What makes for the worst villains? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
Last night, I went to bed thinking about villains. I started going through some of my favorite series, namely in the gaming world since that’s the one I’m most familiar with, and started asking what each villain wanted. Let’s start with one of the first biggest villains we know of in this world, King Koopa, aka Bowser.
King Koopa wants to rule the Mushroom Kingdom and kidnaps the Princess regularly. However, something I thought about is that I don’t know of any time where it’s his direct intention to physically harm her. Mario never rescues her and she has claw and bite marks all over her.
Ganon wants to rule the world. Again, part of this involves kidnapping the Princess, and we can say the same thing about him. He might do something like put the Princess in a state of stasis or something like that, but no physical harm to her.
Now we could say that both of these characters wanting to rule the world is evil, but not necessarily. Is anyone wanting to run for president today and lead the most powerful nation on Earth automatically evil? Being president is a good thing. There is no evil in desiring something good.
The evil instead can be how we go about getting what we want, why we want to get it, and if we do get it, what we do with it. If you cheat to get into the White House, no matter how good what you do is and what your intentions are, you have done an evil still. If you have great intentions and get in office honorably, but you do a horrible job, you still have done a wrong.
J. Warner Wallace, detective-turned-apologist, has said that when a crime takes place, at least one of three factors is involved. It can be a combination, but at least one is involved. Those are money, sex, and power. Keep in mind that none of those three things is a wrong in itself. They can lead to wrongs and how one gets them or what they do with them can be wrongs, but they themselves are not wrongs.
In thinking about these aspects and went to my series of Final Fantasy and thought about some of the villains there. In the first one, Garland sought a way to live forever. Is that necessarily evil? No more than wanting to extend your own life is evil. What he did with it was evil.
One of the most recognizable villains is Sephiroth, and yet in his mind, Sephiroth was aiming for a good. He would have seen himself as the hero of the story and the good guys were the villains. This is something we forget many times. The villain does want something that they perceive as a good.
It can be a mistake to say that because someone is identified as the villain, that they are automatically evil. Is the villain of Ferris Bueller really a villain? He’s trying to catch a boy who is doing something wrong. The villain of Short Circuit wants to reclaim a robot that has a nuclear device in him. One of the “villains” of Ghostbusters works for the government and wants to make sure that the strange new weapons of the Ghostbusters are not dangerous to the public. This is common enough that you can listen to a podcast called “The Villain was Right” about villains in pop culture that actually had the right idea.
Yet in all of this, two villains stand out. One from the gaming world. One from the comics. Both are, however, incredibly similar. One is the Joker from DC comics. The other is Kefka Palazzo from Final Fantasy VI. Most of you are familiar with Joker, but here’s a picture of Kefka and you can see some similarities right away.
Kefka is an experiment gone wrong. He was a soldier the empire did their first experiment on to infuse him with magical powers and something went wrong. He got the powers, but his brain snapped in the process. Since most of us know about the Joker, I will give some details of Kefka.
Kefka is a ruthless general who looks down on everyone. People are tools for him. He decides to defeat a castle town by putting poison in the water. When his own men balk at that and tell him they have prisoners there, he doesn’t care. They got what they deserved. When the empire is marching on a town, Kefka tells them to destroy all of it. He is told the town is neutral in the war, and he still doesn’t care.
Kefka is a villain who actually does accomplish what he set out to do. At about a halfway point in the story, he messes with some magical artifacts that brings about the destruction of the world leaving it in a post-apocalyptic scenario. In the new world then, he lives on top of a tower and fires a light of judgment on a town whenever he just wants to. When the party comes to fight him, he says he wants to destroy everything and build a monument to non-existence.
A little about the Joker has to be said. He is the villain that wants to watch the world burn. He is Batman’s greatest nemesis because there is no telling what he will do. He is chaotic and does what he wants and doesn’t care what anyone thinks.
In relation to Kefka, there was a time when the Joker got 99.99% of Mxyzptlk’s power. The world becomes a nightmare as people are trapped in situations where they are repeatedly murdered again and again and Joker eats the entire population of China. The description given in The Dark Knight is accurate of Joker. Some people just want to watch the world burn.
Despite this, there are some things even these villains perceive as good. They never go and off themselves. Kefka says he hates existence, but he never shows any signs of being suicidal. Joker hasn’t had any time like that either as far as I know,
The reality is that everyone has something they still perceive as good and pursue it. You actually can’t pursue anything unless on some level you think it is a good. You could be wrong in that, but you do think it. Even the suicide wants a good. They think things will be better for at least them if not everyone if they weren’t around.
The reality of good and evil on some level are inescapable. Even a villain will pursue what he or she thinks is good. However, the most frightening ones are the ones that ultimately seem to think just some form of chaos is good.
However, there is still often something good that comes from this. This is the time when good guys do rise up. What it takes to stop evil every time is good. In our world today where we see evil seemingly happening more and more, we need more and more of the good to counter it.
From the Christian perspective, we have seen this before. The Roman Empire was not really a pretty place in many ways, but Christianity came and transformed all of that. There’s no reason the same can’t happen today. If anything, we should be even more capable today since we have more knowledge and means than your average Christian did then.
Perhaps we perceive something else as more good than the message we are to share.
Which could make us the villains.
(And I affirm the virgin birth)