Villain Chat: Traits of a Villain

The design of villains seems to follow a certain mold. More often than not, villains are familiar even if you’ve never seen them before. I have seen dozens of movies that have scarred, Russian gangsters starring as the lead antagonist. I always expect it, it’s the most traveled route for a movie villain, yet it’s still almost always scary. However, not until very recently have I started questioning why all these go-to traits exist. 

GoldenEye, Rocky IV,  and Air Force One. There are so many Russian villains, the internet has dozens of top 10 lists for who’s the best one. Surely, it’s not just Russians, there is the occasional Nazi thrown in there, but for the most part, Russians take the lead. Any banged up, scarred, thick accented, democracy opposing tough guy is the perfect pick for a role as a villain in any American action movie. I believe the answer as to why is right in that sentence. Democracy opposing foreigner. Films were designed to distract people from the hard times. The war filled, economy trashing, poverty stricken, old days. Except those problems still exist, therefore villains posing as metaphors still exist.Golden-Eye-stills-famke-janssen-18563551-2277-1485Anything that poses a threat to the good ol’ hunky dory, red, white, and blue USA is terrifying to people. So if you really want to scare them in the theater, project all that danger onto one person. Cold War? Get the biggest, most communist-y, red flag flying Russian you can find, and cast him as the lead bad guy. You’ll walk out of that theater feeling patriotic as fuck. You’ll fear the enemy, support your country, hang a flag on your porch, all because of that big blonde boxer in Rocky IV.

Take that, Communism!

Find what republic intimidates the United States, add some explosions, and you’ve got an intense and spooky box office hit. People love to see good guys prevailing, and when there’s a foreigner involved, the US is always the good guy. Add a big nose, one of those nice long face scars, maybe a wonky eye, boom. Perfect villain. The scars make them ugly & seem tough, the weird eyes make them mysterious. All the traits of something trying to put up a fight against the United States. Now, I don’t really like that this seems to be the method of creating a villain. It generalizes a whole people. It paints all Russians as crazed communists, all people with scars as evil, all Germans as wing nut Nazis. Yet, I do have to admit that it is a clever tactic from a movie industry perspective. They’ve gone an easy & clear route by taking an enemy of the country, and just making them an enemy on screen too. In that, they go straight for the juggler, and scare the socks off of you because it feels much more real that a monster or ogre. What I really do fear, though, is what this makes people who possess those traits or who are of those countries think about America and the extremes of our entertainment industry.

Admittedly, Rocky IV is probably my favorite Rocky movie, though.









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