Bad Villains

The other night The Lovely Marianne and I were ridding ourselves of a few unwanted hours of consciousness in front of the television. (I kid. TLM was, as is her wont, on her laptop working on family history while keeping a half an eye on the mindless entertainment. I on the other hand was firmly glued to the box.) I won’t mention the show on the off chance someone reading this still thinks I’m a decent human being. In any event, in the course of the shoot ’em up, one of the good guys needed immediate access to the bad guys’ inner sanctum. Said sanctum was locked of course and the lock in question controlled by a keypad. You have to know the code to enter.

Unless.

Well, unless you have something with which to destroy the keypad. Heavily armed good guy had just the thing-a wicked looking gun. (I’m not a gun guy so the make, model and specs were beyond me. But it looked wicked.) A few bursts from the wicked looking gun, the keypad exploded and the inner sanctum doors sprang open. I paused the show to complain. “Can you believe that?” I asked TLM. This is not unusual behavior for me. I not infrequently stop a show to make observations and complaints. Mostly complaints. TLM, a woman of infinite patience, takes these interruptions in stride. “What dear?” she asked. “That!” I said pointing at the screen. “All they had to do to get into the inner sanctum was blow up the lock. I ask you what sense does that make?” She didn’t react because she knows by now. Ignore the crazy man and he’ll settle down.

Later, as I thought about this travesty, I was reminded of something my law school classmates reported to have been a sort of mantra for Professor Deem. A former Los Angeles County prosecutor, Deem taught the large section First Year Criminal Law class. (I was in the small section. Deprived of Professor Deems’ entertaining style, I was instructed by the much more cerebral Professor Durham. I know he was more intellectual because I never understood what was going on in class.) Professor Deem’s mantra? Criminals are stupid. And indeed it seemed like a basic security precaution not to allow such easy access to your inner sanctum.

Which led me further to contemplate a hilarious (at least to me) post I came across a number of years ago. The Top 100 Things I’d Do If I Ever Became An Evil Overlord That list is in essence a catalogue of stupid things bad guys do in fiction (particularly in movies and on television) formulated as an enumeration of things not to do. So I consulted the list and sure enough there it was. “No. 96 My door mechanisms will be designed so that blasting the control panel on the outside seals the door and blasting the control panel on the inside opens the door, not vice versa.”

It’s fun to peruse the list and identify stupid things fictional bad guys do to ensure or at least hasten their downfall. But there was one stupid thing I failed to locate on the list. Have you noticed that almost no one on television or in the movies protects their phones? It’s as if it never occurred to them to require a password or heaven forbid biometric identification on their phones. If you pick one up it’s Christmas! Data? Photos? Texts? Right there ready to provide needed clues. Grrr.

Now, I get it. Fictional people are smart or stupid as needed to move the story along. And I’ve been guilty of the same offence in my work. A beta reader and my editor both complained about Genia Calliot acting like an idiot (or at least very rashly) in Dawn’s Reach. I did my best to remedy that by explaining why she would act that way. I’m not sure how well that worked out. The best writers make a character’s smart or stupid decisions believable.

Do you think my irritation at the cluelessness I see on television will change my habits? No, that would be smart. I’m going back to that same well again, ready to watch the next episode in the show as soon as I’ve finished this blog post. That’s a dumb decision. Which makes me wonder. I think I’m being written by a terrible author.

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