Being a Villain in an Age of Genre-Savviness

 

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.

 

About The Chef

The Chef was born 856 years ago on a small planet orbiting a star in the Argolis cluster. It was prophesied that the arrival of a child with a birthmark shaped like a tentacle would herald the planet's destruction. When the future Chef was born with just such a birthmark, panic ensued (this would not be the last time the Chef inspired such emotion). The child, tentacle and all, was loaded into a rocket-powered garbage scow and launched into space. Unfortunately, the rocket's exhaust ignited one of the spectators' flatulence, resulting in a massive explosion that detonated the planet's core, destroying the world and killing everyone on it.

The Chef.
Your host, hero to millions, the Chef.
Oblivious, the dumpster containing the infant Chef sped on. It crashed on a small blue world due to a freakish loophole in the laws of nature that virtually guarantees any object shot randomly into space will always land on Earth. The garbage scow remained buried in the icy wastes of the frozen north until the Chef awoke in 1901. Unfortunately, a passing Norwegian sailor accidentally drove a boat through his head, causing him to go back to sleep for another 23 years.

When the would-be Chef awoke from his torpor, he looked around at the new world he found himself on. His first words were, “Hey, this place sucks." Disguising himself as one of the planet's dominant species of semi-domesticated ape, the being who would become known as the Chef wandered the Earth until he ended up in its most disreputable slum - Paris, France.

Taking a job as a can-can dancer, the young Chef made a living that way until one day one of the cooks at a local bistro fell ill with food poisoning (oh, bitter irony). In a desperate move, the bistro's owner rushed into one of the local dance halls, searching for a replacement. He grabbed the ugliest can-can dancer he could find, and found himself instead with an enterprising (if strange) young man who now decided, based on this random encounter, to only answer to the name “Chef".

His success as a French chef was immediate (but considering that this is a country where frogs and snails are considered delicacies, this may or may not be a significant achievement). Not only was the Chef's food delicious, it also kept down the local homeless population. He rose to the heights of stardom in French cuisine, and started a holy war against the United Kingdom to end the reign of terror British food had inflicted on its citizens.

When the Crimean War broke out around France, the Chef assisted Nikola Tesla and Galileo in perfecting the scanning electron microscope, which was crucial in driving back the oncoming Communist hordes. It would later be said that without the Chef, the war would have been lost. He was personally awarded a Purple Heart by the King of France.

After that, the Chef traveled to America, home of such dubious culinary delights as McDonald's Quarter Pounder With Cheese. He immediately adopted the Third World nation as his new home, seeing it as his job to protect and enlighten it. When the Vietnam War began, he immediately volunteered and served in the Army of the Potomac under Robert E. Lee and General Patton. During the war, the Chef killed dozens of Nazis, most of them with his bare hands.

Marching home from war across the floor of the Atlantic Ocean, stark-naked and freezing, the Chef wound up on the shores of Mexico. He spent several years there, drinking tequila with Pancho Villa and James Dean. He put his culinary skills to the test when he invented the 5,000-calorie Breakfast Chili Burrito With Orange Sauce (which is today still a favorite in some parts of Sonora).

Eventually, the Chef returned to his adopted home of America, where he met a slimy, well-coiffed weasel who was starting up a new kind of buffet - one dedicated to providing the highest-quality unmentionable appetizers to the online community. The Chef dedicated himself to spreading the word of his famous Lard Sandwich (two large patties of fried lard, in between two slices of toasted buttered lard, with bacon and cheese), as well as occasionally writing about his opinions on less-important topics than food.

Every word of this is true, if only in the sense that every word of this exists in the English language.