So it’s Memorial Day. Seeing as how an artist should be able to draw inspiration from their surroundings, and seeing how one of the biggest problems with villains is that they tend to be some sort of essence of evil more than actual people in the situations where they should definitely be people, let’s talk about the red shirt problem with villains.
Red shirts, as I hope you know, are infamous for dying. Not just dying, but dying as a totally disposable character. No one really cares about a red shirt dying. And the minions of the overlord are often nothing more than red shirts.
We as real human beings do our best not to allow our own to be red shirts. The closest military connections I have personally are those I married into, so it’s hard for me to think very much on the lives of soldiers lost; there are those who despise soldiers as dogs of the State at best. But still, they’re not just red shirts. We still try to honor courageous men, and society as a whole often still tries to remember that people died.
You don’t see a lot of this on the villain side of things. This makes me sad. We really should. We really should be seeing more of a villain actually mourning the loss of his companions rather than just giving it a, “Whatever!” when they fall. We really should be seeing villains not so closely attached to his men giving speeches about the valor of those that died and that their memory will not be in vain.
I mean, there’s all that rap about how it’s easier to be feared than loved but your villain can be loved and still be evil. I mean, villains and their mooks have feelings too. And if your villain thinks he’s right, then chances are good that he’s much more of a person than primordial evil.
If nothing else, manpower is an important resource and it’s frustrating to be down on that. Anyone who’s played a video game with soldiers or villagers knows what I’m talking about. And harvesting more of that resource may well require a villain at least pretend to care about the deaths of his men. Something in the vein of a Memorial Day would go far for that. A whole holiday to commemorate your sacrifice if you die – much better than a shrug and an, “eh”.
So keep up on drawing inspiration from the things around you, and give your villains just a little more humanity a piece at a time. Like in his relationship with his minions, including the dead ones.