If there was ever a character that deserved to be called "Magnificent", that character is
the Magnificent Bastard. The Magnificent Bastard is what happens when you combine The Chessmaster
, The Trickster
, and the Manipulative Bastard
: bold, charismatic, independent, and audacious. Capturing the audience with their charisma, incredible intellect, mastery of manipulation, and boldness of action, this character is a show-stealer, demanding your reverence at every turn. The term "Magnificent Bastard" was first used by General Patton in reference to Erwin Rommel
in the film Patton
, upon realizing that he was facing a man who literally wrote the book on deceptive warfare. It acquired its current meaning courtesy of Lionel Luthor of Smallville
, who was given this nickname by the Television Without Pity
So what makes a character a Magnificent Bastard? Let's break it down:
- They are brilliant and utterly devious. Call it genius, call it virtual omniscience, but they always seems to know what everyone else is planning at any given moment and makes them play right into his hands, and exactly how to arrange the game so they win even when they have been defeated.
- They are a smooth operator. They always has a backup strategy and never loses their cool. Even if on the remote chance something happens that wasn't in his plans, you'd never know it from his actions. Didn't See That Coming doesn't derail him; if his plans are foiled, he can always improvise.
- They have a goal, they're not going to stop until they've completed it, whatever it is. To that end they will do anything. They'll move heaven and hell. Despite their choice of tactics, they are a rarely if ever pointlessly cruel, and those who are tend to be so creative in their cruelty that it practically becomes an art form.
- They are charismatic, often charming, their personality is like a physical force. People tend to like them, sometimes even when they know they aren't on their side, and even those who hate their guts have to admit respect. Even when at their darkest, they have traits which one can't help but admire.
- They are Genre Savvy. They do not fall for obvious traps, release the Sealed Evil in a Can or negotiate a Deal with the Devil before having devised The Plan to deal with it. Bringing them down is a long process of getting them cornered, although sometimes it is abrupt and played for shock value to show someone's awesomeness by comparison.
While usually an antagonist, especially if they're the Big Bad
, the Magnificent Bastard can be aligned on either side of a conflict. Hell, they're so amazing they tend to forgo the idea of good and evil altogether
, instead following their own agenda, choosing to help whichever side
will further their goals. However, it's true that their penchant for manipulation at the expense of others means it's common for them to be a Villain
, Villain Protagonist
, or at least an Anti-Hero
, but purely heroic examples exist. Either way, they're usually in charge of whatever organization they're involved with, or might as well be
Aside from all the various aspects which come together to define the Magnificent Bastard, compare and contrast the Smug Snake
, who fell short due to his own arrogance. When a villainous Magnificent Bastard becomes so over the top that he is no longer believable, then he becomes a Villain Sue
(a regular Mary Sue
for the heroic version). Also compare the Guile Hero
, who uses cleverness, trickery and manipulation but lacks the flair and depth of-planning to elevate him to Magnificent Bastard status. Despite the term, he is not likely to be a Bastard Bastard
, thanks to that person's inherent daddy issues, but there's nothing preventing him either.
Bonus points if at one point he or she offers the enemy a Sadistic Choice
and gives a Slasher Smile
Rarely a Complete Monster
, because audiences are likely to find it harder to admire such a character, but some bastards are so magnificent that they can get around this. Being a Smug Snake
is a common trait of bastards trying
to be magnificent.
As Willing Suspension of Disbelief
and popularity can vary from person to person in an audience, so will which characters qualify for the title or fall under some other trope such as those stated above. Check this page out if you want to Write A Magnificent Bastard
of your own.
Now divided into: