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Story Addict, whose blog I enjoy, just posted on villains who taunt the hero. Her post was particularly insightful and you should definitely read it to learn more about typical hero/villain dynamics.

In the process of responding to that post though, my mind turned to another type of villain, less common than the taunting sort, but in my opinion, more interesting and much more scary.  I’m thinking about villains who care.

They’re convinced they’re doing the right thing.  Maybe they pursue a noble end that they feel would justify destroying several innocents along the way.  Or maybe they really do think their way is best for everybody involved, as they kill the hero with twisted kindness.  Maybe out of hatred for one person who committed injustice they attack all members of the same religion/race/society (all in the name of love for the injured, of course). Obviously, they don’t work in every story, but when they do, they scare me even more than Sauron and all his mindless orcs.  You can chop down a minion without too much guilt, but what do you do against someone who tries to kill you with love?

Here are a few of my favorite “kind” villains:

1. Christof (The Truman Show):  The villain who made me the angriest of all time is last on this list, but Christof is a close second.  The first time I watched the Truman Show, during the most intense part of the action, I remember saying of him and his workers “If they [bleep bleep bleep (I’m avoiding a spoiler here)], then I hope somebody kills them ALL!”  Out loud.  They were twisted, twisted all the way through.  But when I finally got to the end of the story, and after watching it again multiple times (I love that movie), I discovered that I can’t really hate Christof.  Not completely.  Not when I watch his final struggle to keep Truman in the bubble.  Christof doesn’t hate Truman, he loves him.  But in the attempt to become Truman’s god and give him a perfect life, he stifles him.  He believes, till the very end, that what he’s doing to Truman is exactly the right thing, and that’s scary.

My apologies here for showing the ending here, after I already tried so hard to avoid spoiling it.  I wanted to show that awesome scene where Sylvia calls in and Christof tells her that “Truman prefer’s his cell,” but that’s nowhere on YouTube so this will have to do. It proves my point just as well anyhow.

2. HAL 9000 (2001: A Space Odyssey):  Referring to HAL as a “villain who cares” is a little bit inaccurate, since we don’t know for sure that HAL is capable of caring.  But we do know that HAL believes himself to be in the right.  His decisions to destroy the humans he works with are not malicious, but carefully calculated for the benefit of what HAL believes to be his purpose, and through it all, his interface remains calm and polite.  “I’m sorry Dave.  I’m afraid I can’t do that… This conversation can serve no purpose anymore.”   Being a machine, he’s just doing what he’s been programmed to do, so he’s impossible to hate.  He’s not angry, but he’s incapable of being persuaded, and that is creepy.

3. Professor Umbridge (Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix/the Deathly Hallows):   I must not tell lies… I must not tell lies….   You could argue that Umbridge doesn’t count as a caring villain either, since she does, underneath her bubbly, chipper exterior, have some genuine malice for Harry and his friends.  However, after paying attention to Umbridge, I’m convinced that she really does think she’s in the right.  She thinks Harry’s lying to get attention and must be punished.  She thinks Dumbledore is dangerous and must be punished.  She thinks muggle-borns are usurping the power of the pure bloods and must be punished.  She has stupidly fallen right into line with all of the ministry propaganda, no matter how ridiculous, which is why she can say, in all her infuriating sincerity, “You know, deep down that you deserve to be punished.”

Hopefully you enjoyed this.  Please feel free to comment (at the top of the page) about your own favorite “nice” villains.