Snidely Whiplash.

Darken Rahl.

Colonel Sebastian Moran.

From cackling, moustache-twirling, and melodramatic to pompous, arrogant, power-hungry nobleman or ruler, the Dastardly Whiplash is simply “evil for the sake of evil”. They use their wealth and power to prey on the weak for their own amusement or enrichment.

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Dastardly Whiplash: The Origin

This character type originally started out as the melodramatic foil to the straight and somber hero—like Snidely Whiplash from the Dudley Do-Right cartoon series.

  • In British literature, he was typically a minor nobleman of some sort, usually scheming to gain power or riches.
  • In American literature, he was typically a man of wealth and power: banker, oil baron, real estate mogul, railroad tycoon, etc.

His appearance was always pretty standard:

  • Evil-looking features—long nose, dark and shifty eyes, and an exaggerated chin
  • Black top hat and other accessories (gloves, cane, etc.)
  • Curling black moustache or similarly “evil” facial hair
  • Old-fashioned suit with cloak used for dramatic flourishes

He is typically evil for evil’s sake. Even when given the chance to make the right decision, he’ll typically cackle, rub his hands, and do the most ridiculous things for the sake of foiling the hero—the things that ultimately foil his own plans or lead to his untimely demise.

The problem with this villain type is that it’s incredibly one-dimensional. People are rarely evil just because they enjoy it (like the “Chaotic Evil” alignment of Dungeons and Dragons). Instead, a well-developed character will typically have an explanation as to how they can rationalize their “evil” actions. They tend to be amoral or have a twisted morality rather than simply a desire to commit evil.

An article on Psychology Today has an interesting explanation of “evil”:

“Evil people are those who are unable to empathize with others. As a result, their own needs and desires are of paramount importance. They are selfish, self-absorbed and narcissistic. In fact, other people only have value for them to the extent that they can help them satisfy their own desires, or to which they can exploit them. This applies to dictators like Stalin and Hitler, and to serial killers and rapists. Their primary characteristics is an inability to empathize with others. They can’t sense other people’s emotions or their suffering, can’t see the world from other people’s perspective, and so have no sense of their rights. Other human beings are just objects to them, which is what makes their brutality and cruelty possible.

This is usually the explanation behind the “Dastardly Whiplash” character.

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In Stories:

The perfect example of a well-developed “Dastardly Whiplash” is the Grinch from the 2000 film How the Grinch Stole Christmas. While the Grinch initially is portrayed as a character who is “evil for the sake of evil”, the movie gives a glimpse into how he became so: as a result of being bullied for his unusual appearance. He became the Grinch as a result of his mistreatment, not as a choice.

Darken Rahl from the Sword of Truth series is another similar character, as are most of the villains from that series.

Sherlock Holmes’ antagonist Colonel Sebastian Moran is another excellent example.

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