As those who know me will confirm, I aspire to be a real-life supervillain (in the same way that Phoenix Jones makes himself out to be a real-life superhero – I’ll get you next time, Jones. NEXT TIIIIMMMMME!). It’s my fondest wish to someday say "I am not a monster." just before ordering the extermination of all humanity by my robot minions. But, as they say, that’s neither here nor there.
Between the deaths of Muammar Gaddafi and Steve Jobs, it’s been a rough month for villainy. When you factor in the increasing number of genre-savvy heroes raised on fare like Buffy or SG-1 in which the protagonists are well aware of the tropes being played out all around them, it’s getting tougher and tougher to be a credible bad guy. The minute you start spouting classic lines like "You have failed me for the last time, Woz." or "Kneel before your living god!", all you get is a knowing eyeroll and a reference to a good psychiatrist.
All of the traditions of good villainy (and yes, I’m aware that’s an oxymoron, but let’s run with it) are there for a reason. The booming voice, the dramatic if impractical uniforms (look at how Steve Jobs dressed – who actually wears black turtlenecks for a purpose other than making a statement?), the cliched and overblown speeches, the randomly torturing or executing minions for failure – all of those are just part of the image. They may not be kosher with the Evil Overlord List, but all of those things exist for a reason. It’s all part of the show, and by "show" I don’t mean that we’re all living inside a little box on someone’s desk (although given the holographic nature of our reality, it’s entirely possible). All of those things are meant to intimidate the common folks and maybe even the heroes (or at least the plucky comic-relief sidekicks, without whom the heroes are going to be useless).
In today’s world, as our media saturation gets closer to overload and people are increasingly filled in on the secret tactics of villains by reality shows (some of the people on those Real Sociopaths of <Insert City Here> shows are more evil than I am, if more petty and stupid), the traditional villain tactics don’t work. It’s not just the heroes who are getting desensitized to intimidation – the general run of the populace has begun to realize that just when someone starts making their big speech about how victory is imminent, a massive energy field is going to make their head explode (or something equivalent). The disease of genre-savviness has infected everyone, turning the public into jaded hipsters who can’t take a real villain seriously.
So, what’s an aspiring villain to do in this new age? My plan is to run with it, and succeed. If I put on the airs of traditional villainy, nobody’s going to believe I’m a real threat until it’s too late. If you run around dressing funny and making grand speeches about world domination, everyone will think you’re just a harmless nutter (that, or they’ll hail you as a technological messiah, as with Uncle Steve). This will in turn make my plans of world conquest easier to accomplish, because everyone will underestimate me. By the time they wise up, I’ll be far enough along that nobody can stop me. It’s a brilliant plan! That’s how a villain’s got to make a living these days – hipster irony, but so be it.
If Gadhafi had known about this, he might still be alive. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a fitting scheduled for my gold armor and black cape. I was also thinking about growing a toothbrush mustache – I’m a traditionalist.