November 1, 2010

The Downside of Dementia

Halloween is past, and the goblins, ghouls, and devils are back in their homes, resting their feet. But as we leave the holiday, there are a few things to keep in mind, particularly if you're a demented arch-villain, bent on exploiting a night of good times and candy for fear and conquest.
Do you regularly hatch mad schemes to bring the world to heel, only to be thwarted by ruggedly handsome secret agents? Do these secret agents escape your exploding island fortress on a boat, jetski, or black helicopter that slipped past your fiendish defenses? More importantly, are you left treading water, hoping your phone gets reception, and wondering if the petstore will cut you off after what is probably your 30th adoption of a fluffy white cat?
This is to help you.
It comes down to a simple phrase: DRAMATICS, not THEATRICS. We'll look at two examples to illustrate the idea.
First is Marv, from Sin City. Not a typical villain, but definitely on the wrong side of the crazy line. Marv has a good feel for the dramatic. When his special hooker is killed, he goes for revenge. And gets his ass kicked.
The important thing is he learns, without giving up his love of the dramatic (which, as an egomaniac, you have). So, when he goes back for seconds, he indulges his thirst for revenge and drama both, by cutting off the cannibal's legs and feeding him to his wolf. Dramatic, but sensible, especially as the cannibal's deadliest trait was his speed.
But villains aren't the only ones to mistake theatrics for drama. Take Mace Windu now, leader of the Jedi council, second only to Yoda. A sensible man, you would think, given his important position. Not one prone to flares of ego and bullshit theater. Yet, when the time comes to put down the Dark Lord of Super Evil, he argues with a junior member. Anakin presents no valid reasons for not putting the Emperor to the sword, but Windu indulges himself and argues. This is roughly the equivalent of arguing with your dog, or Glenn Beck.
This might still have turned out all right, however, but Windu gives in again. Consider the lightsaber, the hot knife to the galaxys butter. And by that, I mean the entire galaxy is butter. It can cut through anything with little effort. Now, when you get some butter for your toast, do you rear back to put some muscle behind the strike?
No. You move your hand and get some goddam butter. Windu could have literally stumbled forward and ended the greatest Sith threat to ever exist. Instead, he brings the blade up over his shoulder, just so everyone - all two of them, one about to die - knows he means business. And his hand is cut off shortly before the Emperor shazams him into hell.
Easy trap to fall into, eh? It could have been avoided, as could your inevitable defeat at the hands of a plucky band of ragtag heroes, if you remember:
Dramatics, not theatrics!

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