Why are people still so crazed over Heath Ledger's Joker after a month in theaters? Maybe because he's the first villain we've seen in ages who didn't kind of lick. The problem of villain suckage is endemic in heroic narratives, where villains get redeemed, become sympathetic, or lose their menace too easily. We've got a 7-point diagnosis for villain anemia, plus a "unified theory" of how to make villains awesome, and why they matter. Spoilers for recent movies, and upcoming TV, below.
We already talked about the problems of saggy villains back in February, particularly with reference to the show Heroes, which has only gotten more and more worrying since then. The show's next chapter is called "Villains," but the producers and stars keep saying, over and over, that it's really about "confronting the villain inside our heroes." Dude, the true villain is within. Right there, under your navel. Really. Just stare a bit harder, and you'll see it. Not to mention the persistent reports that we'll be seeing the "softer side of Sylar" this season.