Why Darth Vader is a Good Role Model for Young Villains – I hope you’re reading this, Vector.
"The Emperor is not as forgiving as I am."
I will start by answering two questions: Why is Darth Vader so awesome? Why do I need to explain why Darth Vader is so awesome?
Darth Vader is the second most powerful and evil ruler in the galaxy. His Jedi powers are the strongest of them all. In the first scene of A New Hope, we see him stepping over the remains of some dead officers, which tells you everything you need to know about him without telling you anything at all. He has a wicked outfit that was designed in the 70’s and still looks cool today. He forgives people and then kills them. He is obedient to his master, and holds his own subordinates to the same high standard. A good strategic planner, Vader is not impulsive nor a procrastinator.
Let’s not forget about his world-renowned theme song by John Williams, which still sends shivers up my back after 30 years.
Why do I need to explain this? Because I saw a sissy villain in the Green Hornet and in my review I said, “Darth Vader never would have done that”. Then it bothered me so much that I wrote this spin-off article.
When I was brushing up on my villain knowledge, I noticed that www.movievillains.com rated their villains based on these qualities: Intelligence, power, vileness, sway, purity, physical. (Purity being, how devoted ARE you to evilness?)
I agree with this method of measuring villainability. However, since I am doing my own study, I will set those strengths aside for now. Please keep them in mind, and remember that those six attributes are the foundation for villainry.
The qualities I’ll be looking at are only adding to it. They are what make a strong villain stronger, and more importantly, they give you an emotional attachment you did not even know you had.
Awesome Qualities for an Awesome Villain:
Motivation, Reasons for Sympathy, Control, Imperfection
These four things allow you to feel for the villain and identify with their flaws. Mixed with that, you are angry at them for not being able to deal with their issues.
“I get jealous. I have abandonment issues. You don’t see me starting an evil empire!” you say. So it’s sympathy + anger = interest.
Then you have the control. A good villain will have earned respect from their subordinates, and will not be desperate or resort to stupid things to keep them in line. When other characters respect them, you will too.
So let’s take a closer look at this crafty caped Jedi:
What does Darth Vader want? On the outside, he wants power and rulership. On the inside? To fill that big empty hole in his heart that has grown a little bit every day since he left his wife and kids for evil pursuits.
Unlike his son, Vader fell prey to a very real case of grass-is-greener syndrome. He suffered depression and anxiety when he was young, and when you’re dealing with this on a daily basis, what appeals to you is what you do not have. “Once I have this, then everything will be better.” he thought. The problem is that this attitude doesn’t go away when you get what you want, and you end up missing the things you left behind. You realize that that was the closest you ever got to happiness, and now it’s gone. You crush those painful and icky feelings every morning when you wake up, and you convert it into motivation to gain more, to steal more, to kill more until you get what you want. Aww.
Why Darth Vader is Darth Vader Approved:
Motivation: Loneliness, emptiness, converted into ambition.
Sympathy: When he looks at his son burning and crying at the end of Return of the Jedi, you don’t need to see his face to see the pain.
Control: Vader doesn’t have to even threaten to choke you, you will do what he says. He has a presence that demands respect, even without his Jedi powers.
Imperfection: A perfect villain would have killed his son when he was vulnerably hanging handless in Cloud City. Did this happen? No. You might argue, “He knew Luke needed more time to think about it. It’s a big decision.” Was that really it? Or was Darth subconsciously procrastinating on doing the killy deed, so that he could “accidentally” get to know his estranged son better, and let him into his heart?
Let’s Take a Look at Some Other Villains
Rose, So I Married An Axe-Murderer
Please take a second to reflect on how freakish this lady is. Look at those eyes, full of jealousy and violent thoughts, watching you while you sleep, planning your slow and bloody demise. Concentrate….it makes you wonder why you didn’t suspect her at all in the beginning.
And what big teeth she has! Look at them, all off-color and drippy with rabid drool.
To brief you on Rose’s story, Charlie is in love with Harriet, and Rose is her sister. Charlie is afraid of marriage as it is, but after discovering evidence that Harriet has been married three times and has killed each of her husbands, Charlie tries to ignore it and marries her anyway. It doesn’t help that Harriet is “not comfortable” talking about her past! It turns out that her sister Rose, who only makes appearances here and there, is the killer. She doesn’t want anyone stealing her sister and only friend away.
Is Rose a Darth Vader Approved Villain?
Motivation: Jealousy, possessiveness, loneliness. Converted into murderousness.
Sympathy: It is painful letting go of your favorite sibling, and watching them take care of someone else’s needs instead of yours. Heck, I have probably tried to kill my sister-in-laws a couple times! It’s only natural.
Control: Control freak, MUCH?! She will do anything to keep Harriet doing what she wants, and has successfully axe-murdered 3 of her husbands to accomplish this. She’s not the whiny type.
Imperfection: She got cocky by the 4th axe-murdering attempt, and she allowed Charlie to find her note. She didn’t even make sure Harriet would be busy somewhere else while Charlie was getting chopped up. We all get sloppy when we notice we’re good at something.
Also, she fed Charlie froot loops and drew mysterious drawings while watching him eat.
The Red Queen, Alice in Wonderland
Brief history: She is the Queen of “Underland.” She usurped the throne quite forcefully from her sister, the White Queen who is in hiding.
Strengths: She is good at wiping the wacky smile off Johnny Depp’s face and having a big head.
Is the Red Queen Darth Vader Approved?
Motivation: fear of being unloved, converted into controlling everyone around her. Wanting attention.
Sympathy: You do have some sympathy for her, but here is where she fails: she is needy and fully admits twice in the movie that she just wants people to love her. Yes, I know I said it’s these types of issues that help you to love them, but the DV Approved villain would not only keep these dark feelings to themselves, they would push them so far down that it becomes a deep root that has grown into evil over many years.
Usually the villain cannot explain why he acts the way he acts because he has not dealt with the core problem. If you are, in fact, able to admit that you’re lonely and needy, you probably would never turn evil. You would just be annoying. Haha, just kidding. Never be afraid to talk about your feelings, kids.
Control: She tries to get control of everyone by offing heads if she’s not completely satisfied with them. I am not a fan of this. Yes, Darth Vader choked people but that is different because he would not do it if someone ate his cherry tart. That we know of. He was not willy nilly with his powers, in fact we only see him do it once or twice in the span of three movies.
Vader’s officers were obedient to him for other reasons than fear of death. With Red Queen, that was the only thing that kept people in line, and that is a weak strategy for getting people on your side. They will eventually revolt if they have no loyalty or any access to delicious cherry tarts.
Imperfection: Emotional decisions. She trusted Alice based completely on her being oversized like her head.
Darth Maul, Star Wars I: The Phantom Menace
Brief history: Darth Maul was the main bad guy in Star Wars I: The Phantom Menace. He is Emperor Palpatine’s Administrative Assistant, er, Sith Lord. He generally tries to protect the interests of the Empire. He fights Kwi Gon Jin and Obi-Wan with some wicked double-light-saber-to-the-face action, then he gets cut in half and tumbles to his death.
"Why don't you people ever die?" -X-Men
Does Darth Maul pass the Darth Vader Test?
Motivation: Not sure, he’s good at orders so maybe…fear of failure…? Keeps him from…succeeding? Oh I like that.
Sympathy: Not much, as we know little about his past.
Control: We don’t see him exercising much control over anyone since he is kind of a loner, and it’s seeing him in group situations that would help you get to know him better. It’s like dating.
Imperfection: Not enough to really notice.
I like Darth Maul, so it does pain me a little to say these things. The problem is that the Phantom Menace came out when I was 12 and I said “ooh face paint!” This kept me a fan of him for years. Then it occurred to me that yeah he looked cool. Yeah you respect him. But they could have done so much more with him. At the very least, Maul could have survived in Menace and been better developed in Clones.
No sympathy + no anger = no interest.
Brief History: He shows up, kills a gabby grammy, meets Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner. He tries to kill them. He kills Jennifer. But he does not succeed in killing Ben.
Does Bullseye pass the Darth Vader Approval test?
Sympathy: He has a target scar on his forehead and he needs to live up to this image. Some people might identify with that.
Control: Flicking peanuts into someone’s throat does not mean you have any leadership skills. I can’t stress that enough.
Imperfection: The movie tries really hard to make it look like he has no soul, but what they really end up doing is making no one care about him.
Lotso, Toy Story 3
Brief history: Lotso is a sweet and snuggly teddy bear that smells like strawberries! He is welcoming and fun and he wants you to be as comfortable as possible…in a jail cell surrounded by hyper-alert guard toys because he’s a freakin’ MOB BOSS!!
Is this villain approved by Darth Vader?
Motivation: abandoned at young age by little girl who left him out in the rain, then got a new Lotso. Bitter, lonely, traumatized. Converted into doing everything possible to never be hurt again. Lotso uses his bad memories to fuel his anger and vengeful spirit.
Sympathy: Oh there is tons of that! Not just because of what I said under motivation, but there is another toy who works for him who had been abandoned alongside him. When you see this toy’s suffering, you also see Lotso’s.
Control: He probably rates the best in this. He has all the toys at the daycare working for him, and he has cleverly tricked them into thinking they have a good deal.
Imperfection: Lotso had a chance to become a good person, and he did not take it out of pride. Now he is living every day dealing with his fears of being completely useless and having no home.
NOW FOR MY FREAKIN’ FAVORITE (Next to Darth Vader….)
Brief history: “Heroes” is a show about certain people who have special abilities or super powers. Sylar’s power is that he can kill people and gain their powers. Much of the first season is about our heroes trying to track him down and stop his killing rampage, while he gets more and more powerful in the meantime.
Does Sylar pass the Darth Vader Approval test?
Motivation: Is misunderstood and is therefore socially inept, shut-in, obsessive, seeks to understand things, how things work, is most definitely a psychopath.
Sympathy: I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking I’m crazy. Am I crazy? AM I CRAZY!?! HAHAHA! Ok anyway, before I explain, I will admit that toward the end of season 1, I wanted him dead and blown to pieces by a nuclear bomb and hanged and maimed and thrown in jail to rot forever. But with the magic of good writing, and excellent acting by Zachary Quinto, you can have your cake and eat it too. Because of Sylar’s lack of social skills, and lack of any closeness in his life, especially from his mother, he turned to something else that he thought would make him happy: power. And power is…well, a powerful distraction from your problems.
And who does this remind us of…Darth Vader per chance?! That’s right. If you can’t join ‘em, beat ‘em. Sylar has never had a close friend. So when he befriends people for a few hours for the purpose of killing them later, it never enters his head that maybe this is a friend worth having. And maybe he doesn’t want to destroy things that love him. Aww…
Control: By the time you meet Sylar in person, he already has dozens of powers. So it’s hard to reach him or hurt him in any way. He uses telekinesis to keep people staying away. (Intimacy issues…)
Imperfection: One of Sylar’s tricks is to befriend people so he can later kill them, or because he knows they will lead him to someone who should be killed. Every time he does this, he is never perfectly manipulative. He exerts the bare minimum that he needs to in order to trick the person, and that always causes suspicion. I love that writers added this small detail, just to give him that touch more.
General Chang, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (YES)
"I can see you, Kirk. Can you see me?"
Terry Benedict, Ocean’s Eleven (YES)
"Congratulations. You're a dead man."
Agent Smith, The Matrix (YES)
"You're a plague and we are the cure."
Megatron, Transformers (NO)
"I'm no match for Shia LaBeouf's boyish looks!"
Jean Baptiste Zorg, The Fifth Element (YES) (What kind of blogger would I be if I didn’t include him?)
"Life comes from destruction, disorder and chaos."
The Trio from Spiderman 3 (NO!)
"You hate Spiderman. I hate Spiderman. But together, he doesn't stand a chance!"
Chudnofsky, The Green Hornet (NO)
I'm scary, wah!
Wait, wait…wait for it….
Ok one more!
I am not a cool villain.