*** WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS ***
How I loath thee.
One of my newest passions in life is finding characters who defy the odds. Those who step away from the status quo of being stereotypical, and into the glorious light of original thought.
So, when I decided to do another installment of Don’t Be a Stereotype, I knew immediately who I wanted to praise this time…
Richmond Valentine from Kingsman: The Secret Service.
Valentine, played by Samuel L. Jackson, is the billionare villain who speaks with a lisp and has an aversion to blood and violence. If you’ve seen the movie, you’re probably already nodding your head in agreement. If you haven’t seen it, be warned: There be spoilers ahead!
Not your typical villain
I don’t normally go for the bad guy in films, but Valentine stole my heart. OK maybe not my heart, but I loved his offbeat, “bad guy” feels.
A typical villain in the action genre is your sauve, million-dollar-suit wearing, slicked-back hair, bad guy. Then it can go one of two ways: one. He’s either drop dead gorgeous in all his slick ways, or two. He’s got a cool scar with a gruff voice. Think Hans Gruber from Die Hard or Le Chiffre from Casino Royale.
You don’t find that in Valentine.
Valentine likes to crack jokes, wear ballcaps, and layer his clothes like crazy. Topping it all off with long , beaded necklaces that match whatever he’s decided to wear that day.
And then there’s his love for food. Most notably his affinity for cheeseburgers with secret sauce.
Adding character choices like this makes him strangely relatable and funny. How many times has the villian in an action film made you laugh?
Valentine definitely stands out from the crowd in this regard.
When writing a villain, try to avoid the common themes. Think of the most unlikely characteristics and write that character as a villain.
Strong Explosive Choices
What I love most about Valentine is that he’s full of strong character choices.
He’s got an incredibly strong lisp that covers most of his speech. What stands out most about this is that it makes him sound sweet and innocent. Like your little niece who’s missing her two front teeth.
It’s a drastic difference to his “let’s kill over half the population” mentality.
Doing this makes his character all that much more frightening and compelling to watch. He doesn’t fit into our boxes of the typical bad guy, so we’re never sure of the choices he’s going to make.
Another strong choice is his aversion to blood and violence.
Taking a bad guy who’s out to create the most violent and bloody act the world will ever know and making it impossible for him to even see one drop of blood without losing his lunch is ironic.
This is such an excellent choice. It gives his character an immediate struggle for what he wants, which in turn makes him even more interesting to watch.
An excellent example of this is when Valentine kills Galahad (Colin Firth). We know he gets squeamish over violence, so when he pulls the trigger on our hero he has to look away. Once his evil deed is finished, he askes his right-hand woman, Gazelle (Sofia Boutella), if Galahad is dead.
The ensuing conversation is captivating to watch, because Valentine’s childlike response to killing someone is done with exellence. He’s meant to be the bad guy, but in this moment he’s like a child and Gazelle the mentor. The combination of his weak stomach for violence and the use of his lisp are an incredible help to create this effect.
Think about these types of strong choices when writing your villians. Make them well rounded and give them out of the box likes and dislikes.
Of course none of us condone Valentine’s methods or morals, but he’s the kind of bad guy I can watch over and over again.
Samuel L. Jackson does a fantastic job at bringing this character to life. Smiling when others would scowl. Letting his mannerisms convey a sense of wonder over silly things like Big Macs, and using that lisp for all it’s worth.
Likewise, Jane Goldman did an excellent job of writing this character. I hope she creates many more characters that break the norm of stereotypes.
So, my ultimate take-away?
Don’t be stereotype.
Have you seen a character that’s broken away from the norm? Let me know in the comments below. I’m always keen on watching someone NOT be a stereotype.
Until next time. Peace, love and ponytails.
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