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Ultimate Guide to Villains and Antagonists: Organizations

Ultimate Guide to Villains and Antagonists: Organizations

The Ministry of Magic Starfleet Command The IRS (not fictional!) We’re all familiar with that vast, faceless organization that sucks at our time and forces us to jump through endless legal and bureaucratic hoops to get what we want. They are the antagonist simply because they oppose free will and slow down our efforts to achieve our desires. Return to main list

Organizations: The Origin

Here’s the truth about organizations: humans form them in order to provide structure and order in an inherently chaotic world. At their inception, they are helpful and keep society from devolving into chaos by keeping things neatly organized. But there comes a tipping point in every organization’s existence when they go from helpful to bureaucratic and frustrating. We’ve all had those experiences of sitting on hold for hours to call a government office, speak to the IRS, or cancel the cable. And therein lies the reason organizations make such great antagonists! Organizations don’t (usually) seek to actively oppose the protagonist. However, by their very nature, they stand in the way of free will. “I want the FREEDOM to change my cell phone to a better plan.” Unfortunately, you have to go through your existing cell phone provider (and all that fun red tape) to make it happen. “I want the FREEDOM to hold my child’s birthday party in my favorite local park.” That means finding the department that issues the license for that specific event. Organizations are founded to provide order and structure, but that structure can become inhibiting. When our protagonist is trying to achieve something and the organization stands in their way—maliciously or unintentionally—they become an antagonist. The bureaucrat is a popular villain to include when dealing with organizations, but often organizations are staffed by helpful, cheerful people who really WANT to help yet simply cannot because the regulations (established for the public’s benefit) get in the way. There are no end to creative ways organizations—from universe-spanning corporations to tiny companies—can be used to slow down the protagonist, throw obstacles in their way, or force them to find another approach to solve a problem. Return to main list

In Stories

Organizations aren’t generally used as primary antagonists, but they make excellent secondary and tertiary antagonists:
  • In The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the Vogons are a race of bureaucrats—essentially an entire species that is one vast organization, with the paperwork and permits to prove it!
  • Harry Potter’s Ministry of Magic is intended to organize magic use and protect the magical world from Muggles, but they ultimately become antagonists when they oppose Harry Potter’s attempts to defeat Voldemort.
  • Star Trek’s Starfleet Command is a classic example of a military organization that obstructs and hinders more than helps.
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