As I realize that it’s nearly 7:00 on a Monday again and once again, due to the distractions of the tiny sociopath that runs my life now, I’ve failed to write a blog post, it occurs to me that while it’s amusing to refer to a baby as a tiny sociopath, it’s not necessarily fair to call her that. It’s entirely accurate, she meets enough qualifications due to being totally selfish and lacking any sort of empathy, but it’s unfair. And it’s unfair because she hasn’t finished developing yet. Despite the fact that she’s the daughter of an evil overlord, I’m sure she’ll learn a nice, deep empathy for others, especially once we become insane enough to have another one and she’ll have to learn how to share.
While I plan on later writing a post about what makes a villain a villain, I wanted to talk about when villainous qualities don’t make a villain. After all, we don’t try to diagnose babies as sociopaths no matter how many times she purposefully reaches for my hair and yanks it with all her might or pinches the back of my arm when I’m trying to feed her and laughs when I say “Augh, no, child! Stop! Aaagh!”
This goes somewhat with the Hero is the Villain concept in that sometimes, the heroes accidentally help the bad guys but didn’t mean to do so. However, as soon as the heroes recognize that they were on the wrong side or did the wrong thing, they turn around and try to right their wrongs ASAP. Even if they performed something that helped the side of evil, their actions weren’t evil (I mean, maybe, it’s possible that they stole something or killed someone or something along those lines) and more importantly, their intentions were pure. While pure intentions aren’t everything when it comes to end effects, they do matter significantly when it comes to individuals. Good people mess up badly sometimes. We’re human, we make mistakes, and sometimes we’re tricked and deceived or just don’t know any better. Like a baby pulling mom’s hair. Doing something wrong doesn’t make a character a villain, it just makes them human.
Innocent intentions with terrible actions – not good intentions, as I was speaking of in the paragraph prior, but innocent – also does not particularly make someone evil. Consider Of Mice and Men. Lenny is not a villain. He’s not evil. But he did kill a woman. And also some animals.
He did it because he’s like a giant, super-strong baby, kind of like the one from Spirited Away except that, in a weird turn of events, that baby actually was kind of mean-spirited and hardly innocent at all, at least at first.
All the same, this baby is not a villain, he’s just, in the words of Zaniba his aunt, a spoiled brat who is MC Chihiro’s friend by the end of the movie. Instead of threatening to get Chihiro killed, he threatens not to like his own mother if she doesn’t let Chihiro go. But hey, he’s a baby, he’s spoiled, he’s trying to get his way in a way that’s inappropriate, but he has room for growth; he already has grown a little, by then.
When it comes to innocent intent, you get a moral dilemma. That’s the reason I didn’t originally like Of Mice and Men much – I felt it was wrong to kill Lenny. He wasn’t evil, he didn’t mean to kill anyone. Destroying him isn’t stopping a villain. But destroying him may be necessary.
Why does it make a difference? Well, again, moral dilemma. Maybe the protagonist doesn’t shoot Lenny. Maybe he does and it changes him forever. Maybe he’s a murderer for shooting Lenny.
But more importantly, if you can’t distinguish between someone who does evil things and someone who IS evil, you can’t hope to write a villain. Don’t forget that motive is everything and that a villain does evil things because he is evil, not the other way around. If your character is blundering around doing evil, lacking intent, your character just has problems or is underdeveloped or is confused but he is not a villain and to say otherwise is to diminish actual villains.
So even though it looks like we’re going for a second week of waking up at 2 or 3 am and crying for the rest of the night, my baby isn’t doing this to me on purpose and she therefore can’t possibly be a villain. To think otherwise would be insane.