The expectation for the disgusting holiday that is Valentine’s Day is cute couples doing gooey romantic crap. Throw in the expectation that, for whatever stupid reason, guys are doing something for their girl (because non-hetero relationships don’t exist on Vtines day, just like how single people become semi-invisible) and there you have it.
This year, Deadpool broke box office records for an R rated film. It was a more successful Valentines movie than 50 Shades of Grey [fistpump]. I didn’t go see it, because I’m sensitive to high amounts of gore. But I think it’s hilarious that Deadpool was the Valentines movie this year. It’s a reversal of expectations that’s hilarious. Women who aren’t into comics treating their boyfriends and husbands for once. Women who are having the time of their lives watching it. Something that’s not actually romantic at all is the highlight of what is supposed to be a romantic holiday. (Reminder that I don’t have a problem with romance; I have a problem with commercialized romance.)
Some might find this reversal of expectations to be hilarious, all these people seein’ Deadpool instead of buying flowers or chocolate or going out to eat somewhere fancy or having a Singles Awareness party. Some more reserved people might find it appalling that this graphic R rated movie was the blockbuster.
But you gotta let people do Valentines their own way. Especially single people for whom the holiday was evilly specifically made to exclude to increase ice cream and pizza sales. Or something.
Which brings me to the reversal of expectations with villains. I’ve mentioned before that a villain tends to celebrate holidays his own way, though maybe he should just get into the normal holiday spirit. But it’s that reversal of expectations that makes the way they celebrate the holiday interesting. Sure, a reversal of expectations can be really funny. But the reversal of expectations can also make the villain far more terrifying in two ways.
A friend wrote a thesis on why Hannibal Lector’s introduction is the best villain introduction ever.
Sure, there are lots of other great ones, like Vader’s, but his reasoning is relevant to the topic. The main character passes through a lot of crap – gates that could be interpreted as the literal gates of Hell, psychopaths that act like we’d expect, calling out incredibly creepy and scummy things to her, dark, dingy, and then…the immaculate, polite and civilized Hannibal. That juxtaposition is terrifying.
It’s terrifying because it’s not what we’d expect of a horrifying, menacing, the worst possible worse than all of those other guys, psycho. I mean, you have all those crazy creepy psychos that are the stuff of nightmares and here’s this guy who is supposed to be worse and he’s so much worse that he’s flipped around to better like a score that got so high it flipped around to zero again. The villain is the reversal of expectations and it’s really scary.
The other one is contrasting the circumstances. You have something like Valentine’s Day. You have a psychopath who acts exactly like you, the audience, expect a terrifying psycohpath to act. He says to his captive victim he plans on celebrating Valentine’s Day with her.
You don’t need to know what his plans are for that to be horrifying. You know what the expectation of a Valentine’s celebration is. Chocolate, flowers, kissing, closeness with someone else, romance. And here’s this guy with your expected warped view who is going to reverse all the Valentine’s expectations and it’ll be super scary.
You don’t have to have Lector do anything for us to be afraid of him at the start of the film. What about Kingpin? When Daredevil gets information out of an assassin – a cold-blooded, unflappable killer – who then would rather kill himself than deal with Kingpin, all the expectations we have about tough assassins, not being afraid of anything, reverse into fear of Kingpin.
Reversal of expectations can be hilarious but if it’s not funny, it’s probably a great way to make your villain scary fast.