Cliff Simon says he likes playing the bad guy because “they’re more fun.” This is true because, even in a fantasy world, being ‘good’ means following rules, be that official ones or the character’s moral code. The bad guys aren’t constrained by those rules and so their characters are freer.
I mention Cliff because he played one of my favourite bad boys – Stargate SG-1’s Baal. Right from the beginning, he wanted to play Baal against type, and it shows. And it’s why he drew my attention (that, and he’s pretty hot.) I wasn’t the only one and fan demand meant Baal ended up becoming the major bad guy.
This also meant his character saw the most development; though he never became ‘good’, he did help SG-1 – after a fashion – on a couple of occasions, each with little moments that hinted at depth. When events forced him to hide out on Earth, we were privy to a glimpse of humanity which only served to make him more interesting.
Baal is not the only bad boy to grab my attention. I have a penchant for them that goes back so far, I’m not even sure who started it. Doctor Who’s Master was one of the first. I don’t even have the defence that he had some redeeming qualities – his being gleeful about his wickedness was what drew me, but then I was eight at the time. Naughtiness is appealing when you’re that age.
Skip many years and the airing of Farscape. I can still remember the two page spread in the Radio Times that announced this weird sci fi show. I was captivated from that moment because it looked so different from anything else. Yet it wasn’t the blue-eyed all-American hero that I fell for. Captain Bialar Crais had me from the second he stalked onto the bridge of his ship. British TV was still by-and-large white, but Crais (played by the fabulous Lani Tupu) was not and I was breathless. Then That Old Black Magic gave him a Tragic BackstoryTM and I was a goner.
I maintain that Crais has THE best character arc in sci fi. He goes from a cold, slightly unhinged commander to a man willing to sacrifice himself for those he’s come to care about. It’s not an easy route. There’s pain and loss, but his strength shines through and honestly just thinking about it makes me tear up.
Lately I (and many others) have been falling for the ultimate bad boy – Lucifer. Devilishly handsome and completely irreverent, Luci is a hell of a lot of fun. Yes, I am making these puns on purpose. Yet despite the supernatural premise, Lucifer has a more basic plot – it’s about someone finding their true self and how they fit into the world. It’s relatable and if there’s one thing a bad boy needs to be good it’s relatability.
Loving the bad guy might strike some people as warped, but I refer you, dear reader, to my original point – that bad guys are more fun. They’re the heroes of their own stories and often want the right thing, though they might not go the right way to achieving that goal. Some are just after acceptance – I will emphasise more with those characters who don’t fit somehow. Who are searching for something.
And yes, often the hero is doing those very same things, but I like my characters intelligent, mischievous and just a little bit snarky, and the good guys tend not to be like that. So on the dark side, I will stay.