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Evil Is Angular

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Even if the pitch blackness didn't give it away, the hard angular and edged design makes Maleficient appear evil, compared to the rounded shapes of the Big Fun Baloo

Here's a character design tip; angular shapes on characters usually symbolize "danger".
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Regardless of who your villains are, they are going to be visually at least one of two things: One is Sexy, the other is imposing, and one of (if not the main) way for villains to appear imposing is through involving lots of sharp corners, edges, and geometrical shapes in in their visual design — Whether it's their tools, their clothes, their bodies, their faces, their Supervillain Lair, their mooks, or even their entire faction, it seems that soft curves and round shapes are solely the purview of the good guys, because villains wouldn't be caught anywhere near them.

There's some psychological basis for this; since the dawn of time, humanity has had to avoid sharp objects as they posed a threat; thorns, sharp rocks, tusks, and more were all capable of piercing or cutting wounds into our soft hides, and as such we have an instinctive aversion towards irregular edges, points, and sharpness all around, especially if they move. Something that villains aspiring to strike fear into the hearts of their enemies will happily use to their advantage.

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As such, if a character undergoes an Evil Makeover that is not played strictly for Fanservice, expect it to include lots of visually edgy design — though this is not to say that the tropes are mutually exclusive.

Has no relation to Darker and Edgier despite the description — "edgy" is simply the word used for something with edges, in the same way that something with a lot of spikes is "spiky", and neither is there any relation to Straight Edge Evil — in which the "straight edge" is a shorthand for having no vices.

See also Masculine Lines, Feminine Curves, which uses lines and curves to denote masculinity and femininity instead of good and evil, and contrast with Lantern Jaw of Justice - where straight lines around facial features were used to indicate heroism. Compare Sinister Geometry where the perfection of the geometric shape is offputting.

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Subtropes:

  • Armored Villains, Unarmored Heroes: You can be nigh certain that if one side uses armor and the other doesn't, the one that does is the villain, and said armor will usually have sharp edges
  • Creepy Long Fingers: Want to evoke the imagery, danger, and imposing nature of claws without actually giving a character them? Make the fingers longer, and you'll have the same effect
  • Crown-Shaped Head: One of the reasons that this trope is visually imposing is because it destroys the rounded features of a normal face on top of invoking authoritarian symbolism.
  • Fangs Are Evil: One way to ensure a villainous look is to give the character sharp, pointy teeth.
  • Femme Fatalons: Handily replaces the rounded tips of fingers with long claw-like portrutions, see also Creepy Long Fingers.
  • Flying Cutlery Spaceship: Want to make a spaceship immediately convey "This belongs to a bad guy"? Make it brim with sharp edges as though it was intended to knife-fight in space. Bonus points if these edged implements are impractically moving for no other purpose than intimidation.
  • Good Armor, Evil Armor: In the cases where both sides wear armor, expect the villainous side to invoke Tin Tyrant imagry.
  • Good Lips, Evil Jaws: Lips are usually soft and round, and immediately familiar, whereas a jaw full of jagged teeth will evoke the quite natural response of danger
  • Good Wings, Evil Wings: In general terms, the more sharp and pointed wings are, the more likely they belong to an evil character
  • High Collar of Doom: Want to make an evil character visually imposing? Frame their rounded face with hard-edged high-collar.
  • Horns of Villainy: While horns may be curved or curly, all horns end in tips, tips which more often than not make their owner look visually imposing.
  • More Teeth than the Osmond Family: For the same reason as Fangs Are Evil and Good Lips, Evil Jaws, but even more pronounced.
  • Rage Helm: A helmet is usually a rounded piece of head protection if it does not incorporate Horns of Villainy in its design, yet this is not imposing enough for villains - and so they add lots of angular design to the helmet to make it imposing, often to the effect of making the helmet look like it is scowling.
  • Scary Impractical Armor: Goes hand in hand with Tin Tyrant - the essence of the trope is that the scariness is so pronounced that it impedes the practicality of the armor - this is often attained through enormous amounts of sharp edges and spikes
  • Serrated Blade of Pain: Making a weapon have more edges than it needs for a clean cut put a weapon in the territory of someone uncaring of clean kills - these people are more likely to be villains than not.
  • Sinister Schnoz: Foregoing the rounded nose for a sharply pointed one is a surefire way to paint someone as evil, most likely a non-benevolent witch
  • Spikes of Villainy: Spikes are almost never the sign of a good person/faction
  • Thin Chin of Sin: Goes hand in hand with Villainous Cheekbones in giving a face angular features.
  • Tin Tyrant: Coating yourself in visually imposing armor is a surefire way to paint yourself as the villain, and sharp edges and pointy spikes are one of the most surefire way to attain this goal.
  • Villainous Cheekbones: A character foregoing the typical soft and roundness of a face in favour of angular features is a surefire sign of dubious morality.
  • Villainous Widow's Peak: Because nothing says "villain" than having hair on your forehead form a triangle.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • My Hero Academia
    • Downplayed with Katsuki Bakugo. His spiky hair, sharp eyes, and angular face mark him as thoroughly unpleasant to be around and stand in stark contrast to the rounded features of his long-time victim, Izuku Midoriya. Outside observers go so far as to expect Bakugo to become a villain in due time, only for him to betray all those expectations by flat-out refusing to after Shigaraki kidnaps him and invites him to join the League of Villains.
    • Played straight with Stain, who is called the "Hero Killer" in-story and has an almost triangular face. He is also a Walking Armory of bladed instruments, wears spiked boots, and has a propensity for stabbing people and licking their blood.
    • Subverted in the case of Kirishima. The full application of his Quirk hardens his entire body to the point that even his eyeballs become angular, but he's a Nice Guy who gets an internship with Fatgum, who is round and amiable.

    Comic Books 

    Films — Animation 
  • The Secret of Kells
    • While Brendan and the rest of the illuminators have more rounded shaped bodies, the Northmen are built with more cornered shapes; they all have square shaped bodies with sharp horned helmets, clawed fingers, and long rectangular beards.
    • Crom Cruach is this in spades. Not only is his tomb covered with sharp spear-like pillars and the entrance being a megalithic/pyramid-like design, but his body is completely angular; aside from his curved head and eye, his teeth, symbols and the shape of his body are all very sharp and jagged in contrast to a typical serpent. Fitting, as Crom means 'bent' or 'crooked' in Irish.
  • in Shrek, the set designers deliberately made everything in Lord Farquaad's castle, down to the glass that the torturer poured milk into for the Gingerbread Man's torture scene, angular. This deliberately contrasted with the rounded visual designs of Shrek's swamp.
  • The antagonist of Steven Universe: The Movie, Spinel, has sharp shoulder pads, pointed shoes, and jagged pigtails, and commonly stretches her limbs into bizarre angled lines to appear intimidating. This edged look is contrasted with her original form, which is much more rounded and cutesy.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Matrix: all the major characters wear Cool Shades while inside the Matrix, but the human freedom fighters all wear shades with rounded lenses, while the Machine Agents all wear rectangular lenses. Then The Matrix Reloaded introduces some wrinkles to this formula. Seraph, a computer program who's defected to the human side, wears perfectly circular lenses. Meanwhile Neo (The Chosen One for the human resistance) switches to somewhat-rectangular-but-still-rounded shades, while his nemesis Smith (an Agent who's gone rogue) switches to somewhat-rounded-but-still-angular shades—to visually signify that the two characters are Not So Different from each other.
  • Star Wars:
    • The Empire of the original films uses visually imposing geometrical shapes for their space stations (mostly polygonal), walkers (mostly boxy) and ships (mostly triangular), this is in sharp contrast to the Rebel Alliance's own ships and stations, which all have a curvature to them, and who rely on Tank Goodness with rounded treads rather than walkers. Even The Empire's Death Star is only round at astronomical distances, revealing itself to be absolutely stuffed to the brim with rows upon rows of laser turrets up close.
    • The First Order of the sequel films have a Flagship that is a Mile Long and looks like a giant imposing arrowhead, once again in contrast to the rounded shapes of the rebellion.

    Literature 

    Live-Action TV 
  • Star Trek:
    • Starfleet's ships generally sport graceful curves, especially compared to the hard angles and sharp edges of the Klingon warships. Interstingly, the original Romulan Warbird subverts this, tying into Kirk and the Romulan Commander being Not So Different.
    • As the Romulans grew more villainous, their ships grew sharper and more angular. The D'deridex Warbird, main Romulan ship in The Next Generation, features sharp-looking edges on its double-hull design and a prominent hooked "beak" in the front. The Valdore Warbird from Nemesis is even sleeker and sharper overall, giving the appearance of the D'deridex pared down to its essentials. And the Warbird seen in Enterprise retains the basic silhouette of the Original Series Warbird, but replaces the smooth curves with sharp points. It reached a pinnacle with their Scimitar, which could even 'unfurl' a weapon which made it look like a metallic spider.
    • Not just their ships, but everything about the Romulans tends toward the triangular: their clothes, their hairstyles, even their rubber foreheads. Cardassian uniforms are rather pointy as well.
    • The Borg, as a Hive Mind whose sole concern is assimilating other species into their collective, completely forego any sense of aesthetics in the design of their technology. As a result, their spaceships always look like geometric solids, the hallmark being the gigantic cubes the Federation typically encounters them in. The one notable exception was the very irregularly-shaped ship crewed by the Borg that had fallen under the psychotic influence of Data's brother Lore.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In the Forgotten Realms setting for Dungeons & Dragons, the largely Chaotic Evil drow are often described and depicted this way. Both males and females tend toward Spikes of Villainy and Scary Impractical Armor. They also have even more angular features than regular elves, often being depicted in official art with Villainous Cheekbones, a Thin Chin of Sin, and often a Sinister Schnoz.
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • The Aeldari use psychic Organic Technology to create vehicles and equipment with flowing curved shapes and while they are nice, they can at least be worked with if it is in their interests. The Drukhari faction of Aeldari, however, are pirates and raiders who not only psychically feed on pain and suffering, but revel in their brutality. This is reflected by their tech still having the organic curves typical of Aeldari technology but heavily emphasizing sharp intersections and edges. Visually, the difference could be likened to a water-worn rock compared to a crudely knapped stone arrowhead.
    • While it depends on the editionnote , the design of vehicles and technology used by the violence-obsessed Orks are often blunt and brutal, with a jagged scrapyard look that gives away their common origin as battlefield salvage. This can also vary by clan, with the more militaristic Blood Axes preferring more regimented designs similar to those of the Imperium of Man while the primitive Snakebites prefer to add spikes, skulls and spines to make their vehicles look like mechanical beasts.

    Video Games 
  • In Astral Chain, the Chimera have very angular designs and plenty of spikes. The legions (essentially enslaved chimera controlled and directed by the eponymous astral chain) sport sleek armour, but get much spikier when they go rogue. Similarly, The Abyss and humans who redshift get blocky, angular growths before finally turning into monsters.
  • Destiny: The Traveler (the source of your powers and the protector of humanity) is a white orb, while its counterpart, The Darkness is an armada of black tetrahedrons, as seen in the stinger for Destiny 2.
    • Similarly, you can see how sympathetic each faction is by how curvy their ships are: Fallen ships are bulbous where Cabal dropships and Hive transports are boxy and rigid, the latter adding Spikes of Villainy to their aesthetic. The Vex, in keeping with their nature as Starfish Aliens, don't use ships, simply teleporting to the battlefield in a wave of lines that turn at right angles at regular intervals.
  • Inverted in Halo. The good guys in the human alliance the UNSC use boxy ships and weapons with lots of right angles and hard corners. The evil Covenant use ships, weapons, and armor with lots of curves and bulbous shapes. Forerunner structures and drones, which tend to be neutral alignment, use angular designs, and the worst of all evils, the Flood, turn everything into swollen protuberant masses and sinister tentacles.
  • Honkai Impact 3rd: Robots built by the antagonistic Anti-Entropy look very blocky, while those made by Schicksal (where our heroes belong to) are sleeker, with the humanoid ones being close to human in proportions and outline. Played with in that our heroes end up going against Schicksal while allying with Anti-Entropy.
  • The Metroid series has Samus, who wears a rounded set of Powered Armor complete with spherical shoulders and a built-in transformation to the perfectly spherical Morph Ball. In stark contrast, there's the Space Pirates and Ridley, with sharp angular designs, even using pointed heads and eyes.
  • Overwatch:
    • Moira of Talon is very sharp, both in character design and mental acuity. She has a very pointy chin and prominent cheek bones; elongated, bony fingers; long, sharp nails; her sleeves have wide, flowing ends that taper at the bottom; her shoes are pointy with a few Spikes of Villainy on them; and when she runs, her arms trail behind her, turning her entire body into an arrow.
    • On a more iconic level, Overwatch's Icon is circular, looking like a futuristic peace icon. Talon's is a High Tech Hexagon with a three-pronged pointed talon in the middle.
  • Warcraft's first two installments saw the Orcish Horde using plenty of Spikes of Villainy for their building and armor designs, as well as having mouthfuls of sharp and jagged teeth, in sharp contrast to the High Fantasy appearance of masonry and rounded battlements of the Alliance. By Warcraft III, the Orcs were no longer the primary antagonists of the settingnote , and while their buildings kept the visual spiked style, the size of the armor spikes significantly decreased, and their teeth regressed to humanlike flats, with a few pronounced fangs. It was eventually revealed that Fel Magic, which the orcs were juiced up on in the first two games, actually causes physical changes in whatever it touches - be they living beings, landscapes, or buildings. No prize for guessing what the primary characteristic of these changes are.

    Western Animation 
  • Gravity Falls has Bill Cipher as a big bad: a mind-travelling and conniving demon with nigh Reality Warper powers originally from a 2D universe... and also best described as a yellow pyramid with an eye (yes, a single eye), a tophat consisting of two rectangles and a walking cane.
  • Samurai Jack: has Aku, and where to even start: Rectangular Horns of Villainy? Check; Fangs Are Evil? Check; Ractangular head? Check! Triangular upper torso in his Shapeshifter Default Form? Check; Shoulders that look like a skeleton is stretching the skin to give them axehead-edges? Check! Creepy Long Fingers ending in a talon-like claw? Check! Has a home in Mordor where the his mere presence have corrupted the land and given the trees a leafless, irregular spiked look? Check-mate! Really, even if this guy wasn't pitch black, you'd instantly peg him as the villain.
  • Steven Universe:
    • Yellow Diamond, the first of the Diamonds to be properly introduced, has sharp shoulder pads, a tailcoat and a spiked, helmet-like hairstyle, and pointed high heel boots.
    • In contrast to her fellow rulers, Blue Diamond is the only one of the present-day Diamond Authority who has no angular edges, instead having long, flowing hair, a smooth dress, and rounded, droopy eyes. She's the least antagonistic of the trio and the first one to do a Heel–Face Turn.
    • Many flashbacks from the Crystal Gems' perspective depict Pink Diamond with a spiky hairstyle, demonstrating their belief that she was evil. Ultimately subverted in that she actually had a much more rounded appearance, hair included, and was the Token Good Teammate of the Diamonds.
    • White Diamond has a slightly more realistic, well-defined look, with sharp fingernails, star-shaped hair, Villainous Cheekbones, and pointed shoulder pads.
  • Whereas Wander of Wander over Yonder is very circular in his design, with his hat, shoes and head, that main villains Lord Hater & Lord Dominator, have a lot of angular patterns.
    • Hater has his triangular hat and the lightning bolts on his head & gloves, an aesthetic that is mirrored in his minions, the Watchdogs.
    • Dominator, also has the lightning bolt horns & gloves, along with spiked shoulder pads and an edged gladiator helmet. These traits are carried over to her battle armor, along with a skull mask and sharp claws. There's also her minions, that often have spikes during battle mode, her use of bladed weapons and her battleship.

    Real Life 
  • Clowns are generally supposed to design the makeup surrounding their smiles with rounded edges to look non-threatening and amusing to children. Serial Killer John Wayne Gacy, on the other hand, always designed his makeup with pointy edges when he went out in clown getup, giving him quite the Monster Clown appearance.

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