American television dramas have changed over the years. In the past, certainly in my youth, the philosophy was that the good guy had to win otherwise the TV audience would feel that evil had prevailed.
And in America, this went against the grain.
In Britain, we didn’t care about this at all. British drama was grittier, more realistic and sometimes the good guy came a cropper at the hands of the evil villain.
I love it when the bad guy triumphs. If you consider the situation in real life, no hero is so perfect that he can outwit and outsmart the villain. It doesn’t make sense if you think about it.
I can understand the need to leave a movie theatre with a warm, fuzzy feeling because John Rambo has managed to single-handedly wiped out an entire army of malevolent bandits under the control of a ruthless psychopath.
By and large I agree with that sentiment. Sometimes, however, I want the hero to get his arse well and truly kicked and by the end of the film, I want to see him slink away in utter defeat, perhaps to come back stronger in the next instalment or maybe just to take it on the chin and realise that he is not utterly perfect.
And then there is the anti-hero; a guy who is inherently evil yet always seems to get away with murder.
My current favourite American TV series is Dexter, which tells the story of a psychopathic serial killer who works as a blood spatter forensic lab geek in the police force but uses that position to find potential victims.
The police want to bring bad guys to justice. Dexter wants to put them on a slab, stab them, cut their cold dead bodies into little pieces, pack the bits up in plastic bags and take them out to see and dump them where they will never be found.
And because he is a forensic specialist, he can hide all of the evidence and get away with it.
I watch every episode of the show and all the way through I am rooting for this sadistic bad guy. I want him to get away with murder.
Purists may argue that he is, deep down, a good guy because the only people he kills are evil serial killers themselves. In a sense, Dexter is a good guy because he is handing out his own form of justice. Nevertheless, Dexter is a flawed character with a deep burning desire to kill.
That makes him a bad guy.
Even in the more conventional films and series, the bad guys are almost becoming lovable rogues. Let’s take another of my favourite bad guys, Dr Who’s nemesis – The Master.
The Master is a fellow time lord and a truly dark version of The Master. In the classic Dr Who series, he was pure evil and totally insane, using hypnosis to persuade people to help his evil plans. His catch phrase, as he stared into the eyes of his hapless victims was “I am The Master. You WILL obey me.”
In the reboot of Dr Who, The Master is still insane but is still eccentric and evil but has a deep charm, with much more humour – a charismatic bad guy who I actually, deep down, kind of hoped would win. His evil exploits in the new version of Dr Who have far exceeded anything the older Master could achieve – turning Earth into a giant warship while holding the Doctor prisoner for a year as well as, in a later episode, turning every single human into a copy of himself – the Master race, as he called it.
Yes the Doctor prevailed eventually but in each case there was a price to pay.
These days, TV series and movies are much more realistic generally. The heroes are flawed and the villains are charismatic and sometimes win.
Even James Bond suffered in his latest outing, Skyfall. I won’t reveal the story because I don’t like spoilers myself, but those of you who have seen it know exactly what I mean.
Regular readers know that one of my ambitions is to write a blockbusting novel. Maybe one day I will, but you can rest assured that because I love bad guys so much, I will endeavour to create the ultimate villain, an utterly contemptible man, but with a hidden charm that will, I hope, make quite a few readers start rooting for the bad guy.
I have some ideas and when I eventually start (maybe in November if I can force myself to have a go at the NaNoWriMo writing challenge) I hope to create a villain worthy of Dexter, The Master, Hannibal Lecter and/or Darth Vader when he was at his most evil.
Evil megalomaniacs should sometimes be allowed the freedom to make their plans come to fruition.
The bad guy should sometimes win.
And I will continue to root for the bad guy – well sometimes anyway.
After all, we can’t let Jason Bourne, James Bond and Dr Who suffer too much, can we?
Over to you, dear reader - do you have a favourite bad guy?