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Villain Stereotypes

May 7, 2009

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had a beta reader critiquing my work feed me the line “It’s not believable”. Sometimes it has more to do with the mythic creature not following the same “rules” pop culture has outlined for them. Horror writers are always trying to come up with the next big thing. How can you do that if someone isn’t willing to look outside the normal.

For example, vampires. What do we know about vampires? Through various types of entertainment, we know vampires are creatures of the night. They drink blood. General killing methods are sunlight, holy water, wooden stakes, beheading, silver and garlic. Some sleep in coffins and are repelled by crosses. Sometimes can’t enter a home without the owner’s permission. They most often turn in to bats but also can morph in to wolves or mist. They don’t cast a shadow or have reflections. Depending on what your reading or watching, there are more or different vampiric rules, but usually follow the majority.

If you refer to legends from all over the world, some vampires little or none of those traits. What if they were blind and sucked the breath from their victims rather than blood. Would that make them more or less scary? Some were known to control the weather. Dakhanavar in Armenia sucked blood from the soles of feet rather than the neck. Striga in Italy was more of a witch rather than vampire who cursed children. In Romania, odd births resulted in vampirism. The Muroni could shapeshift in to cats, dogs, fleas, and spiders rather than bats or wolves. All of these, provide writers with much freedom but would current viewers/readers believe such characteristics in vampires?

What villain stereotypes do you hate? How would you change them? Do you think society would accept your changes?

Andrea remembers the days when Angel was the hot vampire girls drooled over. Seems just like yesterday.
  1. May 7, 2009 3:34 am

    I think changes are good. Stereotypes are boring. Did they really critique you because you diverged from the expected? How dull of them. Do you want me to be your beta reader instead?

  2. May 7, 2009 5:22 am

    My two least favourite villain stereotypes are the “now that I have you in my power I won’t destroy you, I’ll lock you up in a room full of weapons and leave my least competent soldiers to guard you, then act surprised when you escape” villain, and the “now that I have you in my power I’ll reveal in intimate detail my plans, including the ways in which you could defeat me”.

    Sadly, these two stereotypes seem to afflict villains at the same time.

    It was marvellously sent up in Watchmen though, when the details of the plan were revealed by the villain, but only after it had already been done!

  3. Dark Angel permalink
    May 7, 2009 5:52 am

    The thing I least like about steriotypical villains – in books and films – is that they’re almost always ugly, disabled or disfigured. To me, this gives the impression that looks are somehow linked to your character or moral values, or that disabled people are generally evil; both of which are complete rubbish of course.

  4. May 7, 2009 8:26 am

    Twilight starting to get up your nose … or is it Ms SM?? ( giggle) I agree with Dark Angel – in many stories, the physicality of a character more often than not determines their personality ( yuck) If I see one more reference to the “tart with the heart” or the “gruff but gentle grizzled old man” – or as Dark Angel points out – disabled people who are out to rule the world through their inventions ….. I am going to puke.
    I am writing a story right now about fairies with acne and fat angels… take that society…..

  5. May 7, 2009 6:28 pm

    Interesting post. I love researching the old origins of these villains. For a more political analysis of the origins, China Mievelle, the fantasy writer but also a member of the British Socialist Worker’s Party, gave a talk at a conference called ‘Marxism and Monsters.’ You can find it online.

    One ‘monster’ that’s changed is zombies. The origin came from Haiti and how the slave earners turned their slaves effectively into zombies by drugging them and burying them. The popular idea of zombies is far removed from that but it’s interesting to find out where these things begun.

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