That one holiday that a bunch of people celebrate, including myself, is coming up. So it seems only appropriate I write something concerning villains and Christmas, or at least villains and holidays.
Villains and holidays seem to be represented in one of two ways: the villain tries to destroy the holiday, or the villain celebrates the holiday and it’s comical in some way. There may also be the situation where the villain legitimately celebrates the holiday.
If a villain is trying to destroy a holiday, there’s a few ways it can go. The villain can be stopped, or the villain can learn that (generally speaking) an abstract concept can’t really be stolen.
I did say generally speaking. Anyway a holiday is an abstract concept and trying to destroy elements of it won’t really work, of course, and destroying all that the holiday stands for only might work. Hopefully if the villain learns that the holiday can’t be stolen, the villain also learns a valuable lesson. The lesson does not have to be the same kind as our Grinch learned, which changed his heart. Kind of literally, actually. But some lesson probably ought to be learned.
I hope if your villain tries to destroy a holiday, he has a good reason and it’s not just “I’m evil, holidays are good, so I want to kill it ‘cuz evil”. With the Grinch, I’m not upset because it’s a children’s story that was about the end where the Grinch learns Christmas is (or should be) love, not consumerism, so why he hates Christmas doesn’t really matter. And at least Suess indicated the Grinch probably had a reason, just no one knows why. (What do you mean, we know the reason? The reason was never ever revealed. Ever.) However, parts of Christmas seemed to legitimately bother the Grinch. Noisy kids and their new toys. Singing. The obnoxious, copious amounts of cheer. So even in saying “No one knows the reason”, Seuss still gives us some reasons!
And then there’s this guy.
It’s not that he hates Christmas because it’s Christmas, it’s that his heart starts off frosted over and he is a bitter old man. Christmas is not a good time for a bitter old man. It’s warm and cheerful and full of love for man. And if you hate men….well, you’re not going to enjoy Christmas.
I don’t think Scrooge is a villain (or is he? Hm. He kind of is, isn’t he? Until he’s defrosted, anyway) but he’s a great example as to why someone might not like Christmas. You get your girl to break up with you on Christmas, you get greedy and hate how people expect generosity around Christmas, you become cold and you hate the one thing that provides warmth in winter: Australia*. No, wait, Christmas.
*and other places on the other side of the equator.
What about villains that “celebrate” Christmas?
Whether it’s because their celebration of the holiday is warped and twisted, or because no one can take their celebrating Christmas seriously, not even the narrative, there’s just something off about the celebration of Christmas with these villains. It seems as though they’re celebrating, but the plot may well be to stop their celebration ASAP.
The fun of these kinds of villains is warping the celebrations, I think. Of course, as a twisted individual, I find twisted thinking to be insane amounts of fun. And there’s several levels of twisted: cartoony violence like the Joker where the gifts are bombs – you could make the security guns shoot exploding Christmas lights. More gruesome ideas where the tinsel on the tree’s been replaced by entrails. Evil make-over where the tree itself is a withered, needle-less thing and all the lights are more reminiscent of Halloween.
How to do it, exactly, will depend on your character. Whether or not this is an actual problem that can attract the attention of your heroes or just hilarious side-show will depend on the ‘how’, and also writerly preference.
But what if your villain is legitimately trying to have a happy holiday?
This representation is so rare, I can only think of the one example, and it’s but an example of sorts. However I feel like I’d be mistaken if I said I’d never really come across it either.
I wonder why it is the case that villains basically never seem to really legitimately celebrate holidays. The holiday is the distraction they need to execute their plan. The holiday is a warm, fuzzy time and because villains are apparently incapable of the warm fuzzies, they must convert that fuzzy into their own warped understanding…or they must destroy it. Why can’t a villain stick up Christmas lights on his fortress and make a snowman with his minions and leave oranges in their sword sheaths? Where are the villains that light candles or send out cards or light fireworks and pull poppers? For modern holidays, the only one a villain will legitimately celebrate is Halloween, it seems, and all too legitimately at that.
Your villain is a person. Never forget that. And people have traditions and celebrate the day off and tend to like gifts, sometimes they like giving almost as much as getting gifts! Not all villains are the mastermind overlords with minions either, so if he isn’t, it may be even more appropriate for your villain to celebrate the holiday – but even if he is, it could still be appropriate.
Consider what holidays might be meaningful to your character. If it’s in anything of a modern world, remember that you don’t have to be of a Christian denomination to celebrate Christmas, and also there are several other holidays around December. Hanukkah, we all know. We’re all aware of the name ‘Kwanza’. There’s also Yule. Sometimes there are Islamic holidays that fall near Christmas (they’re on a Lunar calendar so you might want to look things up first. Maybe it’s just the one holiday. I’m less familiar with Islamic holidays). And that’s just the winter “happy holidays” holidays. There are several other holidays around the year. Your story takes place in the future? What new holidays might there be? In the past? There were way more holidays in Europe at least, since that’s the only time the workers got off. On another planet? Don’t forget holidays! Holidays are an important part of culture and your villain should at least recognize them, if not also celebrate them.
Take a moment to do a writing exercise. Even if your characters do not have Christmas, if you don’t have any sort of equivalent holiday, especially if you don’t have any holidays at all, take your characters and write them in a Christmas scene (or whatever winter holiday, whatever). See how they react to the traditions, what traditions they’ve made themselves, what they do, how they feel about things. Remember your villains are people too when you write them. It’s okay if they don’t like the holiday, if they don’t want to celebrate, if they want to ruin it for others, or if they’re just so bad at celebrating, they deck the halls with gasoline, light a match and watch it gleam, burn the mansion down to ashes, think it’s fun to play with matches.
But then, maybe your villain does like the holidays. Maybe he’s the the merriest caroler of them all.