Prator the Legendary
Where's the line drawn between a "Villain" and a "Monster?"
That's easy. The line is drawn at the point where it is no longer possible to sympathize with the villain at all, and you no longer consider the villain(s) to be "human." It's different from hating people, or disagreeing with them; it's treating them as the Other, as something that no longer attracts any emotion (except possibly fear, or hostility) because they are mentally different enough that they are not people anymore. They are animals, or worse. It helps if the "monster" in question is not, in fact, a human being at all. Some Examples:
King Haggard of The Last Unicorn is a man who desperately wants to be happy. The trouble is that seemingly nothing makes him happy, and so he is willing to try absolutely ANYTHING in order to find happiness, up to and including mass murder, senseless oppression, and the capture/enslavement of several thousand unicorns. Bad as his actions are, it's suprisingly easy to pity him for his motive; in person, he's depressed far more often than he is cruel.
Charnel of Sacrifice is the god of Death, whose virtue is Conflict. His actions are those of a complete monster, insofar as his goal is kill absolutely everyone and turn them into undead slaves, who will then fight eachother for his amusement. His reasoning for this is that nothing good or pleasureable in life ever comes without some amount of suffering (preferably the suffering of others). Even if you don't buy into his philosophy, he's hard to hate. Why? Partly because he's kind of cartoony (just note the first 25 seconds or so), and partly because he's very cheerful in his malevolence. His endless stream of wit somehow mitigates the fact that he's probably the most destructive and evil of all the Sacrifice gods.
Captain Penhoet of Master and Commander and Post Captain is a perfect French gentleman, the sort of man who will gallantly defeat you in a duel and then invite you to dinner (in the book, that's exactly what he did, only the "duel" was between two navies). His skills as a sailor and a captain are unquestionable. In fact, the man's only fault seems to be that he's French, whereas the protagonist is British, and the two nations are currently at war. Sure, he captured protagonists' ship, nearly leading them all to be hanged at court-martial, but that's war for you. Hard luck, mate.
Cthulhu is an ancient alien creature from before the dawn of time/beyond this reality. A monster in the literal sense, Cthulhu is so unlike humanity that for any man to come into contact with him means madness or death, perhaps both. His cultists are demented by the standards of other humans, and the deity himself is described as indescribable. Cthulhu cannot be sympathized with, because he has no qualities that appear human, let alone qualities that could attract sympathy.
Anton Chigurh of No Country for Old Men is a serial killer whose motivations are obscure and whose ability for systematically finding and destroying people is indisputable. If he enters the scene, you know that terrible things are going to happen in the near future. The weird thing is that it's hard to pin him down as "good," "evil," or anything else, because there is no explanation in the book for most of what he does. He'll kill based on the outcome of a coin toss, reasoning that he doesn't really have any more freedom of choice than the coin. For that matter, none of the people he kills had any choice in their destinies either. He's like a force of nature, killing without an apparent reason for doing so much of the time, and yet he's much more focused than a tempest or a flood. In the end, you stop thinking of him as a man and start thinking of him as "Chigurh," just because it's hard to grasp what he does in human terms.
The Shivans of Descent: Freespace - The Great War are a race of aliens whose goal is... unknown. They're not out for conquest, since they never stop to colonize any system they conquer. They're not out for vengeance, since they will freely attack people who were previously unaware of their existence. They're not out for technology, since everything they have is more sophisticated than anything available to the other spacefaring races. No one's really sure what their culture's like, or even what they look like. The only thing that's known for sure is that they actively eradicate any spacefaring race that starts colonizing other worlds or warring with other spacefaring races. They'll destroy entire planets to achieve this goal, and apparently have done so for thousands of years.. They meet any attempts at communication with violence. Other alien races have some qualities about them that you can identify as vaguely human-ish. The Shivans, however, are purposefully kept in the shadows, unknown and undefined. You don't know who or what they are. You only know that they're trying to kill you, and so it's impossible to think of them as anything other than monsters.
< Message edited by Prator the Legendary -- 7/12/2009 12:00:36 >