A Writer's Journey

There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.

Maya Angelou

Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent.

Victor Hugo

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Writing Wednesday: Character Archetype - Obliviously Evil

Today's post is another character archetype that I've seen in a number of shows, movies, animes, books, etc.

When we think of a villain in a story, it is generally assumed that they are the drivers of evil within the story. Of course there are those, like the anti-villains, who have that small, if not fleeting, dance with a moral compass. And then there're the anti-heroes, who generally have some of that evil ingrained to give them a multidimensional feel, but still have enough good to keep them at hero status.

Then comes the Obliviously Evil. This character is interesting in that according to THEIR moral compass, they are in the right. Most people have a good grasp of what is good and what is evil, though there is a large gray area in between. The Obliviously Evil skew those beliefs and what the majority population believes as good and evil may not necessarily be so in their minds. They plan, they act, they formulate ideas - all based on their own moral code that, in their mind, is the right thing to do based on what they mean to accomplish.

That also touches on character motives, which I'll hit on in more detail in a future post. A character's motives drive them to create their individual ideas, to plan those ideas out, and to execute them. They could be self-serving, but they could also be what they feel is for the greater good.

For a more in-depth look, check it out here.

Some may not agree with me, but one real-life villain that comes to mind when I think of this archetype is Adolf Hitler. He had an idea which he thought to be good and right and for the sake of the greater good of the future. He didn't believe what he was doing was wrong because it was serving the motive or purpose that, in his morality, seemed in the right. Of course, the majority of the world disagreed. Which makes him evil, but obliviously so.

Do you believe a character can be obliviously evil? Or do you think that deep down inside, they know what they are doing is wrong and they choose to excuse it by saying it is for the greater good?

And now for our regularly-scheduled pretty...


  1. Good post, although for like half of it, I was reading "obliviously" as "obviously." Haha.

    Yes, I think they can both realize the sketchiness of their actions while also being oblivious to their evilness. They just think the end justifies the means.

  2. At first I read it as obviously as well. And yes, I think some people/characters can be obliviously evil, definitely. In fact, I think it's a trait that sometimes goes along with narcissism. They are so focused on themselves, they truly do not see what they are doing to others, unfortunately.

    Interesting post, Ani!

  3. @Krispy Hmm...that just gave me an idea. Maybe a future post about the "obviously evil" villains? LOL Anyhoo...more hmm...I don't think that the villain would be oblivious if he knew he was being sketchy. Right? At least that's what the logic in my head is saying. LOL

    @Susan Thanks, hun! That's an interesting take. I guess it would work with narcissism if their motives were completely self-serving, but not if they were doing the whole "I'm doing it for the greater good" thing. Or maybe they are so narcissistic that they believe their morals can't possibly be wrong. *insert gasp here* :D

  4. So the Oblivious Villain acts in accordance with his own moral compass without realizing it is skewed and/or that his or her actions accomplish evil.

    The key is his or her obliviousness. And I’d tie it back into your post by saying the classic form of blindness is unwavering belief in one’s rightness. Like Hitler, or Lenin.

    Yet belief in one’s rightness is not necessarily evil, nor will it always lead to evil.

    So maybe the blindness itself isn’t the self-belief, but an inability to conceptualize even the possibility of being mistaken (Which usually helps to ground a rational person’s solipsism) and an inability to empathize or see-it-from-someone-else’s-perspective.

    Heinlein says in Stranger In a Strange Land: “Goodness without wisdom invariably accomplishes evil.”

    It appears that the Oblivious Villain is the same in certain respects as the Moral Machiavellian i.e. a villain who stays utterly true to their skewed idealism—thus whatever they do by that code is, in their eyes, justifiable.

    Hmmm… You’ve given this old philosopher something to ponder.


  5. hitler's an excellent example of the obliviously evil.

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