My theme for the A to Z challenge is Villain Archetypes.
Yes, 26 descriptions of some of your favorite villains of literature, TV, and movies.
April 3rd – C is for Confidence Man
Ah, the Con Man, the sleaziest and most disreputable of all the archetypal villains. This is the sleazebag that lies and smooth-talks his way into a protagonist’s trust, or the trust of a sympathetic person or institution, and then betrays that trust for personal gain. This type of bad guy is also very adaptable in a storyline: He (or she) can be the irredeemable arch-villain, a friend-turned-fiend by circumstance, an ancillary flunky, henchman, lover, etc. The Con Man, similar to the Bad-Ass, often serves a higher, more malevolent evil, and it’s a rarity to feature them as the main antagonist.
These under-handed urchins rely on their social skills and fast thinking to get what they need. Occasionally these folks will have superhuman or supernatural abilities to assist them as well. As masters of manipulation, they know what makes a hero tick, and use that to their advantage. Plenty of movies, films, and books will also flip this archetype and portray the Con Man as the protagonist, usually abiding by a moral code where he rips off wealthy debutantes, unlikable rubes, and other, more malicious criminals (think Ocean’s 11 or Dirty Rotten Scoundrels).
A favorite of kid’s stories and Disney movies, this character does not need to be violent, or even all that evil to fit the role. Quite often (especially in Disney movies) the Con Man (or woman) will feel guilt for betraying the protagonist, and redeem themselves later on in the story arch.
Some well-known Confidence Man Villains:
• Dr. Facilier (Princess and the Frog)
• Scar (Lion King)
• Low-Key Lyesmith (American Gods)
• The Thenardiers (Les Miserables)
• Mystique (Marvel Comics)
• Gilderoy Lockheart (Harry Potter)