All About Evil

There are a lot of bad guys in dystopian lit and sci fi.

There are some truly notable bad guys out there, but let's focus on one of the most iconic:

Darth Vader.

Now, in the Star Wars series (we're talking original here, I'm not on speaking terms with things associated with Jar-Jar), there were two main baddies. Darth, and the Emperor.

But when you think about the series, you don't think about the Emperor as much--or at least, I don't. You think about the heroes--Luke, Leia, Han (*sigh*Han)--and then you think about Darth.

Of the two, the Emperor is the more evil. But Darth is the more memorable.


Because Darth Vader has a mask...and he takes it off.

I don't just mean that he has a plastic helmet and he takes it off--although, obviously, he does.

What I really mean is that there's more to him--over the course of the original trilogy, you find out not only who he really is, but also why.

The Emperor has no mask. He shoots lightning from his fingers and that's that. But when Darth slashes Obi Wan Kenobi with his red light saber, you eventually find out why, and what it must have meant to him, too.

When you look in the Emperor's eyes, he's soulless. He's just, pure and simple, evil.

But when Darth takes off his mask and looks at Luke--there's something more there. History, background, motive, desire. Love. Hate.

I thought about this as I read MOCKINGJAY (omg, you guys, that last chapter!!!). No spoilers, here, but if you've read the first two books, you know that President Snow is a bit of an Emperor. And, honestly, I felt that he was a bit of a weaker character for it.

To me, the much better villain is the one you can understand. The one you can almost sympathize with. The one that if, given different situations in your own life, you think you might have become.

Although, please, don't cut your son's hand off with a lightsaber. That's taking it just a tad too far...


Myrna Foster said...

Complex villains are so much more interesting.

Mandy P.S. said...

I agree that Darth Vader is much more interesting than the Emperor. I would say it's very rare that a kid thinks "I'm going to grow up and oppress the world!" Instead they're normal kids like everyone else. They love their mothers, try to make their fathers proud, and go to school. But somewhere on the path of what leads to "good" or even "normal", they diverge and become "bad".

When I'm writing I never create a villain who is simply evil. He has to have a backstory that led him there, even if it is not entirely revealed in the actual story.

After all, even the devil has a backstory (one of the most beautiful angels, grew proud, took a third of the angels down with him, etc.). If this biggest of baddies ever has a backstory, then don't our villains need to have one as well?

Anonymous said...

I believe villians shrouded in secrecy are the scariest. In the original Star Wars, Darth Vader wears a helmet. You don't know what's hiding underneath that eerie black mask. When it's removed, a pang of sympathy hits you. Don't get me wrong, the obvious villians are scary too; The Emperor, etc. But when there's secrecy involved, it amps up the emotional angst and drama.

Sage Ravenwood said...

Love this! The best villians are the ones that actually make you feel for them. In the end you don't know whether to hate them or feel sorry for them. (Hugs)Indigo

Kelly Polark said...

I agree that the most memorable villains aren't ALL dark.
We are all Star Wars geeks in this house and my kids have been all kinds of Star Wars characters for Halloween. But no one's asked to be the Emperor.
And agreed on Han (sigh...).

Amber Lynae said...

OK I have to laugh a little, because I left the room in the middle of the post to get a drink, and my mind went to Mockingjay (before you mentioned it) and Pres. Snow.

SO when I continued reading laughed because I was totally on the same wave length.