A Recipe for the Perfect Bad Guy?

Are there a lot of hunchbacked monarch’s about lately, or is it me?

No sooner had the Hollow Crown finished than the cinema over the road from my office started advertising a live airing of Ralph Fiennes as Richard III.

I’m a convert. Spending the entire play in Richard’s head was as much fun as the first time I saw Tyrion Lannister’s beautifully ironic ‘you know how I love my family.’

It made me think about their other similarities.

  • Hated by at least one of their parents
  • A physical appearance that has a huge impact on how they are perceived
  • By large the most witty and charismatic character on the page
  • Completely unashamed of their own world outlook (with the occasional wobble)
  • They don’t care what people think of them. At least they don’t cry about it but do occasionally murder family members.

Typing this also makes me think of the Phantom of the Opera, and for the Abercrombie fans among you, Inquisitor Glotka, the dashing swordsman turned crippled torture who, despite the fact we regularly see him gleefully chop thumbs off, has an inner dialogue (much like Richard’s) which tight rope walks the edge of pantomime and makes you cry with laughter.

And they show me the way I would like to be fearless. I’m quiet, obedient and have a horrible habit of always apologising for myself. Even when I’ve done nothing wrong. I’d like to blame my parents (sorry Dad, if you’re still reading), but I think there are wider social and cultural pressures to blame.

There is danger in breaking the norm, my brain tells me on a daily basis. It’s dangerous to be too noticeable, too outside the box, too bad.

That is the spice in the recipe though – these characters show you things that you would like to do, even if it is as basic as pushing the fear away and just saying, ‘Fuck it, let’s see what happens if I try to be king today.’

These characters still have something to lose, they still have something that makes them human and they manage to invoke empathy even as I disagree with what they are doing. Plus they make me laugh, and seriously, if you make me laugh I will forgive you most things.  They show me a freedom of self-expression and ambition that I am only just brave enough to dream of.

And on a sliding scale (Tyrion being a protagonist in his own right, and Richard being a moustache-twirling bundle of wickedness) are they really bad guy’s at all?

And where are all the women in this line up?


I’ve already mentioned Glotka, and in honour of the 1oth anniversary of Joe Abercrombie’s The Blade Itself, in my next post I’m going to write about Ardee West.


Cynic, boarding alcoholic, social pariah and seducer of red-coated idiots. She’s a laugh a minute. Stop by and I’ll introduce you.