Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Britain: Home of the Super Villain.

From the 1960s to the 1980s it was those dastardly Soviets and from 2001 to present day it’s been anyone that looks like they might be from a hot country. Movies and TV shows are obviously a reflection of public opinion (by “public” I, of course, mean “American”) but during the period between, a trend began and continued: that of the evil Brit.
It seems that if a movie requires a truly diabolical villain, the following boxes must be ticked:
They must be well dressed, have good taste in food and wine, appreciate fine art and music and speak with an accent crisper than the Queen’s.
Where did that cliché come from?!
Granted; back when ¼ of the world’s population was under the Empire, the words “smug” and “Superior” were pretty much tattooed on our decidedly pale faces. But the Victorian era has been gone for nigh on a century, and even back in the day, we weren’t exactly what you’d call “bad”, just bloody arrogant, which can easily be said for any major world power in the contemporary age.
In all honesty; I’d quite like the population of Blighty to be made up of evil masterminds, but they’re not. They’re mostly a mob of drunken, football-obsessed inebriates, more interested in the latest series of Big Brother than plotting world domination. They don’t sit in darkened rooms, rocking back and forth in oversized armchairs, cackling over plans for super weapons that may, one day, deliver them the Earth.
It’s a fact I lament.
If they did have a diabolical bone or two they might just get off their ever-increasing arses and do something constructive.
Like capture Paris.
Or steal Belgium.
So why, then, in the face of this ineptitude, are the Brits always cast as modern villains?
Well, I think a substantial amount of blame has to be laid at the feet of Alan Rickman and that most English of “Germans”, Hans Gruber. He’s the definitive “Evil Limey” and has been a stereotype ever since he crashed that Christmas party.
Lazy Hollywood writers.
Need a villain? Think Rickman!
Too expensive? Find someone with an English accent.
And a suit.
THERE’s the root of the matter!
….or, at least, half of it.
When describing the populous of Britain, I did say “mostly”.
You see; there are Brits up to no good.
Ignoring the aristocracy, whose minds have probably turned to the destruction of mainland Europe now that fox-hunting has been banned, we have the government and all those associated with it.
In Iraq, our forces are instigating the sinister-sounding “Overwatch”, at home our military has launched a satellite called “Skynet” and during times of domestic strife, such as the tube bombings or the 2007 floods, an emergency coordination facility is activated called “COBRA”.
MI6 operates from a building that looks more like the lair of a Bond villain than the hero, Parliament is run from a gothic palace that wouldn’t look out of place in Dracula, pretty much every major town and city has a street with the word “Gallows” in it and we’re helping to fund the CERN accelerator; a potential doomsday device that could create a black hole.
Oh, sod it. Let’s just play the role.
Dibs on Australia.


Tim said...

very interesting. i never noticed the british villain though, don't know why... i thought you guys technically "had" Australia.

Toshiro said...

I suggest you guys think twice before stealing Belgium..
But hey shoot France.
.. those frenchies ..

Tatter said...

It's because Hollywood is the 800-pound gorilla of the entertainment industry. Whoever it perceives as its enemies, will be the villains of 90% of the movies they produce. In the 20s, they were outlaws and claim jumpers. In the 30s, they were Germans and Japanese. In the 40s and 50s, they were Soviets.

Post Vietnam, Hollywood's enemy of choice is the US itself. Of course, while Hollywood may be the giant of the entertainment industry, the US is the giant of entertainment consumption. Hollywood isn't going to risk alienating that market segment, so while the villains are always American in attitude, their accents are always European. That way, the producers can feel good about striking back against "The Man" while continuing to rake in The Man's money.

Exmes said...

The British people are also a twist on the familiar for Americans, plus our ancestors ran away from yours so you must have at least some evil tendencies. Narrow minded authors of bad action movies see the United States and Britain as different sides of the same coin so they get to cackle at their own deviousness in having the villain be so much like the hero. Everyone just wants to live up that Star Trek ideal of the bad guy as the hero with a goatee from another dimension. However I have to wonder why villain is never slovenly and uncultured.

When you get Australia could you send a few bikini clad Aussie ladies my way?

rali said...

I think the main reason for using stereotypical German/Soviet/British/Asian/American/Arab/Alien/CIA villains is that they are so easily recognizable and their motives are usually stripped right from the headlines or the latest batch of espionage novels. You also don’t want the audience confused by a villain with an accent that isn’t recognizable or is unintelligible.

As to why Hollywood likes to pick on the English, I think it’s just because they are lazy, and it’s easy to get people to hate a pompus sounding prig just as easily as it is to hate a greedy Texas oil mogul, religious zealot, corrupt politician, etc...

Skru said...

You can have Australia as long as I get the Bahamas. And Italy. I'll turn them into The Most Dangerous Game-esque resorts. Who's up to hunting down bourgeoisie?

Matthew J Edge said...

@ T

We wouldn't consider taking over Belgium.

The is Luxembourg though...

kawaiihiyoukaiwithhiei said...

Well... i cant really believe any of what your ranting about? spur of the moment anguish maybe after watching some film? At first i thought villians are usually dastardly sexy, brits are sexy.. us american girls go wild over the accents... then i thought maybe this is retaliation by directors and producers over Bond films... think about all the boys snubbed over a girls obcession with agent 007... this could be some weird psychological hubba-baloo. they are american hero... in way im guess im saying that this subject can be analyzed so many different ways, it's to try and pinpoint something such as Hollywoods intentions. just be patient till the villians become asian again. its a cycle?

Seamusdubh said...

I call dibbs on Iceland... no, Greenland... no, wait, which one the one with all the ice. :)

Tatter said...

The heroes are always the Hollywood ideal: American, beautiful, witty, urbane, and of the absolute purest intentions.

As for wanting to focus on the familiar, that fails to explain the various exotic supervillains of prior decades. I really don't think you'll see an asian supervillain unless China launches nukes at LA, and you certainly won't see any Islamic supervillains for the next decade at least. It's not because we're so unfamiliar with anything but Catholic suicide bombers.

Frosty said...

Who wouldn't want Alan Rickman as the vilan in their movie. The man is a pimp. Oh, and while you're all taking over weak little countries, I'll be taking over the UK before those dastardly brits can hatch their evil schemes.

charlie said...

since when did france become WEAk?!

kawaiihiyoukaiwithhiei said...

Uh hello? Azn bad guys all the time?! rush hour movies? james bond movies?! indiana jones?! the new pirates in POTC3?! jeeze. lets get off the 'lets bash america' vibe

Tatter said...

The "azns" in POTC3 turn out to be good guys within the first ten minutes of the movie; the bad guys turn out to be the BRITISH East India Trading Company. Indiana Jones, they were always Nazis, but then the movies were always meant to be throwbacks to the days of pulp fiction. James Bond movies, not one has been made since 1970 that didn't feature a European villain; Asians are portrayed as either flunkies or bad guys that turn into good guys. And Rush Hour movies are made in Japan and China, which are both quite some distance from Hollywood.

Congratulations on making my point for me. I love being proven correct.

epox8k5a2 said...

dibs on amsterdam. everyones army can camp at my place and have a merry time before going out and crushing france, hahaha

Dohickey Jones said...

The problem is, of course, that your average british 'ideal' is the very image of a guy who would happily sign away the destruction of a small country while sipping wine and looking over his land. I think it really does date back to the days of conquest - it's just that hollywood has 'updated' it and now everyone with a British accent is that tiny bit sinister.

I'll just take Basingstoke, all you lot can fight over the rest of the UK and the world, i'll just take my little corner of Hampshire - oh and a shit load of tactical nukes.

Holly said...

So wait, Skynet? Wasn't that the evil computer in Terminator? Dear lord, that can't be good.

I claim Egypt because a lot of the best ancient ruins are there.

LowmanX said...

Being an Aussie and sick of the government there I welcome you with open arms. Well, I would if I wasn't currently in London. I'll be the one throwing the ticker tape at Heathrow and wishing you the best of luck. Heh.

I'm with you on the whole "how did the Brits become known as the high-quality villain?" thing. I mean, a majority of Londoners I've met are so far removed from that mold. I couldn't imagine a movie-based British villain hocking a big fat loogie off the edge of the tube platform as I see on a daily basis on my travels to and from work. And the Brits I meet outside of London are just so damn nice and friendly you wouldn't think you were in the same country.

Love the comic by the way. Especially Spider and Scorpion.

LX, out.

greywolf said...

why you losers (j/k) are busy claiming "dibs" i'll be taking it ALL by myself. no sharing... but if you prove yourself worthy, i will let you be high class. oh and the villain on national treasure may have had an accent, but he wasn't an aristocrat