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Villains Act, Heroes React

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"That's the problem with heroes, really. Their only purpose in life is to thwart others. They make no plans, develop no strategies. They react instead of act. Without villains, heroes would stagnate. Without heroes, villains would be running the world. Heroes have morals. Villains have work ethic."
Narration from The Last Avengers Story

An odd fact about the nature of initiative in fiction: If somebody has a plan at the start of the story, that character is probably a villain.

There are several reasons why this trend exists:

  1. A villain, in order to be threatening, must want something, and have some chance of getting it.
  2. Most heroes are protectors of some kind (cops, doctors [in medical dramas], or the parents of children who are being threatened by some [possibly supernatural] evil) and the villain's plans are a threat to the hero's Protectorate, thus making it impossible for them to be unusually proactive before the story starts.
  3. If the villain doesn't do anything, the audience is entirely within its rights to think that this is a case of Orcus on His Throne, which is frequently felt to be a bad thing.
  4. It's easier to write another story (and given that much fiction nowadays is in some form serialized) if the hero is not the one responsible for everything happening. Less important in one offs.
  5. The Heavy is in full play here, as well; and one of the few ways to make a smart villain appear effective is to have him be a successful schemer.
  6. If the hero is proactive about his situation, then the Status Quo will, in most situations, eventually change, which is frequently banned under Status Quo Is God.
  7. If the hero actively opposes the villain before the latter has done anything evil, all the audience sees is a Designated Hero harassing a Designated Villain for no reason. Less of a problem for running series where the villain earned his reputation in previous stories, though that can be seen as a belated heroic reaction to the villain's past actions. Alternatively, this dynamic may be more troubling, as it can be a symptom of Seasonal Rot, where writers struggling for ideas may turn to simply having the hero pick on a long-suffering character who doesn't really deserve it as a means to drum up a conflict that might interest viewers.

The opposite of this, Heroes Act, Villains Hinder, comes from stories centering on the actions or emotions of the hero:

This trope is much too broad for examples. Try the subtropes instead.

Alternative Title(s): Proactiveness Is A Villain Trait