Movies tend to focus more on the “Beating people up and saying legally-inadmissible one-liners” aspect of crime, because successfully avoiding problems makes for a great society but a terrible movie. The fact is that someone blowing up a tank makes a movie better, even if it’s Sex and the City. Especially if it’s Sex and the City.
One of the most important bits of progress we’ve made as a species is realizing that talking can be a huge amount of help in a surprising number of situations. You don’t need to know the meaning of life or the location of the twelve jade monkeys, but just knowing how to talk to someone – and more importantly, getting them to talk to you – can act as a psychological pressure release valve and save years of struggle. That’s where the online counseling degrees come in. Letting others open up is one of the most valuable things you can do.
We look at some movie villains who could have avoided all their problems, and achieved their goals, if their own psychological problems hadn’t ruined everything.
Magneto is one of the most powerful mutants in the series, and that’s a story where even bit-players can cause fires by thinking about it or steal your life force with their little finger. His ability to manipulate metal makes him virtually unstoppable in the modern world, he regularly sets up huge armies and secret bases, and honestly, if he wasn’t so hell belt on turning the entire world against him every single time he’d probably win.
His problem is childhood trauma and a persecution complex, leading him to think the only way he’ll be safe is to exterminate every normal human on the planet. That’s pretty paranoid even for a regular person, but when you can implode guns just by thinking about it you’re at less risk than most. If you don’t want to live near anyone else, when you’re the only person who can build your own floating islands by pondering steel girders, old beats, and iron ore, you can set up wherever you want.
If he could just vent his rage in a non-murderous way, maybe realize that the way he keeps challenging the super-psychic and they guy with lasers in his face is a form of self-sabotage, he might chill out.
Hans Gruber (Die Hard)
Hans Gruber, the most brilliantly egocentric villain ever to rob a bank. Which was a crying shame because he could have just walked in and asked for the money. The German thief is just trying too hard to show off how awesomely smart he is. Well-connected, erudite, charming, and able to stay cool in the tensest situations. Instead of posing as a terrorist and blowing up chunks of the building, he could have just walked in one day and asked for a job. That way he could have stolen even more money, and this time the government would be paying him for the privilege instead of sending FBI agents with machine guns.
So why does he so desperately need to prove himself? Why is he so angry? What possible cause is there to look at Bruce Willis and think “Yes, I am able to win against that man.”?
Lex Luthor (Superman)
Lex Luthor was an odd villain to lose because he’d already won at everything except the one fight he picked personally. He was rich, influential, respected, and had basically won at America and capitalism. He was on the cover of every magazine with photographic technology and his word was law to politicians. At one point he explains he won’t become president because it would be a demotion, then becomes president anyway as part of an even bigger plan. This is a man for whom being First Person is a minor task, like buying eggs.
So when an indestructible uber-mensch arrives from another planet, far beyond our petty concerns, Lex decides to pettily concern the hell out of himself. He regularly destroys billions of dollars, priceless relics and prototype super-machines just for a failed chance at beating someone who isn’t competing with him. If he could just figure out why he hates success so much he has literally found himself a problem from outside the planet, he could get back to feeling good about his infinity dollars.