The Generic Villain on Prejudice and Villain Cred

The Dark Powers have me on Demographic Watch this week. It’s good to do that—settle in, rejuvenate that mindset of treating people as statistics. But some of what I’ve been learning strikes me as worth talking about a little more closely.

Namely, I’ve noticed that a lot of newcomers, when trying to establish themselves as Big Bad Evil Guys, tend to try to do it through some sort of bias. Usually it’s sexism or racism, though I’ve seen people try it with ageism, classism—heck, some people even miss the point and try to make their token ism feminism. (This invariably fails further, mainly because they get it conflated with misandrist-type sexism. Use a dictionary, people!) Point is, it’s being seen as a short cut, same as unprovoked puppy kicking or gratuitous child abuse. People think that if they just do that, and do that in a sufficiently over the top manner, they don’t have to worry about any of the other qualifiers for being villainous, and they’ll still make it as lasting antagonists.

No. Just no.

Now, granted, singleminded devotion to a single quality does seem to be a hallmark of the evildoer, as we start not worrying about little things like social consequences or how many lives are going to be lost in pursuit of our goal. In that sense, yeah, taking one aspect of the mindset and running it into the ground may not be such a bad idea. But it’s not just what you do that counts if you want to make a proper impact, it’s how you do it.

One of the issues is simple Fourth Wall narrative causality. See, clear and blatant prejudice in the absence of any other quality, the kind that causes you to oppress whoever you’ve chosen to set yourself up against for no apparent reason—that makes of you the mythical creature known as the straw-bigot. And when it comes to narrative causality and ill fortune, the straw-bigot is one of the likeliest to call down every sort of unfortunate circumstance that might be feasible on his own head. One might even think that the world was attempting to make some sort of example of him, tearing him apart to teach a moral lesson. Short version: we already have most of the bad luck anyway. Do you really want to invite more of it?

For another thing, there’s the empathy quotient. You know, that thing where the people with the cohesive reasons for being that even the do-gooders can understand and maybe sympathize with have longer lifespans and an overall greater shot at being merely set back rather than completely ruined in the inevitable conflict with the forces of Good? Yes, that. Like puppy-kicking and gratuitous child abuse, blatant and sourceless prejudice is very bad for the empathy quotient.

And last—we know posers when we see them. You walk in talking about how yeah, you’re going to take out everybody fitting Criteria X, Y and Z in your territory, we’re going to take it with even more salt than we do the people who show up at morning meetings and ask “Speaking of babies, who wants breakfast?” The best reception you’re likely to get from a professional Hand of Darkness is a minute or two of mocking laughter. Possibly not even respectful enough to be evil mocking laughter. Do you really want that?

Now, I’m not saying not to exhibit these sorts of behaviors at all. Why let a perfectly good vice lie fallow? But if you’re going to have it, just make it part of your schtick rather than all of it. Consider, for instance, a cold-blooded version of the same style; you’re not an angry person out to get whoever it is you’ve got it in for, just particularly apathetic as to the impact that your plans will have on them, and those plans happen to involve a lot of collateral damage—or maybe it’s just that you tend to generalize traits onto them for the behavior of one individual, or treat members of that group whose traits contradict the facts you know as exceptions to the rule. Or give yourself a really strong reason; attempted genocide against a group for no apparent reason beyond “They make easy targets” is straw-thinking, but if your beef is that they seem to be in control of just about every power you can think of, that they (or entities looking extremely like them) killed your family and kicked your dog, or that there’s some very valid reason why they’re trouble and you have scads of evidence for it, you might be able to avoid a lot of the narrative backlash.

In short: bias in evil is often used as a crutch. Don’t depend on it when trying to establish yourself as one of us; pushing it too hard isn’t going to get you anywhere except a quick karmic retribution, and the professionals will see right through you and mock you.

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