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 25 – V is for Varmints
What is a Varmint, you ask? Well clearly its a slang insult used by Yosemite Sam when he’s upset and flailing the six-shooters. What I found out after I looked it up, is it also means “an irritating or obnoxious person” (Thanks Webster) which is a facet of villainy I haven’t covered yet. For the Varmint archetype, we’ll be discussing the truly insufferable, irritating, obsequious little bastards that annoy the audience in every way possible. These are the bad guys that you absolutely cannot stand, and borderline give you a stress headache every time they’re on-screen. They’re the boot-lickers, butt-kissers, and apple-polishers of the villainous world. They flatter, lie, connive, and mince their way to approval from a much more influential being (whether its a more powerful antagonist or an unwitting protagonistic force). This isn’t a character the audience loves to hate, or even moderately respects. A Varmint is universally unlikable, and that’s the true genius of employing the character as a villain.
When it comes to redemption, a Varmint walks a slippery slope. They’ll gladly turn their coat as soon as it looks like their side is losing, but rarely is this due to a desire to redeem themselves or an inner epiphany. Most of the time, this Varmint just wants to save the skin that oft-turned coat is protecting. There are rare occasions where this despicable n’er-do-well will genuinely see the error of his ways, and try to make up for a lifetime (or at least most of a storyline) with a final, and often fatal, act of bravery. The flip-flop nature of the Varmint makes them one of the hardest archetypes to hold down, and some memorable examples will change allegiances multiple times in a story. More often than not, however, this uncouth, undependable little bastard will wind up going down with the proverbial ship he jumped to, meeting a fitting end and satisfying the audience completely.
A Varmint is also often comedic, and can be used to lighten up a somewhat dark facet of the narrative. Some of the coolest examples bungle along and the audience enjoys mocking their ineptitude until they do something truly deplorable to a hero or heroine. We’ll often forget the fully evil nature of the Varmint until it smacks us in the face. The most fitting role for this archetype is a right-hand man or trusted henchmen to an arch-villain or over-arching antagonistic force. They’ll execute prat falls, fail spectacularly at simple jobs, and then lie or blame someone else so they don’t get punished for their ineptitude. A Varmint will do and say just about anything to please whoever it is they serve. On very, very rare occasions, a Varmint may be the main arch-villain, but often these are farces or comedies, as previously mentioned. Rarely exceptionally smart, strong, skilled, or powerful, this archetype nonetheless features a naive cunning often born of desperation and fear. They can be exceptionally memorable and effective villains, and often are attributed with some of the most quotable lines or memorable moments.
Some Famous Varmints:
- Peter “Wormtail” Pettigrew (Harry Potter)
- Benny (The Mummy)
- The Sheriff of Rottinghan (Men in Tights)
- Jar Jar Binks (Not a villain, but he should be)
- Klytus (Flash Gordon)