I had every intention of getting this done on Sunday past. Or even before. But then that didn’t happen. And then the free time I have at work didn’t happen last week, so here I am about a week later. Sorry, Fathers! Guess you’re just not as cool as mothers.
No, I’m kidding. Dads are awesome, and evil fathers are just as important as evil mothers! What could be more fabulous than the foreboding figure that fits as both a role model and an ominous threat in his child’s life?* Consider the father, a person that cares for a child who he could have, quite possibly, had very little to do with their existence. Procreation is such a quick little act that has precious little in the conscious mind to do with a baby. (Well, unless that was the only purpose of the act.) And after the fact, who has all the burden of the consequences? Who has a change in eating behavior, sickness, mood swings, increased vulnerability to sickness? Who feels kicks and punches? Who has labor pains? The cost of a procreative act is, to a man, perhaps an hour or four maximum, and can be as few as about fifteen minutes. The cost to a woman are nine crazy months minimum, and, in our current society, eighteen to thirty plus years. So of course, with detachment like that*, the father will be mysterious, distant, ominous.
*Yeah, my dad wasn’t distant or foreboding. And there are many, many great dads who are excellent participants in their children’s lives. I’m clearly trying to describe a dramatic stereotype that would be useful in crafting a villain father.
The first two evil dads that come to mind both have one thing in common: they weren’t there for their son’s childhood. The first is one we should all know.
Darth Vader cannot be said to be a poor father, however. Well, except for the part where it was his fault his children grew up without their real parents and had to be separated from birth. And the part where he was not there for their childhood, and probably also the whole capture of Leia and destroying her home and slicing off Luke’s hand and…okay, he could be said to be a poor father. But he did have ambitions goals for them, just like any good father, and he did want Luke to change profession to something more respectable – go from Jedi to Sith and ruler of the universe. That’s just like telling your boy he can’t be an actor because he needs to be a doctor! Not only has that never turned out badly for anyone ever at any time, but it’s just what good dads do! And let’s not forget how happy he was to find out he had children in the first place. (You can’t take my headcanon from me!)
The important thing here is even though Luke and Vader are posed as enemies, the dynamic shifts about as familial relationships are revealed. The both of them do not continue to just fight each other as regular old enemies. There’s no, Oh, he’s my father? Eh, okay, whatever! I see, he’s my son? Great, that news was just distracting enough for me to cut him down! No. You don’t and shouldn’t just ignore familial relationships or else they’re pointless. Hatred and anger is a dangerous thing in Star Wars anyway, but I think Luke’s resistance of the dark side was easier because Vader was his father. There’s love there. There’s the desire to put aside everything and just have a family. And that’s not lost on the side of evil, either. I don’t think it’s just Luke’s powers that are attractive to Vader, to draw him to the dark side.
And what about that other father?
General Tarquin changes up his entire game when his long-lost son meets him for the first time. Their relationship is very…interesting, as it is far more obvious that Tarquin has ambitions and adoration for his son, and that Elan wants Tarquin to switch his evil alignment to good. The family dynamic is done quite well as Tarquin’s mounting frustration at his son’s refusal to be the main character clashes up with Elan’s realization that maybe his dad is just evil. And with a genre-savvy villain like Tarquin, it’s no easy task to fight him. Were it not for the fact that Tarquin wanted Elan to defeat him in a very specific manner, a TPK might have been more urgently impending at Tarquin’s hand.
Both of these fathers appear to have a vision of what they want their child to be – a common trait for fathers.
Fathers and their children fight without having a dynamic of opposing alignments, so when writing father-son/daughter relationships when one’s good and the other is evil, draw on arguments you might have had with your own dad, or the fights a friend has had with theirs, for inspiration of how the fighting should go down. There’s a lot more to a villain than just trying to kill him – and vice versa for a villain in opposing the heroes.
It seems to me not uncommon either for the father to be a villain, not as an overlord, but just from being an absolutely horrible person. Or a not-that-great person. If an MC is abused, it was probably by a father, or step-father. Of course abuse is a pretty big spectrum – you don’t have to have a man mercilessly beat his child to be abusive.
Jecht is an interesting father to address, since it seems in the time span between leaving Zanarkand and becoming Sin, he developed in a way to suggest he might not have been so derogatory of Tidus. But if anyone wants to argue he’s not really a villain, even if he became Sin – who shows up as the villain in Dissidia for X? Is it Seymour? (I still feel like it should have been Seymour. But then again, that would mean spending any more time around Seymour…) No. It’s Jecht.
Then again, I am one to buck whatever the writers say…maybe Jecht isn’t, ultimately, a villain. Another post for another day, but that still doesn’t make him any better of a father, and where he needs to fit that “I caused daddy issues in the MC muahaha” role, he does.
But what about evil fathers, even evil overlord fathers, who are present in their children’s lives? Does that make them any less evil?
Actually, it may make them more evil. And it may seem more impressive that the child did not turn out terribly as well, with both nature and nurture working on them. Straff Venture might not have paid especial attention to Elend, however, since Elend wasn’t born with any cool powers of Allomancy and when you’re a horrific douchebag, you have to have posterity who can do more than buck societal norms, bringing shame to your family name, and read banned literature all day. But there’s still the signs he at least tried to make something useful of Elend. And like all great evil fathers who produce children for their own glory and not the usual reasons, he is of course eager to have Elend killed as soon as possible when he starts to be a nuisance.
Why do I think Straff is possibly more evil*? When the story starts up, we can see all of the things Straff does, but we also get to dip into his past as Elend tells Vin about things that happened in his childhood as well. A whole evil picture is painted, or maybe stretched out like those portraits in The Haunted House at Disney. Certainly, a different character could reveal past misdeeds, but there seems to be something far more potent when a child of that character is talking about them. If you ever try this technique, however, be sure to use tact in when information reveals are made, or it won’t be potent at all.
*More evil than he could have been, I don’t mean more evil than people I’ve already mentioned.
So happy father’s day a week and a day ago, evil fathers! We know you’re just as important in ruining the lives of your children as mothers are.