The Generic Villain on Keeping It Quiet

For a lot of us, it’s all about the villain-cred. Sure, we don’t kick puppies or engage in overdone isms just so we can demonstrate ourselves as eeeeeeeevil, we aren’t necessarily mustache-twirlers or cape-slingers or the like—but that’s not because we’re not trying to make a proper appearance as true Hands of Darkness, but just that we consider ourselves too refined for such petty displays of Eviler Than Thou.

But some people are different. In some cases, they don’t consider themselves to be Hands of Darkness; others know they are but don’t want anyone else figuring it out; others are low-key to begin with and just don’t feel like trying to establish that kind of reputation. Either way, those sorts of people practice a more subtle form of evildoing that helps shield them from being caught out as the rotters they are. And it’s a useful skill; keeps you out of a lot of trouble you might otherwise get into.

So how do you not establish yourself as a Hand of Darkness?

One popular trick is good intentions. Yes, those things the road to hell is paved with. It doesn’t matter if you actually have them or not, though actually having them can be an advantage when the people with the lie detecting skills come a-calling. It’s just that yours are a little different; where the good guys would stop because of the collateral their good intentions are causing, you probably keep going.

Another is plausible deniability. Surely this is not your fault. Your subordinates were overenthusiastic. Or that spell you were trying to cast slipped. The ritual really wasn’t supposed to do that, now, was it? Didn’t think so. Basically, the idea here is that you can be as evil as you want to be, as long as you make it all look accidental at worst and like someone else’s doing at best. Then when people call you out on it, you brandish your innocence and call in the cavalry to defend you from their smirching of your oh-so-pure intentions. Isn’t it lovely when your staunchest defender really is one of the good guys?

Then there’s finding a foil. Remember those people I mentioned who just haven’t realized they’re Hands of Darkness, and think they’re still serving Light and Love and all that sappy stuff? They’ve probably done something that the people they work with object to. Maybe several somethings. So you don’t have to fully look like one of the forces of Good; you just have to look better than them. It gives you a scapegoat and distraction, and increases the likelihood that you’ll be getting Good Fighting Good as they argue over where the problem is. Just try not to laugh until you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that nobody can hear you.

And last is one of my favorites: being a Dark Poser. Unlike the others, this one doesn’t involve actually hiding that you’re evil; instead, it focuses on making you seem like you’re trying too hard to be evil. You’re the kind of person who blatantly jaywalks or makes a show of cutting the tags off of mattresses. Sometimes it’s a cheerful unconcern, like asking “Speaking of babies, what’s for breakfast?”; sometimes it’s more trying to cover for your true inherent goodness, with lines like “Oh, I value human life—in tastiness, that is.” (Note that you don’t necessarily need to pose through cannibalism; these are just readily available examples.) Sure, they’ll understand that you’re evil, but they’ll be pretty sure that you’re the kind of evil that basically shows up to make sure there are episodes in the series and will probably be their semi-ineffectual allies in the movies.

For some people, hiding their darkness is the way to go. Don’t be afraid to do it; we all know that if it benefits the Dark Powers in the long run, it doesn’t matter how good you seem in the short.

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