From the campy fun of Dr. Evil to the scheme-concocting villainy of Ernst Blofeld upon whom he was based, everyone loves a good villain. From the insane brutality of the Joker to the suavity of Dracula, nothing haunts our dreams like the potential for evil. From the revenge-driven furor of Captain Ahab to the unending conniving of Iago (not the parrot), nothing drives along a story like a dastardly foe.
Aside from being oh-so-convenient to the plot, villains serve a deeper purpose. Our self definition is as much what we are as what we are not. Heroes inspire us, paragons of the ‘Thou Shalt’s. Villains repulse us, murky examples of the ‘Thou Shalt Not’s.
As put by Jung (yes, another Jung reference…my apologies to any die-hard Freudians out there), “We know that the wildest and most moving dramas are played not in the theatre but in the hearts of ordinary men and women who pass by without exciting attention, and who betray to the world nothing of the conflicts that rage within them.” Here he was discussing his Shadow archetype, the elements of evil and darkness that exist within each of us.
Perhaps it is with this Shadow that the villains of fiction resonate, that part of us to which they speak. Therein lies the greater depth of writing, when you can create a villain with a bit of yourself within them, that kernel of truth and humanity. In turn, we can all realize that a bit of the villain resides within us, an inevitable blight upon even the purest soul.