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Smug Snake

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"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 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 a brilliant mastermind. 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, stupid or ineffectual, however, and may succeed with at least part of their goals, but they are still lacking that charm and grace that a cooler or more competant villain possesses, and even the clever ones all too often end up being Too Clever by Half. 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 brilliant mastermind, then he is a villainous Small Name, Big Ego. When things go badly, the Smug Snake may reveal himself to be a Dirty Coward and pathetically grovel when a former victim asks Who's Laughing Now? or beg the victim to save them in the event of outside danger.


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 Evil Is Cool when their previous actions have proven otherwise, the audience will likely stop enjoying hating 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 case of EvilIsCool 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 brilliant mastermind 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 line between those two tropes is thinner than it looks after all and the further a character overestimates himself and underestimates the others the closer he leans to Smug Snake territory even if he is normally a case of Evil Is Cool. So it is a state of mind directly proportional to the overconfidence and a character who has a good reason to have a high idea of himself will need to exaggerate his self-worth more to reach it than someone who hasn't.


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.)

If the Smug Snakes are literally snakes, then it also overlaps with Snakes Are Sinister.

Contrast Worthy Opponent, Evil Is Cool 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 (although any of these may be perceived as a Smug Snake by an audience via Alternative Character Interpretation or simply poor writing). Compare and contrast Smug Super, for when the person's arrogance and ego can actually be backed up with feats.

Subtrope of the Sin of Pride.

Sometimes Truth in Television, but let's leave it here, so No Real Life Examples, Please!



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