The Generic Villain on Sheep in Hellhounds’ Clothing

I’m told that there are those among our ranks who are there as noble martyrs to the cause, who go into battle with the heroes knowing they’re going to die, but what matters is the outcome, that their deaths (which are permanent, and not hedged around, and in general tragic as all get out) are part of the Plan. Their hellspawn cred is undeniable (if often bolstered by things like genocide), they’re often competent in the way that Dramatic Necessity brings us to be…

…annnnnd they’re actually on the side of Good. Not “goal that the good guys could understand but really don’t get”, but actually trying to further the amount of Light in the world and prepared to die to get their light-cred back. O…kay.

I should probably be appreciating this. It’s extra cannon-fodder to allow for dramatic tension without actually getting those of us who are devoted to the Cause into harm’s way; it’s more darkness in the world, since let’s face it, they’re always so busy trying to manage their particular goal that the amount of evil they do is pretty much tantamount to what they were trying to forestall, and that’s not getting into what happens if one of them slips and actually wins, rather than pulling a Redemption Equals Death or losing but being saved by a deus ex gluteus (all the fun of a deus ex machina, only without having to haul the machine around!) or what have you.

One might ask how this is different from our willingness to die for the Story. It’s simple, really. Do we, within the Story, express a willingness to die for the story? No. Only that part of us that exists beyond the Fourth Wall, that recognizes that the Fourth Wall exists, and that reads these articles is there; the rest has its own motivations, its own goals, and these goals, whether they’re true-evil or were-good-but-went-dark or just oppose-the-heroes-because-it’s-fun, include staying alive or having some way to make sure that death is not the end. Whereas with these people—it’s pretty clear that the part of them that exists beyond the Wall is a poser who wants to take on the trappings of Evil, maybe push a story or two, but doesn’t want to die a villain (or at least, doesn’t want to be a villain for more than a chapter/episode past their not-timely-enough demise), so they have this “I was good the whole time, really! I was running up and down the slippery slope!” as an out. (It doesn’t help that they’re usually the Hand equivalent of a boy scout hero, rather than being the Hand equivalent of a deceptive protagonist. Even deceptive protagonists verging on antiheroes are more comfortable with their own darkness.)

I can’t really respect anyone who, taking on the roles and responsibilities of a Primary Antagonist, is still going for the ultimate goal of a final angsty death (or redemption ex Latin noun). I mean, come on, if you’re seriously going to carry a story, and your plan involves dying, rather than it being something that happens because the Narrative that had darn well better be because you’ve got a post-mortem contingency in play, maybe even a plan that revolves around it. And certainly, if you’re one of those people who is managing to avoid the slippery slope but planned the entire thing around returning to the Light through your own demise, as if being willing to die for what you’ve done can possibly redeem you—or worse, knowing perfectly well it won’t and then angsting about it—then get out of my sight. Give me someone who’s fallen off the slippery slope but learned to live with themselves, even sitting at the bottom and covered in mud, any day.

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