Why do we accept that villains are stupid? Not that they make stupid mistakes but that they are stupid. Think of a villain… I’ll wait… Ok do you have one? Great!
Are they stupid? Not unintelligent. All Bond villains are brilliant but soooo stupid. “I will destroy the world.” Chances are you’ve thought of a dumb villain and chances are it doesn’t bother you that they’re dumb.
It’s like there are four classes of villains, anti-villains, comic, stupid, and scary. Some villains are just there to make you laugh and some are there just to give the protagonist something to achieve.
Most of what Loki does in Avengers and Thor seems absolutely dumb. Did he really think he could get away with it? I mean really? No of course he didn’t. I don’t think Loki is a villain any more than I think Dexter is a hero. Loki is an Anti-Villain. He wants to be a bad guy and he wants it bad but at heart he’s really a big softy.
The comic villains are the ones that are so over-the-top that they are barely even considered villains. Darth Helmet from Spaceballs or Amilyn (Paul Reuben) from the Buffy movie.
The stupid villains are everywhere. Sometimes it’s just bad writing. Benedict CumberKHAAAAN from the latest Star Trek was a super-genius but apparently didn’t understand how to work a scanner. (Armed torpedoes beamed on his ship and he didn’t know?) STUPID!
I’m not against villains having flaws. Sauron, from Lord of the Rings, loses simply because he’s too arrogant to think anyone would destroy the ring. Other than that he was a scary level of brilliant. Benedict CumberSmaug, from the latest Hobbit, is so prideful that he doesn’t believe anyone can touch him. Pride and Arrogance are the most common fault in villains and Heroes.
Now try to think of a villain that truly terrified you. In horror movies, we have Micheal Myers, from Halloween, and Jason, from Friday the 13th, all they want is to kill. No elaborate plans just carnage. That’s scary! The audience knows what the villain want, understands why they want it, and knows they’ll get it.
Disney has some scary villains. Gaston is a true villain. He pretends to be dumb but plans and schemes. He’s a bigot, murderer, and hates progress. Worst of all, he’s charmed everyone around him to make them think he’s the Hero. Now that’s scary.
Or how about Ursula, or Cruella De Vil? They make a few mistakes but overall they were good at what they did and they did it ruthlessly.
I love television but it’s the worst offender when it comes to having stupid villains. Every recurring bad guy in Bones starts out as scary and then they have to make them stupid at the last minute. Castle did it for a few villains. Whedon seems to avoid this by making a lot of Anti-Villains. Warehouse 13, Sanctuary, Eureka, and to a lesser degree Stargate all had this problem.
Back to my original question: Why?
Why do we, as an audience, allow stupid villains?
Is there a villain that scared you with how smart they were?
P.S. Evil Overlord list!