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 23 – T is for Tyrant
The Tyrant archetype can find its way into any genre of fiction, from a space-faring Sci-Fi Lord, to the whimsically corrupt wood-King in Fantasy, to the sand-swept deserts and lush jungles of the modern day. Webster defines a Tyrant as “a sovereign or other ruler who uses power oppressively or unjustly” and lord knows that calls to mind a cornucopia of fictional arch-villains. What makes a Tyrant differ from a Royal archetype, though the two are very similar, lies in the source of the power and the motivation for the abuse. Many Royals are also Tyrants, but Tyrants, more often than not, aren’t royal. They’ve usually earned their positions through blood, sweat, and tears (and typically all spilled by someone else) and are in no hurry to be removed from their lofty perches. They wield power like a cudgel, striking down any and all opposition to their rule, and typically oppressing the common men and women, creating a furtive spawning ground for protagonists to rise against them.
A Tyrant is typically powerful, ambitious, and cruel. They’re not necessarily possessing any vast intellect, but are usually cunning enough to strike down any moves made against them. While not always physically strong or imposing, most Tyrants villains have an aura about them that exudes influence. A harem of henchmen are at their beckon call, often hell-bent on becoming Tyrants in their own right, and employing the same cruel methods to serve the arch-protagonist. While these henchmen might be redeemable at some point in the story, the Tyrant never makes an anti-hero turn. He’s too cruel, too unrepentant, and too unsympathetic for the audience to feel sorry for. He’s uncaring and callous until he meets his end, often in a messy (and all too appropriate) fashion.
We love to hate the Tyrants almost as much as Royals, yet they tend to be scarier because they’re more identifiable. Many Tyrants earn their positions (although not in any kind of good manner) and start from humble beginnings, unlike their Royal counterparts. The utterly callous way they treat the people beneath them seems colder and more frightening when we consider that the Tyrant may have once been among those people. A Tyrant also tends to have an end to his means (ha), typically lovely goals like genocide, conquest, or exploitation. The end-game for this twisted sovereign may be completely understandable, or could simply be born of childhood prejudices or racial hatred. All the audience knows is they hate the Tyrant, might be a bit creeped out by him (or her), and can’t wait for the moment when the hero finally treats them to their just deserts.
Some famous (fictional) Tyrants:
- The Lord Marshal (Chronicles of Riddick)
- Adam Susan (V for Vendetta)
- Gul Dukat (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine)
- The Governor (Walking Dead)
- Emperor Palpatine and Grand Moff Tarkin (Star Wars)
- Doctor Doom (Marvel)
- Richard III