Bad guys are fun. They dress in a wonderfully sexy way and, utterly without effort, draw us in. We love them. We hate them (sometimes) but we love them. And we love that fact. Tis good. But why? Why do we love them so much? Today I want to think briefly about how they talk.
Steerpike. Anti hero (at least to me) of Mervyn Peake’s Gormanghast trilogy. He’s mean. He’s sarcastic. He’s vicious. He’s manipulative. He’s fiercely intelligent and I love him! This may be more to do with John Rhys Meyer’s portrayal of the character when BBC dramatised the first two books, but it doesn’t matter. Take this line:
‘Then if he lost his books he would be all but defeated. If the centre of his life were destroyed he would be but a shell. as I see it, your Ladyships, it is at his library that our first thrust must be directed. You must have your rights. It is only fair that you should have your rights.’
This to a pair of twin sisters who feel hotly hard done by when discussing their brother, king of the realm who has everything (as far as they’re concerned). And yet it isn’t about them, though he constantly makes them feel that way. No, no, this is because Steerpike is cold and embittered about his tragic start in life, while Titus Groan, the king’s son, needed only to be born to whom, he was to have everything that Steerpike cannot. His words to those sisters are the start of a deep, dark spiral that takes dozens of lives to satisfy his own sense of having been thoroughly wronged. But it’s all about the rights of Cora and Clarice Groan.
Man . . . I still get shivers.
Next! Eric Northman of the wonderful ‘Southern Vampire Mysteries’ (known more commonly as the True Blood novels – thanks HBO!). A 1,000 (and change) year old vicking who happens to be a vampire does his best to apologise for getting Sookie (part fae telepath) harmed as she tries to bring him a message:
‘Angelic Sookie, vision of love and beauty, I am prostrate that the wicked evil maenad violated your smooth and voluptuous body in an attempt to deliver a message to me.’
Heh. Even without the text that surrounds it’s clear that Eric is one sarcastic bastard. And I know that through the course of the books he becomes less of a bad guy, but in the same manner that Spike becomes less of a bad guy through the course of Buffy, he’s still pretty damn bad!
And lastly, in an attempt to stay the hell away from Spike and Buffy (though I’ve now managed to mention him twice!) is Jean-Claude from Laurell K Hamilton’s ‘Anika Blake, Vampire Hunter’ novels. This is another guy who becomes good-bad rather than just bad-bad, but he has some particularly awesome lines throughout the series. Too many to mess with here. But what captures me most is his innocent romanticism, in every word he speaks, laced with an under current of ‘I’m a vampire and I’d kill you soon as look at you.’
Bad guys talk in a particular way. They’re smooth, slick and passionate. Their words are drenched with either burning sarcasm or light-hearted witticisms that cut right to the heart of who they are inside. They’re often honest too, which is an endearing quality particularly when coupled with the fact that most of the honest centres of the reasons we shouldn’t like these people.
Heh, anyway . . . next week I’ll be talking about the true reason we like bad guys . . .