Mindsets & Rationales That Lend Well To Villainy
A list of mindsets that can plausibly and realistically drive and motivate villainous behavior in a character, be it a highschool bully or a full-blown supervillain. Remember, with any sufficiently developed and realistic villain, any number of these will be present and overlap with each other.
Table of Contents
- "You hurt me. Therefore, you deserve to be hurt back."
- "I'm not the problem - everyone else is."
- "If others don't go along with what I say or want, then they're selfish/hate me."
- "I can't trust others to make good decisions."
- "If I have this power or advantage, it's because I deserve it and/or was meant to have it/do great things with it."
- "I deserve to have it, and anyone who gets in my way is stopping me from getting what I'm entitled to."
- "It's okay if I do it because my intentions are pure."
- "If my actions hurt people, they deserved it anyway."
- "Even if people are hurt, the end results will make up for it."
- "You're getting too big for your boots. Someone needs to put you in your place."
- "You are a piece of trash and deserve to be treated like it."
- "Deep inside, everyone is just like me. I'm just one of the few people who is actually honest about it."
- "I am in a position of authority; therefore, unconditional respect is mandatory."
- "They have terrible intentions!"
"You hurt me. Therefore, you deserve to be hurt back."
The belief that someone one has been wronged by deserves to be hurt back in kind… or with interest. Sometimes, it doesn't even have to be the individuals responsible for the initial act - sometimes, just another member of the same group will do.
- "Yeah, I poisoned Mary's cat. But after Mary puked on my art project and ruined it, she deserved to know what it felt like to have something she cared about destroyed."
- "Yes, I burned down your house, stole all your valuables, and killed your infant son, but it's no more than what your people did to mine in the last war!"
- "Josh didn't invite me to his party - can you believe the nerve? Just for that, I'm gonna head over and wreck his party. That'll show him!"
- "Every day I waited for you to notice me, but you never did! Now it's time for payback - for you to feel the pain and humiliation I felt!"
"I'm not the problem - everyone else is."
The belief that it cannot be oneself or one's own ideas that are at fault, but rather that everyone else is in the wrong or is the problem.
- "If everyone would stop being so selfish and think of the greater good, they'd realize that working twelve hours in the mines every day really isn't that unreasonable. There's nothing wrong with the work hours; they just want to slack off and be lazy."
- "I was born with anger issues. I really can't help that I beat that guy up and put him in the hospital. He should have known better. People need to learn to stop making me angry."
- "I'm not the one who's bigoted and judgmental here - it's all of you hateful lowlife leech-turds! You just disagree with me because you're all brainwashed meat puppets of the establishment! I hope somebody beats you up real good soon!"
"If others don't go along with what I say or want, it's because they're selfish/hate me."
The belief that those who fail to comply with one's orders or wishes do so out of selfishness or maliciousness.
- "You just want to get out of the workload you're given because you don't care about the project or about anyone else here. You only care about yourself and what you want."
- "Ugh, look at the lousy work he's been doing. It's obvious he just hates me and wants to sabotage this whole project. What did I ever do to him to make him hate me so much?"
- "I'm not asking too much out of you - anyone with a strong work ethic would snap to this right away. Actually, the fact that you're trying to get out of this makes me question your loyalty."
- "Can you believe the way Alice just blew me off today? Sick grandmother, my ass. The old biddy can wait another afternoon, anyway! You'd think Alice could just for once have the guts to tell me to my face how much she hates me and wants to see me fail."
"I can't trust others to make good decisions."
The belief that one is the only person (or at least, one of the very few) who should be allowed to make important decisions because everyone else is too incompetent, ignorant, selfish, short-sighted, etc. to be allowed to make decisions for themselves.
- "You're still too young to know what will make you happy. Trust your mother; I know you don't like Prince Roger, but his money will make you very happy."
- "The common people are foolish creatures who will destroy themselves if left to their own devices. They must be guided with a firm hand - which is why we must execute dissenters to dissuade others from rebelling."
- "As naive about the world as you are, if you left home right now you'd find yourself dead in a gutter within a week! You'd better stay home with me awhile longer."
- "If we left these people to their own devices, they'd all be stealing, cheating, and murdering each other inside a week. So they must be closely monitored and managed. They must be given no opportunity to misbehave, and any sign of misbehavior must be firmly corrected immediately."
"If I have this power or advantage, it's because I deserve it and/or was meant to have it/do great things with it."
People tend to attach meaning and significance to random events - EG, the sole survivor of a horrific accident might assume there must have been a higher reason for it. Similarly, people with advantages and privileges may subconsciously (or even consciously!) believe that they've done something to earn them, even though the reasons for them may have little to nothing to do with the virtue of the people involved. (See also the Just World Fallacy.)
- "I was born with a genius for solving problems. Why me, of all people? There must have been a reason for it - and I think that reason was to bring about world peace. And we shall have world peace once I am able to dispose of all the world's current leaders and their supporters and instate myself as world emperor."
- "Donate to charity? That's ridiculous. If people don't want to suffer from poverty they shouldn't rely on hardworking CEOs like me to give them free handouts; they should do what the rest of us do and get a job."
"I deserve to have it, and anyone who gets in my way is stopping me from getting what I'm entitled to."
Otherwise known as an "entitlement complex" or an "unwarranted sense of entitlement," the belief that one is owed or deserves something for one reason or another, and that anyone who stands in the way of getting it is an obstacle or even an enemy.
- "I spent years trying to get Celia's attention - and Wallace gets to go out with her even though they've only known each other for a week?! It's not fair!"
- "I worked hard on this contest piece, and all my friends agree it's the best - and yet, Tess won! She must have cheated! I'm going to make her pay for that!"
- "My dad promised me a car on my sixteenth birthday, then when the time came he didn't give me one. So don't think of it as stealing my dad's car - think of it as taking what's rightfully mine."
- "Even if the Scepter of Carab belongs to Theresa, she doesn't deserve to have it - she's too soft and weak to use it to its full potential and do what ought to be done. I, however, am not weak, and I will do what must be done with it."
"It's okay if I do it because my intentions are pure."
Believing that one's actions are justified through perceived purity of intent - no matter what those actions are.
- "The difference between them and us is that we are following the true faith while they are following after their own lusts and desires."
- "I will not stop following him and threatening his girlfriend until he sees that my love is the only love true enough for him. She just wants him because he's hot, and I love him for who he is."
- "I'm sorry, I just can't let you leave because it's dangerous out there. I can't bear the thoughts of you getting hurt! Is it so wrong just to want to keep you safe?"
- "I know that what I'm doing is normally considered unethical practice, but I just want to fix you and make you better. I'm not like those other people, who only do this because they want to control or use their patients."
"If my actions hurt people, they deserved it anyway."
Justifying one's questionable actions by rationalizing that the recipients deserved it somehow or another.
- "If I scam this woman out of all her money - well, she should have been smart enough to realize this was a scam in the first place. Besides, she inherited it from her father; it's not like she even worked for it."
- "Sure, I knifed the guy, but he was an obnoxious, loud-mouthed jerk that nobody wanted around anyway. I did everybody a favor."
- "Yes, I admit that over a thousand civilians died in that raid. But to say they were 'innocent' is misleading - they were harboring the guys we were after, remember that."
"Even if people are hurt, the end results will make up for it."
Or more commonly known as "the end justifies the means." However horrible the actions one takes are, one believes that they will be justified by the end results.
- "Yes, all life on Earth will be annihilated, but what of it? Once it is over there will be no more suffering ever again."
- "A few innocent people may get sent to jail under these new laws, but you have to look at the big picture and remember that it's all about keeping the country safe and secure from insurrectionists."
- "We must get them to convert at any cost, even if we have to sack their towns and destroy their idols, and even if we have to execute their priests in public to show them that their gods have no power. If we don't, thousands of souls will be lost and what's more, their evil ways will tempt and seduce the faithful away from the truth."
"You're getting too big for your boots. Someone needs to put you in your place."
The belief that anyone who acts in a manner that one perceives as too presumptuous or as overstepping their boundaries in some way must be punished or disciplined for it, regardless of the actual harm of the action deemed improper. Reasons for this can vary - the offended party may feel threatened by the actions of the other, or society as a whole may just perceive someone acting this way as an inherently 'bad' thing that must be corrected.
- "Don't you dare speak to me like that! Bring me the belt; a good whipping'll teach you to talk back to your father like that!"
- "Can you believe the nerve of that peasant John, coming in and sweeping Princess Linda off her feet? Who does that low-life think he is, anyway? What do you say we take John for a little ride and dump him in the sewer to remind him where he really belongs?"
- "You humans think you are so high and mighty with your space colonies, but you're really just a bunch of pathetic little infants. Here's what real power looks like…"
- "You believe that our way of doing things is flawed and unfair, which just isn't true. The truth is that you're just being selfish, manipulative, and disrespectful. You're going to scrub floors with a toothbrush for a month to learn some respect."
"You are a piece of trash and deserve to be treated like it."
The belief that someone is fundamentally bad or flawed in some way, and that because of this, all sorts of petty, callous, or cruel actions are justified.
- "Oh, look, it's that kid from the other side of town. Those people are all such rude and ignorant louts. Let's go tell him that his kind of filth isn't welcome here."
- "You think it's unfair that we didn't let you vote on the matter? Since when do we care what degenerate filth like you thinks? You should be grateful that we don't just kick you out completely."
- "We don't let people like that live here because they're no better than vermin. They can just go set up home at the local dump, where they belong."
- "You want respect? Wow, that's rich, coming from someone like you. You don't deserve any 'respect' because you're nothing but a piece of trash."
- "Ugh, there's Cassie over there, talking to those guys from our dorm and acting like she's not a total piece of garbage. Let's go tell them about that thing she did back in tenth grade so they know the truth about what a terrible person she really is."
"Deep inside, everyone is just like me. I'm just one of the few people who is actually honest about it."
The belief that others are just like oneself in some or most ways, and that if they say or act otherwise, they're lying, pretending, or are in denial.
- "So you get on my case for doing that - but you know what? Deep down, everyone wants to do the same. Someone else would have done it first if I hadn't!"
- "What? I'm just saying what everybody else is thinking but is too chicken to say! You act so shocked, but at least I actually have the integrity and guts to be honest here!"
- "Come on, you know you want this! The only reason you say you don't is because society doesn't approve of it! Why do you care so much what society thinks?"
- "Oh, I know what you're trying to do, trust me, and it's nothing good or kind. Your punishment is going to last until you finally admit the truth about your motivations to yourself and to everybody else."
"I am in a position of authority; therefore, unconditional respect is mandatory."
The belief and expectation that because one is in a position that is typically considered to command authority or deference, that one is entitled to respect no matter what one does simply because one is in that position - whereas in reality, if one fails to satisfactorily meet the responsibilities associated with that position, then others are well within their rights to lose respect for, and in some cases even depose the person in question.
- "I'm your king, which means that it's my place to rule you and your place to obey me - so if I decide that sending a traitor's children to work in the mines until their deaths is a fitting punishment, then you don't have any right to say otherwise."
- "I'm your mother and you're sixteen, so if I say that you can't have any friends out there, you don't have any right to be angry and upset with me because you have to respect me."
- "I'm your father and you're still living under my roof, so if I say you have to give me 90% of your paycheck you don't have any right to argue with me."
"They have terrible intentions!"
In a nutshell, good old-fashioned paranoia in general. This can range from minor incidents being perceived as far more threatening than they really are, or even someone believing elaborate delusions with absolutely no basis in fact at all.
- "Did you see Sylvie over there, talking to my Ricky? Yeah, you could tell by the look in her eyes that she's planning to steal him from me. She hates me, you know; she despises my guts. She snubbed my cake at the picnic, remember? Yeah, well, if Sylvie thinks she's going to take my Ricky, she's got another think coming…"
- "They say that Clarice is cleaning up her act, but I think we all know that it's all just a ruse to trick us into trusting her. Don't turn your back on her for a second, because she'll garrote us as soon as we're not looking. If anything, we should all refuse to help her with anything, no matter how insignificant it seems or how desperate she acts."
- "It should be pretty obvious by now that the dwarves hate us humans. Everywhere you go with dwarves, you can just see the contempt in their eyes for humanity. We should wipe them out before they wipe us out, I say."
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