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Evil Virtues
aka: Villainous Virtues

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Dr. Kelso: Son, do you think I got to be Chief of Medicine by being late?
Dr. Cox: No, Bob-o, you got there by back-stabbin' and ass-kissin'.
Dr. Kelso: Maybe so, but I started those things precisely at 8:00.
Scrubs, "My Butterfly"

Villains are bad, it goes without saying. However, they can't be all bad for the simple reason that a character loaded down with all of the Seven Deadly Sins (along with whatever other character flaws writers can think of) will be too lazy, gluttonous, envious, prideful, angry, lustful and miserly to do much of anything. A villain laden down with too many vices quickly becomes a loser.

Even if they only have one vice, a villain is going to need a big heaping of icky good traits in order to accomplish their goals. They don't have to be an Anti-Villain,note  they just need to have one or more virtues to get by. The reason for this is both practical and artistic. Practically, a villain with a virtue of some kind will have a way to put their schemes in motion and effectively oppose The Hero. Without these virtues, authors would have to resort to making them a Generic Doomsday Villain to get anything done. Artistically, it helps make the villain a Rounded Character, and helps make them dynamic if their virtue and vice are somehow in conflict.

Oh, and it lets them get all holier-than-thou during a Breaking Speech, throwing in a "Not So Different" Remark or two — especially if the hero really is deficient in a virtue (or apparent virtue) the villain cherishes, in which case the villain may even claim that they hold the moral high ground.

For example: A Prideful villain might also be very hardworking in order to get the power he needs. A slothful villain might compensate with amazing creativity, coming up with amazing inventions, Evil Plans, and limitless funds. A wrathful villain may nonetheless be very loyal to his minions, inspiring great devotion. A greedy villain might back it up with tenacity, relentless and unyielding in their pursuit of more, more, more. A lustful villain may also be extremely courageous, willing to risk death or worse in pursuit of their carnal desires.

Where this can get strange and interesting is when this is applied to a villain who is Made of Evil. Here you have a ball of elemental nastiness who also happens to have one or more positive traits. Who knew elemental evil had such good taste in scones?

However, there are virtues and then there are virtues. Much like Color-Coded for Your Convenience, there are some virtues that are okay for heroes and some that are more often seen in villains. These are:

Contrast Mr. Vice Guy, where a hero has an emblematic vice, Virtue Is Weakness, where the villain explicitly rejects all good traits, and Complete Monster, for villains who have no redeeming qualities (except for maybe ambition, valor, determination, passion and diligence).

Usually, whenever Even Evil Has Standards comes into play, it's because the offender has violated one of the virtues listed above.

This can mostly overlap with Pure Is Not Good, as being evil with most of the virtues can lead to that direction.

See also Negatives as a Positive, when the bad personality traits themselves are given a good spin.

This trope is very, very common. In fact, it also qualifies as Universal Tropes. Listing examples here would just be an exercise in futility.

Alternative Title(s): Villainous Virtues