WARNING: If you are bored with my blog posts about personalities, you might want to skip this one.
A whole year ago, I wrote one blog post and then another to explore my longtime proclivity for the “bad guy.” Of course, this applies to fiction and not real life, as I do follow a strict moral code and do not actually sympathize with bombers, thieves, and kidnappers. In fiction, however, those lines can get a little … blurred.
Ever since I wrote that first post, I never stopped analyzing it. Every new story I encountered, I had to try to pick apart what I loved about the villain. I have defined terms and teased out traits, and yet something always seemed missing. When I tested INTJ and started reading more about it, mismatched pieces came together. Glory, hallelujah, mystery solved.
Yesterday, I saw Star Trek: Into Darkness for the second time. This movie is great for talking about villains. More than one person has told me after seeing it, “OK, Em … I think I get your thing for villains now.” YES. Obviously credit must go to the always-brilliant Mr. Benedict Cumberbatch for his portrayal of Khan. As a British-actor hipster who has been following his career since 2007, I say well done, sir! *sniffle* I’m so proud of you.
Moving on …
Armed with my new knowledge, I realize that my favorite villains often demonstrate traits common to the INTJ personality type. This explains everything. However opposites may attract sometimes, and however rare the type is said to be, INTJs are drawn to each other. It stands to reason, then, that a character with INTJ traits, good or evil, would be attractive. (Of course, these traits don’t always apply to straight-up villains that must be defeated. You can also see them in protagonists like BBC’s version of Sherlock, Dr. House, Horatio Hornblower, and Mr. Darcy.)
In part, I also realized I have been overanalyzing things. The one single trait in an attractive villain is a trait that I find attractive in anyone: Intellect. Smarts, cleverness, brains, whatever you want to call it, that is what draws me to the bad boy. Oh sure, the hero might be equally smart—after all, that’s the fun of watching Sherlock and Moriarty—but he might not be.
(“Don’t make people into heroes… Heroes don’t exist, and if they did, I wouldn’t be one of them.”)
(Shut up, Sherlock.)
Part of the “fun” of a villain—at least for me—is when he creates a moral dilemma in the viewer/reader. You need cleverness for that. Most heroes are based on universally accepted, fairly straightforward ideas of good and evil—you can’t really argue with saving people from a burning building or punching Hitler in the face. Sure, there are gray areas regarding how a hero does The Right Thing, but that’s a discussion for another time. An intelligent antagonist, even the most vile, will say something that has a grain of truth in it. Your initial reaction may be, “No, that’s wrong!” but you may still pause and go, “…But he has a good point.”
I’m reminded of a Louis CK joke where he talks about the conflict between “Of Course” and “But Maybe.”
“Of course children with nut allergies need to be protected. … But maybe, maybe if touching a nut kills you, you’re supposed to die.”
Heck, I’ll just put the video here. I don’t even need to add a language warning!
. . .
Going back to Star Trek, of course it’s wrong to blow up a building and kill 40+ people. But then Khan points out evils done by those who claim to be the “good guys” and says “Is there anything you would not do for your family?” and you’re left going, “Well, crap, he has a point.”
I also thought of C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters and why it is so effective. Screwtape is certainly a villain, being a demon who works against both God and mankind. But even though he is evil and untrustworthy, he does say a lot of things that are true. You don’t want to, but often you have to agree with him:
It is funny how mortals always picture us as putting things into their minds: in reality our best work is done by keeping things out.
A moderated religion is as good for us as no religion at all—and more amusing.
No man who says, ‘I’m as good as you,’ believes it. He would not say it if he did.
Heck, as many times as I’ve seen The Avengers, I still get freaked out by the scene in Stuttgart when Loki screams for a crowd to kneel and launches into his speech
that I certainly do not have memorized where he says, “The bright lure of freedom diminishes your life’s joy in a mad scramble for power, for identity. You were made to be ruled.” There’s an inkling of truth to that, even as my Christian dedication to the rule of Jesus and my libertarian dedication to personal liberty are screaming in protest.
With a great amount of intellect there may also be a great deal of insight, and there is yet another terrifying thing that villains (and INTJs in general) may be known for. The most innocent of the good guys are trusting and will take people at their word, and that word at face value. A clever bad guy, himself untrustworthy, will analyze other characters to find information or weaknesses to exploit. If he’s very clever, he will get something. In Star Trek, even though Kirk threatens Khan with violence if he does not cooperate, Khan has already deciphered Kirk’s nature and knows that the threats are empty. He retorts, “Why did you allow me to live? … I surrendered to you because, despite your attempt to convince me otherwise, you seem to have a conscience, Mr. Kirk.”
We all have our secrets and weaknesses, and we all try very, very hard to keep them hidden. The idea that someone could extract personal information through observation, clever questioning, or other underhanded tactics is horrifying. I would go so far as to say it’s a universally terrifying concept. It’s one thing to watch Sherlock analyze a crime scene; it’s quite another to be subject to his deductions yourself. And it’s not very amusing that a demon knows so much about human nature simply by watching us.
In analyzing all this, I realize this might be one big reason why I don’t like monster/alien/zombie movies—there is no intellect involved. One big exception is if there is a cunning mind orchestrating what the monsters are doing, such as Loki’s use of the Chitauri army in The Avengers. But I also do not like big, thuggish enemy types, such as Bane in Dark Knight Rises or Colonel Miles Quaritch in Avatar. I only enjoy villains if they’re the the cold, calculating, highly intelligent types with their plots and their scheming and MUA HA HAAAA.
Another key word in that is “cold.” A common description of INTJs is a lack of emotion. Personally, this is where I least fit the INTJ description because I just barely tested T (thinking) over F (feeling), so I am much more feelsy than the INTJ stereotype. Even so, I still admire a lack of emotion. I still value intellect over feelings. I also admire the appearance of control that is often necessary to keep emotions in check. When a villain loses the appearance of control and throws a fit, you know that things aren’t going his way and even worse shit is about to go down.
But in thinking about this, I had to wonder … what about the use of brute force? Obviously I don’t care about physical strength alone, but I had to admit, while I was watching Star Trek yesterday, that as much as I loved seeing Khan be all dark and calculating and evil, it was also incredibly fun to see him take down a bunch of Klingons and then ship’s guards, and, at the end, watch him and Spock beat the shit out of each other.
So I don’t like brute strength alone, and I do like an ice-cold villain (sometimes literally), but I like it best when the two are combined. Why? I’m glad you asked.
Part of it is that it is simply more dangerous and exciting to combine brains and brawn. It’s also just damn impressive that a guy who is mentally brilliant is also capable of beating up a bunch of guards.
With stereotypical female psychology, part of the appeal of the “bad boy” is that he makes a female admirer feel “special” as being the only one who can “change him” or bring out his “good side.” If that happens (which it really, really doesn’t), that means that the female admirer in this hypothetical scenario has those brains and brawn on her side if she needs them.
Plus, I must confess, despite my own preference for intelligence, there is something appealing, in a very dark and primal way, about seeing someone with incredible mental powers being reduced to physical violence.
I speak, of course, just for myself, and can’t claim that opinion for anyone else.
So there you have it. This probably will not be my last blog post on the subject of villains, and it certainly will not be my last about the INTJ personality type. But as for trying to understand why I often prefer the villains over the heroes, I think I can say Case Closed!