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Smug Snake

I'll give you a description [of Mister Daniel Lumis]. A forked tongue, little beady eyes, and he slithers on his belly. You'll find him easy. Just look under rocks.
Mrs. Kandell, Mister

The Smug Snake is a type of character (usually cast as a villain) who tends to treat friends and enemies alike with equal disdain. They almost constantly speak in a sarcastic tone and punctuate most of their sentences with a smirk. While they aspire to be a formidable and awe-inspiring adversary, they often end up just being a Big Bad Wannabe, failing in the face of more cunning villains or ending up as their servants, in which case they'll generally be The Starscream. Others that fall under this trope are simply in it to bug the good guys and take advantage of their moral insecurity.

A key character trait common to Smug Snakes is overconfidence. The Smug Snake is usually too arrogant to be rattled. Most often, they will think themselves to be the Magnificent Bastard. While they may believe that they have the situation under control (whether they do so through blackmail, coercion, or simply being in a position of authority), there will usually be a hole in that plan that they failed to consider. Perhaps they underestimated their opponents' abilities and claimed themselves unbeatable, or maybe they made a really stupid mistake along the way. Once that realization hits, expect the Snake to lose their cool right before everything starts falling apart for them. They are not necessarily entirely incompetent or ineffectual, however, and may succeed with at least part of their goals, but they are still lacking that charm and grace that the Magnificent Bastard possesses. Often a Know-Nothing Know-It-All as well, to inspire added bile, though still enough to take the 'sympathetic' out of Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain (the best of them are Insufferable Geniuses heavy on the former and light on the latter). If a Smug Snake considers himself a Magnificent Bastard, then he is a villainous Small Name, Big Ego.

Most of the time, a writer will purposely introduce a Smug Snake as a target for audience hate by making them Kick the Dog or bend the rules to get their way and come out smelling like a rose. Basically, this is a villain that's made to be hated and the audience will enjoy hating. This, like all other tropes, can backfire if misused. If the writer still tries to foist the character as a Magnificent Bastard when their previous actions have proven otherwise, the audience will likely stop enjoying to hate the character, and instead genuinely hate them as much as they would The Scrappy or the Creator's Pet. Evolving a Smug Snake into a true Magnificent Bastard could be doable, in theory, but shouldn't be attempted lightly, and has only been pulled off successfully in fiction a few times. Ever. Of course, the author might be deliberately doing this, playing a villain up as a Magnificent Bastard when it comes to getting the power he craves, but proving to be so inept at wielding that power once he finally has it that he ends up as a Smug Snake instead.

The Smug Snake will rarely be a Draco in Leather Pants, because, as previously stated, he tends to be created intentionally to be loathed by the audience. (However, it is possible for this to happen, especially if the character is physically attractive — the Trope Namer himself is an example.)

Contrast Worthy Opponent and Magnificent Bastard, who inspire respect and/or admiration from their opponents/the audience, and Awesome Ego, whose brash cockiness is part of his or her charm. See also Smug Super. Not to be confused with the player characters of Metal Gear, the criminal from The Simpsons, or the principal of Degrassi.

This trope has sometimes Truth in Television, but carries also Unfortunate Implications. Let's leave it here, so no Real Life examples, please.


Examples


Small Name, Big EgoEgo TropesSmug Super
Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus CynicismJustForFun/Tropes of LegendStable Time Loop
Complete MonsterSliding Scale of Character AppreciationMary Sue
Social ClimberPrideful TropesToo Clever by Half
Small Name, Big EgoCharacters as DeviceSoapbox Sadie
Small Annoying CreatureScrappy IndexSoapbox Sadie
Smoking Is CoolCharacterization TropesSmug Super
Peek-a-BogeymanVillain BallThe Starscream
Happily Ever AfterImageSource/Animated FilmsSleeping Beauty
Smoke ShieldAdded Alliterative AppealSmug Super
SlimeballSelfishness TropesThe Social Darwinist
Corrupt HickSliding Scale of Antagonist VilenessWicked Witch
Noodle IncidentOverdosed TropesKilled Off for Real
Sliding Scale of Villain ThreatVillainsThe Social Darwinist
Small Name, Big EgoAdministrivia/No Real Life Examples, Please!The Smurfette Principle

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