I’m not certain if you’ll find “The Sexy Evil Couple” on TVTropes, although I might be a little surprised if you couldn’t find them under a different name. What I mean by “the sexy evil couple”, in any case, is the trope or cliche of two main villains, one male, one female, who are in a relationship and spend all of their screen time together having sex and plotting evil plots. They can be plotting before, during, or after, but their pillow talk is always evil plots. This couple is always heterosexual; the male is very frequently some important figure, like a general, the female often The Evil Priestess or possibly even a Femme Fatale (although if this is the case, it’s quite likely she’ll cheat on her man with a hero at some point). Both members are always really attractive, at least by arbitrary cultural standards.
I hate the Sexy Evil Couple.
Let me give you the rundown on why, and what my suggestions are if you would like to have an evil couple in your story.
Reason number one: As You Know, Bob.
Some of you may know what this is, but allow me to explain for those of you who don’t. The “As You Know, Bob” is a situation in which two or more characters are discussing something they both already know for the purpose of letting the viewer/reader in on the information, too. An example might be a pair of thieves discussing their plans to mug the high-profile target they were hired to mug. It’s indicated that the thieves are not making the plans for the first time. Their conversation will contain things like, “So just like we planned” and “Don’t forget that” or “Such and such, right?” and “…as was planned”. To be clear, this is not a mere reminder, but two characters talking about something that’s unrealistic for them to be discussing because they already know. Hence, the name of the cliche. There’s no reason for them to talk about it because they already know.
What does “As you know, Bob” have to do with the Sexy Evil Couple? Easy: they’re one of the biggest perpetrators of it! As if to indicate that the Sexy Evil Couple is very sexy and very evil, they meet up to have sex and be evil quite often and participate in “As You Know, Bob” conversations.
Reason number two: They don’t follow some of my points of villainy.
If you read my Five Main Points of Villainy, which you should have, you’ll know what I mean when I say the Sexy Evil Couple always has something to prove. The things they have to prove is that they’re sexy, and that they’re evil. That’s why they’re having sex and “evil” conversations all the time. Because if they’re having sex, obviously they’re sexy, right? Just like if they plot all the time, they’re evil? Except then they leave the bedroom and almost always completely fail to succeed at all in any of their evil plots. And the way they’re always all over each other makes me think more of a couple of awkward teenagers than anything truly sexy. I’ve never seen a Sexy Evil Couple that wasn’t trying their hardest to prove they were both sexy and evil by their deeds alone, and I’m never impressed. Disgusted, sure, but never impressed. And what good is a Sexy Evil Couple that is neither sexy, nor evil? In fact, they’re barely a couple, which brings me to
Reason three: Their relationship sucks.
“Well of course it does! They’re evil!”
HEY. Evil has standards, too. Besides, a relationship is all about trust. Evil can trust!
“A relationship’s about trust, sure, but it’s also about love! Evil cannot love!”
Hm. It can’t? We’ll have to discuss that one later. But trust me – you want to have a good relationship, built it on trust as your #1 priority.
In any case, all that the Sexy Evil Couple’s relationship is built upon is lust. Lust for each other. Lust for power. Lust for…each other again. How often does the couple break up when the plan doesn’t work out? How often does Male Portion turn on Female Portion for “failing” to get the Macguffin or killing the Chosen One? How often does Female Portion, who has no real attachment to Male Portion, end up schmoozing around the male Hero, or another male character? I’ll give you a hint: in my experience, all the time. Well, at least the two former parts. The female doesn’t always cheat. But they basically always break apart.
I’m a little tetchy when it comes to writing relationships. I want to see them written well – realistically. I don’t mean I always want to see good relationships, but I do want to see realistic ones. And realistically, how often is a relationship two serpents writhing around? Now wait, when you say “all the time”, you’re thinking of what the media makes it out to be. Stop and think about real life, your own experiences, your friends’, you family’s’. Most relationships are not just two people who are just so sexy and they just have sex all the time. And actually, relationships like that are super boring; being in that relationship, believe it or not, would be super boring after a time. Evil need not be so shallow.
Finally, reason four: Mary Sue much?
That’s right. Just like the Sexy Evil Couple is a breeding ground for As You Know, Bob, it’s a breeding ground for Mary Sue-type villains. (Don’t know what a Mary Sue is? Check out one of my first posts, So You Want To Write A Villain. There’s a handy link that should explain it quite neatly – in comic form!) Mary Sue characters aren’t compelling and they’re boring to read about. Often you find that the writer is either writing a fantasy partner, or a fantasy version of themselves. Mary Sue villains are no exception. The Sexy Evil Couple will often be little more than a sexual fantasy of the writer – because sometimes the idea of having a sexy, evil partner is…fun…I guess. And then they plot to remind us they’re evil together. And their plans are just so perfect and evil until the perfect and perfectly good hero triumphs. Not interesting.
So I hate the Sexy Evil Couple…but I don’t hate couples that consist of two evil people. I don’t even hate two incredibly sexy evil people who are in a relationship. What’s the difference? How do you write a sexy yet evil couple without making a Sexy Evil Couple?
1. Don’t define the couple by the fact that they’re sexy or evil. Define it first by the fact that they’re a couple, and by the individual personalities. Write the couple part first. Just as evilness has to be innate in a single villain, evilness has to be innate in both villains before they get together. Likewise for the sexiness.
2. Give the couple some privacy. Sexiness, I think, is probably more the air of mystery about a person. If you have to be overt about their sex, you’re probably doing it wrong. In fact, that’s one of the major problems with our culture and ‘sexy’. “Boobs hanging out and well-muscled pecs laid bare are sexy. Carefully choreographed sex is sexy. Short skirts that leave little to the imagination, sexy!” No. It’s uncreative, is what it is. Trying too hard. If you want to go for the sex appeal, you have to tease, not overtly show off. Also, their behavior together – having them always slinking over each other and touching and kissing and stuff – that’s not sexy, that’s hugely gross. Small, knowing glances, tiny, curling smiles, little winks…be subtle. Subtle will be your key to sexy.
3. Make the relationship real. Real fights, over things like giving and taking, not just killing the Chosen One. Maybe even have them argue over chores. Who does the dishes? You could actually make it hilarious – “Well you killed our slave so you need to do the dishes!” There are other things too. “You never listen to me.” “You don’t consider my feelings.” “I need you to touch me more/less” (and I don’t mean that in a sexual way). Watch couples. Ask couples about what sorts of conflicts they have.
The bottom line is, you have to remember a good story is about people. The Sexy Evil Couple aren’t people, they’re porn. They don’t represent any aspect of real life which, as a writer, even of fiction, should be your goal; that’s what’s interesting to read. And that’s why I hate The Sexy Evil Couple.