Hate Sink


(permanent link) added: 2010-05-23 00:41:30 sponsor: gravityhomer edited by: Sen (last reply: 2010-05-25 00:53:28)

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This character is typically found in stories that do not contain a really evil villain that the audience can channel their dislike toward. Examples include disaster stories where there literally is no villain behind it all and certain action movies where the villains are just too cool to hate.

This character is not the main villain and is usually not a villain at all. They are not causing the struggle the heroes must overcome, although their actions always make the heroes job more difficult. Their list of character traits usually include selfishness, stubbornness, greed, holier-than-though contempt, and simply the inexhaustible ability to make bad decisions. Basically, they exist to be hated. Every action they perform and every piece of dialogue they utter, is designed to incite rage in the audience. They usually get their comeuppance in a very audience satisfying scene.

I want to make sure that people realize this trope differs from the Jerk Ass and the Designated Villain. The key here is in the story that the character comes from. The writers are giving you someone to hate simply for the sake of it, because they were probably sitting around thinking, well we need someone for the audience to say, "I hate that guy." But the character is sort of an afterthought to the actual plot. If you see my examples, they are not really necessary to tell the story. If you had only 30 seconds to describe the story you probably wouldn't even mention their names. So in this way I am trying to imply the characters are one dimensional. But if enough people provide examples where characters are more complex yet still fit this role, I think the one dimensional part could be relaxed.

Examples:

  • Titanic: Billy Zane's character, Cal. Let's face it, you cant be pissed at the boat sinking, because you secretly can't wait to digest every detail of it. But you can hate this guy. He is designed to be hated. He is the anti-Jack. He disparages the Picasso paintings; he verbally and physically abuses Rose; he tries to have Jack killed; is exposed to care more about money than Rose; and finally cowardly escapes on a lifeboat using a small child. Although he survives, he is deprived of Rose in the end and loses his money through bad investments and that is the audiences consolation.
  • Independence Day: The Secretary of Defense. You are kind of rooting for the aliens because you want to see them blow everything up. This guy knows about the aliens ahead of time but stays silent to give the President "plausible deniability". He continually pushes the use of nukes that are ineffective. He cockily celebrates victory too soon only to immediately be shown to be wrong. Finally he is the only person to disagree with the final plan that ends up working. His comeuppance is being fired.
  • Aliens: Paul Reiser's company guy, Carter Burke. The aliens are already High Octane Nightmare Fuel so the filmmakers are hedging their bets by offering Burke as the weaselly company guy that only cares about money and fame. He knows about the aliens ahead of time and sends the colonists to investigate. He disagrees with nuking the site from orbit. He tries to impregnate Newt and Ripley with alien embryos with a plan to sabotage and kill the other heroes. Finally he cowardly retreats behind a door locking the other heroes out, where he is deliciously killed by an alien.
  • Die Hard: The reporter. The German terrorists/bank robbers have awesome accents and their leader is the perfect villain to love, he is intelligent and compassionate to the hostages, but swift and deadly toward the authorities and driven by greed. So who do you hate? The annoying reporter that ends up exposing who John Mc Lane really is and that his wife is one of the hostages. Possibly the greatest comeuppance example: he is punched by Holly Mc Lane at the end.
  • Ghostbusters: Walter Peck, the bureaucrat. You can't hate ghosts. But this pencil pusher is pissed that someone has the audacity to be as cool as the ghost busters. So he shuts their containment system down causing the climax of the movie.
  • Twister: Cary Elwes plays the corporate backed Scientist. You can't rage at the tornadoes, right? They inspire awe in the heroes and give them purpose. But this guy "sold-out" and got corporate funding (why would a scientist ever want funding?). He's a hack that doesn't know the true science and just copies the heroes or relies too much on the instruments rather than the clairvoyant way that Helen Hunt just stares at the storm and knows which way it will go. Ultimately his whole team is sucked into the storm when he arrogantly ignores the heroes' warnings.
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