Recently, I’ve been doing a bit of idle research on villainy, and the various motivations given for lives of deceit and chicanery.  They say that the best villains are the hero of their own story, but the *reasons* they do what they do are wildly varied: Magneto fights against humans to protect/avenge his mutant people, Cruella De Vil’s vanity causes her to want a beautiful Dalmatian-skin coat, The Shredder has some sort of blood feud with Hamato Yoshi (and he kind of likes to see Krang fail.)  Perhaps my favorite motivation for antisocial behavior is that of Marvin The Martian, created by the legendary animator Chuck Jones, who endeavors to destroy Earth and its entire population…

…because the planet obstructs his view of Venus.  That, aside from being poetically brilliant, also begs today’s query…

The MS-QOTD (pronounced, as always, “misquoted”) still doesn’t understand what the deal wasl with Willem Dafoe’s Green Goblin, ’cause that guy made NO sense, asking: What’s the most interesting/coolest motivation for a villainous character?

The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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  1. foolsmask
    March 23, 2014 at 11:37 am — Reply

    I like Dr. Doom’s general approach of “I’m the best person to lead, why don’t you all understand that? I will make you understand!” The well meaning tyrant has some good philosophical meat to work with.

    But, on the other end of the villain spectrum is the Joker’s “Spill the pot and see what happens” kind of villainy.

    Both of these draw me in, though the latter is harder to do well because, generally, the people writing the stories are not off their nut as far as the character they are trying to write. Done well these are my favorite villain motivations.

  2. TheGreatNateO
    March 23, 2014 at 11:37 am — Reply

    For me it is Maleficient, she is pissed because she was not invited to a party. Then tries to kill the guest of honor. plus she can turn into an awesome dragon.

  3. March 23, 2014 at 2:05 pm — Reply

    The misguided villains who believe they are doing what they are doing is for the greater good. It is such a terrifying thought that these characters think they are actually doing good, usually while doing horrific things.

  4. Frank
    March 23, 2014 at 2:32 pm — Reply

    Flash’s Rogues. They are in it for the money, but have a code of honor that includes no senseless killing, no drugs, no revenge schemes.

    One issue mentioned that they understand that the poor schmuck that is at the other end of the barrel works for a living, so they *try* not to kill.

  5. Doctor Dinosaur
    March 24, 2014 at 8:26 am — Reply

    Well.. Ra’s Al Ghul is going to be on here at some point and so is Ozymandias so I’ll just be the one to bring them up.
    Trying to save the entirety of the world/humankind from social/nuclear/environmental annihilation pretty much justifies everything doesn’t it? The question posed thusly; Am I in essence killing the 12 crossing the street, by not ramming into and killing the drunk truck driver before he hits them? … This just taken to the extreme where 12 = 7 billion and the drunk driver is a nation/city/seaboard. In any case you are definitely killing someone based on a potential outcome which may be worse..but may also not happen at all. The utilitarian dilemma… the civic dilemma which we all face when buying a light bulb or voting.

  6. gary
    March 24, 2014 at 9:10 am — Reply

    Tyler Durden — the Bad Guy, if you could call him that, was actually trying to free the Good Guy, if you could call him that. The problem was never the intent/motivation, it was how he went about doing it.

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