Sorry for the lateness, minions!
A common enough of a theme is for the villain to be defeated by the power of friendship. Friendship is, after all, amazingly powerful, second perhaps only to the power of love.
The power of friendship is so great, it has a multitude of children’s shows dedicated to it, and also tends to get its own episodes in many other shows.
Here’s the thing: I don’t have a problem with evil’s misunderstanding of friendship. The primordial evil could not actually hope to grasp the concept of friendship because friendship is a type of love and love is selfless and evil, true Evil, is selfish and therefore Love and Evil are opposites. But we are a unique people because we are mortal and mortals are not abstract concepts like Love and Evil. Mortals are a weird bunch who are gray, who are a little bit everything.
What this means is that while Evil can never hope to understand friendship, your villain probably isn’t Evil. Your villain is probably evil, adjective, but not Evil, noun. Get it? Your villain is not The Primordial Evil.
Your villain is a human, or a human-like being. And humans understand friendship, generally speaking. There are people who are not particularly evil who are crappy friends, sure. But there is absolutely no reason why your villain shouldn’t understand friendship. That doesn’t mean that your villain can assume that two heroes aren’t as good as friends as they think they are, or that altruism doesn’t exist. Enough decent people don’t believe in altruism and therefore don’t think anyone, even the best of friends, would ultimately act altruistically. But to assume your villain doesn’t understand or believe in altruism, and is always going to miss that important part of true friendship is to put your villain in the Villain Box, that crappy, limiting place where villains aren’t real people but just another stupid trope.
Don’t do that.
Also, this whole “your friendship is weakness” business, it’s nonsense. It really is. Surely an intelligent evil being can recognize that a bond as strong as true friendship is freaking amazing and more powerful than one selfish person alone. SURELY your villain can recognize that. And unless your villain is somehow isolated or so black-hearted or so selfish that they’ve become less than human – whether they were to start or not – your villain probably would like to have a friendship so strong and should be capable of it because mortals are insanely multi-faceted and complex and can be heartless and cruel and loving and kind all at once.
Consider a member of the Klan. Obviously a Klan member must be an incredibly hateful individual to want to treat another human being so wretchedly. But a Klan member could easily be a loving husband and father, too. We don’t like to hear that because our minds don’t want to reconcile that good and evil can reside within the same person simultaneously. When we hear of the Evil Priest, we say, oh, he’s just pretending, but it’s quite possible for the Evil Priest to take excellent care of his flock, to be a good priest, even if he’s also a terrible person.
So your villain’s right-hand man and general may also be his best friend. And they might have a true, beautiful relationship. Maybe the villain is friends with the hero – actually friends. That one is common enough. Maybe your villain respects the friendships the hero has and plans accordingly.
Does this mean that you shouldn’t defeat the villain with the power of friendship?
No way. There are still the robots who don’t get it, the Adams (meaning, Adam from Buffy; the Addams Family surely understands friendship), the primordial evils, the far-gone, twisted men. Friendship is awesome and people who don’t understand its power will find themselves at its mercy, and there ARE those who don’t understand its power.
Just…not every villain should be clueless. And hey, maybe you can have a role reversal. Maybe your lone wolf almost anti-hero protagonist doesn’t understand friendship and finds himself ambushed by villain friends.
Edit: This is my 100th post! Thanks to everyone who enjoys this blog – your support is what keeps me going!