughout. Umbridge, however, is superficially sweet, charming and delightful. Her evil acts are insidious. She does things which are ostensibly about making the school a better place, all with an air of affable likability, and only shows her true motives and intentions when she is confronted. Her depravity escalates gradually, lulling the reader into a false sense of security and revealing her true character over time.

    Personally this is why I hated her. Voldemort would look you in the eye while he killed you, whereas Umbridge would wear you down with insidious bullying tactics, then stab you in the back when you least expected it.

    Voldemort was clearly in pain. His very existence was agony, and you could see this in his face as well as his actions. This was confirmed by his back-story. Whether his actions were objectively justified or not, they were clearly motivated by the anguish he experienced. Umbridge, however, seemed to take pleasure in harming others. This is the other key difference between the two characters, and for me, this is why I can sympathise with Voldemort but not with Umbridge. I was disappointed when Voldemort was defeated, but delighted when Umbridge got what was coming to her.

    Sure, but discussing these specific examples as a case study gives us indicators of how we can replicate these characters. Characters who do bad things because they've had shitty experiences are still doing atrocious things, but at least there is a reason beyond "because I want to, and because I can."
     
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  12. mashers

    mashers Contributor Contributor Community Volunteer

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    As for the question in the title, "how far is too far", I think you should go as far as you need to to make the point you want to make, or to motivate the protagonist to do what needs to be done. Not far enough, and your protagonist will seem to be overreacting. Too far, and the antagonist's actions will seem gratuitous. So there is no clear "too far" point. It all depends on the point you are trying to make in your story.
     
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  13. QueenOfPlants

    QueenOfPlants Active Member

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    I hate it if a person should know right from wrong but still doesn't act on that knowledge.

    A real life example: I hate conservative politicians who just watch neonazism rise in my country more than I hate most of the actual neonazis. Because those neonazis are a kind of lunatics in my eyes. And you can't hate somebody for being soft in their heads.
    But the conservatives do even acknowledge that nazism was wrong and STILL do a lot of things to support it.

    Very similar to Umbridge and Voldemort: Voldemort was a lunatic obsessed with the wish for eternal life. Umbridge was a government representative WHO SHOULD HAVE KNOWN BETTER! But the self-rightousness of herself and the government she represents kept her from acknowledging the truth.
     
  14. Azuresun

    Azuresun Senior Member

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    I think it's because most of us will never run into someone like Voldemort, but we've all encountered petty little tyrants with too much power, who have no style and no admirable qualities. Voldemort did his evil things in the name of immortality and domination of the magic world--if nothing else, you have to respect his ambition. Umbridge's nastiness didn't do anything for her other than a smug sense of satisfaction and maybe a promotion to a slightly higher rung in the Ministry.

    I think pettiness is the key to writing a really hateful villain. Even if they have bigger ambitions, they'll still take the time to gloat, bully, rub in their superiority, and kick people when they're down. I think another factor is that they're unfair. One of the earliest complaints we learn is "That's not fair!", so a villain who can embody or inflict unfairness is more likely to touch a nerve.

    Stephen King does this sort of villain really well, but another name that sprang to mind was actually Eiichiro Oda, the author of One Piece. Considering that most of the characters are rendered in fairly broad strokes and the tone is generally light, he really knows how to make a villain utterly loathsome by giving them that personal touch.
    Forcing the daughter of a woman you killed to work for you for eight years to buy the freedom of her hometown, and then calling in a favour from a corrupt official to snatch the money away just when she thought she was on the brink of success? Don't think I've ever been so happy to see someone chokeslammed through their own HQ. :)

    As for how far is too far, that depends on the context of the novel, and how things work out in the end. Make a villain hateful, and the audience is likely to feel cheated (or just bummed out) if they don't eventually get a comeuppance proportionate to the harm they did and the rage they induced.
     
    Last edited: Aug 27, 2018
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  15. ITBA01

    ITBA01 Active Member

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    In my mind, you can make a villain as awful or hated as you want, but you probably want to give them a fitting comeuppance that will satisfy your audience. You can make a villain who's a serial rapist, but the audiences won't be satisfied if they're just taken out with a gun shot. Send them through a meat grinder or something, but make it hurt. Okay, that's an extreme example, but I think you get my point.

    The above poster mentioned One Piece, which is a series that does this very well. The beginning of most of the arcs usually spend whole chapters dedicated to how awful the villain of said arc is, which makes it satisfying when they finally get beaten to near death.

    As for why villains like Dolores are hated more than Voldemort (keep in mind, I'm speaking as someone who doesn't care much about Harry Potter, and I have only vague memories of the books, so this post might be total garbage), I think it more has to do with the former doing more terrible things to characters who you actually care about. Up until close to the end, Voldemort had done terrible things, but it was mostly to characters that were only seen in flashbacks, or never shown much. With Dolores, she pretty much showed up and made life hell for all the characters you'd been following for several books.

    Another reason is because you saw Dolores doing awful things, rather than Voldemort, who committed most of his atrocities off page.
     
  16. newjerseyrunner

    newjerseyrunner Contributor Contributor

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    I think this is very subjective to the type of story and it's genre. Alex was a pretty cringe-worthy monster in A Clockwork Orange, but it he was a character is a Stephen King story, I wouldn't give him much of a second thought. Monsters like Randall Flagg do things that would make Voldemort cringe, so it's all about context.
     
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  17. BlitzGirl

    BlitzGirl Contributor Contributor

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    I have a villain in my current story who I wish to metaphorically punch in the face every time he pops up. Basically, he's done horrible things and only the main character is aware of what he's done but she can't turn him in because he just so happens to be the captain of the guard and the king's right hand man. It's been blatantly obvious up til this point that not even the king would believe the truth if he was told. And the captain keeps acting deceptively nonchalant and caring, when really he has insidious motivations. That kind of villain, where it would be hard for the MC to bring to justice, who is out in the open but has nefarious plans in the shadows...that kind of villain really peeves me. You want them to get their comeuppance, but HOW? I think the fact that I want to punch him each time I write him, but also enjoy writing his scenes, is proof that I've written a villain that I personally can love to hate.

    President Snow from the Hunger Games series is another good example. He's blatantly evil but acts so nonchalant when he's interacting with other characters. You want to see him brought to justice, but he holds too much power. Which is why Katniss ends up sacrificing A LOT in order to finally see it through. Villains should never be quick and easy to take down. The good guys must suffer to some degree in the process. Everything should come at some sort of price, I think.

    As for at what point a villain makes a story no more fun to read? Well, as another poster said, that might be subjective. Above all, a villain, no matter how evil, should still be fun to read about to some degree. Or at least make the reader hate the villain so much that they root for the good guys and yearn for the villain to be stopped.
     
  18. Zerotonin

    Zerotonin Serotonin machine broke

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    I personally don't believe that there is such a thing as "too far" for antagonists, it just depends on the context of the story. The only way you can go too far is if you have the wrong kind of villain for your story's situation. For the most part, I see two main kinds of villains: cold calculating, and plain old chaotic. You have to decide which one fits your story. I'll provide some examples.

    Someone earlier mentioned the Joker from The Dark Knight, and he perfectly embodies a chaotic villain. He may make plans, but he almost assumes they're going to fall through. As Leonard Snart always said in The Flash, "Make the plan, execute the plan, expect the plan to go off the rails, throw away the plan." This works in this movie because Batman's, who is considered the world's greatest detective, needed a villain that was completely unpredictable.

    On the flip side, you have Adrian Chase (Prometheus) from season five of Arrow. Everything he did was meticulously planned down to the minute, which made it nearly impossible for Oliver to keep up with him. Even after he was captured, he had a plan in place that forced Oliver to let him go.

    I personally prefer the latter, though the former can be interesting if you delve deep into their backstory and how they got that way.
     
  19. WaffleWhale

    WaffleWhale Active Member

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    Ooh, I know this one.

    Voldemort is a supervillain, a dark lord, a terrible dude, but we can see where he went wrong, and we can kind of see what motivates him, his fear of death. His atrocities are more fantastical, he's the big bad guy who is commands the evil army. In other words, no one has seen a real person like him in a long time.

    Umbridge however, is just the worst. She's mean, she's a bad teacher, she thinks she's better than everyone, and when someone disagrees with her she flips out. On top of that, she pretends to be nice. We can hate her more because we've all met a person just like her, whether it's an old math teacher (cough, cough, Pam Mahachek, cough, cough) or that annoying peer of yours. She isn't as good at ruling empires or killing the chosen one, but shes the kind of villain that we all know. The problems she causes are more personal then the ones You-Know-Who does.

    I'm not sure if you want that kind of person as main villain, just because they wouldn't have the chance to do all the stuff that we hate while they also fight the hero. You also have to give a really good motive for a main villain, so that would subtract from the level we can hate them if we see and understand why they do it.
     
  20. S A Lee

    S A Lee Contributor Contributor

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    The thing I hated about Umbridge, on top of what was mentioned, was that she was a gnat compared to a villain we knew was lying in wait. Voldemort was out there somewhere, a fact that we knew as readers. Umbridge was in our faces, and what's worse, she blocked Harry from learning skills that could have helped defeat the bigger villain. Instead, the students who knew better had to take it upon themselves to learn to defend themselves.

    Just for contrast, what makes Prisoner of Azkaban my favourite of the series was the fact that it created a sense of tension by acknowledging that Voldemort was not a threat to Harry right now. We were led to believe something that was pulled out from under us at the last minute.

    This is a matter of personal taste, but villains who seem to exist to highlight that the protagonist is a bumbling idiot get to me. I cannot bring it in me to root for an idiot so when the villain is smarter and seems to lose by nothing more than sheer bad luck, I don't find it very fun. I say often that if I'm rooting for your protagonist to lose you're doing something very wrong.
     
  21. cosmic lights

    cosmic lights Contributor Contributor

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    From what I've seen people seem to hate hypocrites, whiny people who live in self-pity especially when they haven't been through anything worse than anyone else, betrayers and arrogant. For me there is no limit to what is too far for me.

    The only thing I don't like is when the Villain is only successful because the hero's are all idiots. And I don't like crazy, humorous villains like Mr. Evil or that villain from the fifth element or the Joker really (not so much the joker). But I felt no fear from those people, even though they were crazy they didn't seem to have smart plans. But then I also dislike the Villain that is beheading all their minions all the time and kicks puppies.

    But as for a lid on them I don't think I have one. Could you commit worse crimes than Hitler? Has anyone ever 'bettered' him? I don't know but it was pretty evil and disgusting what he did to humans. I could hate him just for his actions and beliefs.

    This is a tough questions and I cant answer what I think is the Harry Potter one as I'm not a fan of HP
     
  22. big soft moose

    big soft moose An Admoostrator Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    Stalin

    Although Pol Pot and the Khmer rouge came close for pure nasty shit , as did some of the stuff that went down in Rwanda
     
  23. cosmic lights

    cosmic lights Contributor Contributor

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    Was just reading about Stalin funnily enough - didn't know much about him.
     
  24. SnapWrex1

    SnapWrex1 Member

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    Making a character hateful can be deliberate, this is called the "Hate Sink" trope; https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/HateSink Essentially this is a character who is designed to be hated by the audience, such as Umbridge (Rowling deliberately made her nasty). However, there is a line with this. To use Umbridge again, Rowling made her nasty, but still kept her as a character who contributed to the plot, was capable of being an effective villain and Umbridge got her richly-deserved comeuppance, which satisfied readers. Going too far means that they don't even work in the story; maybe they're too one-dimensional or maybe they're being used to push an agenda (ie; a character who represents a group the author hates so they end up writing a strawman).

    To study this, here's an example of a villain who's rage inducing but the writers went too far with making them hateful so they failed as a character; the kett leader, Archon, from the video game Mass Effect: Andromeda. http://masseffect.wikia.com/wiki/Archon

    The Archon is a leader from the kett race, who are the Scary Dogmatic Aliens trope - a group of alien villains who the author uses to preach against a group or ideology in real-life that they don't like. In the kett's case, they're a criticism of Nazism, cults and (maybe) religion. The Archon is an arrogant, short-tempered loudmouth who combines the worst traits of an authoritarian dictator, cult leader and religious extremist, so it's not hard to imagine that the Archon was meant to garner as much of the viewers' hatred as possible. However, there were problems with the execution. His design was un-intimidating (he was short and had a face like a baby monkey), one-dimensional (he had no personality, motives or backstory beyond being evil and wanting power), unoriginal (a humanoid alien who looked like other aliens from the franchise and had a similar plan to villains from the original trilogy) and the parallels were too on-the-nose (he had a crest like an angel's halo and the title Archon in real-life refers to angel-like beings in the religious movement Gnosticism). He had no positive traits that would make him a more effective villain, and even failed as a Scary Dogmatic Alien because he was a bad boss and tried to betray his people's cause for a selfish power grab. The players didn't even get the satisfaction of fighting him in a final battle and he died without ever showing any physical prowess. Nothing about the character makes fans gravitate towards him even as a villain, and many consider him the worst antagonist that Bioware ever created.

    So here's my case study of making a villain deliberately hateful and an example - the kett Archon - of what NOT to do. In closing, if you're going to make a villain hateful, at least make them effective, memorable or understandable.
     

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