Why is it that people only think a male character is badass when he’s killing things? Why is it that someone who doesn’t fight is seen as inherently weak?
Here’s the thing: I’m coming out in defense of Dark as a viable villain. Again. And honestly? I wouldn’t have to if people bothered to take a second look at His characterization.
And this time, I might actually lose followers for this one. Because shit’s about to get real-world real quick. But I’m not sorry, because some folks need to be whacked with the ol’ clue x 4.
But to start out with, let’s just say this: We already know that most of Mark’s other characters have a body count. Fine.
Has Dark ever killed anyone? Not that we know of. And that’s the key phrase. We don’t know if anyone’s died because of Him, but we don’t know if they haven’t either.
Why does this matter? Do me a favour: Think of the most evil man in the world. The most evil man in history. The one whose rulership made the deepest, darkest stain in the pages of humanity’s story.
Chances are, your mind immediately jumped to this guy:
Yes, I’m invoking Godwin’s Law for a reason here. Just stay with me.
Adolf here? His career as a soldier in the German army was a wash, he wasn’t exceptionally bright, and… well, to be honest, he was probably quite insane (Mein Kampf is a treatise just chock-full of the crazy). The military “prowess” of his dictatorship was mostly made up of pure dumb luck.
But he had a little something called CHARISMA.
He spoke so passionately, so convincingly, that he was able to charm millions of Germans into the belief that Jews needed to be exterminated like rats. It sounds crazy now but, the way he could talk to the people of his country, he left them completely convinced that he knew what was needed to Make Germany Great Again.
Millions of people died because of him, even though he himself never lifted a finger. He was persuasive… and that made him exceptionally dangerous. Because he got so many, many others to do his dirty work, with a spring in their step and a song in their heart.
I’m not saying that Dark is a dead ringer for Der Fuhrer. Dear gods, no. Hitler’s regime was a genocidal reign of terror that actually killed real people, and I don’t want to mitigate that.
But from a storytelling standpoint…
What does this have to do with our fictional demon Darkiplier? Quite a lot, actually. Let’s look at His stats:
- He’s manipulative and ruthless.
- He’s very smart and speaks with great passion and eloquence.
- He’s charismatic, even charming.
- He’s persuasive in His arguments, where He actually sounds quite reasonable and even sympathetic.
- He can get you to feel bad for Him or, at the very least, like He’s not an actual threat.
- He’s been carefully studying what makes Mark’s audience – His audience – tick. (And World’s 4th Quietest Let’s Play may have been His big test on how effectively He can fly under our radar.)
- He’s been lurking in the shadows, just out of sight, but still pulling strings.
- He’s convinced the other, more immediately threatening, Egos to either work on His payroll or to collaborate with Him. (The Host and Google have been under His employ for some time now, and Will is more than happy to work with his buddy Dark. All the others effectively domino into line, right after those guys, just like lemmings.)
- And – perhaps most importantly – HE HAS A PLAN.
In case you missed the memo…
A direct death toll isn’t necessarily a sign of the potential damage a villain can do. It’s the effect he has on others. The way he’s able to manipulate people, when he wants to get shit done. It’s how many and what kinds of people will merrily dance to the beat of his drum.
Just think about that the next time you want to say that Dark “ain’t got shit” on other, more immediately bloodthirsty characters. They’re impulsive, with no sense of self-control. But Dark knows exactly what He’s doing, and is very patient. We’ll know exactly how dangerous He is… when He’s ready. And when that happens, how many of us will be?
This is why you need to delve under the surface, deeper into a character. Fiction isn’t pulled entirely out of thin air. It’s inspired by things going on in the creator’s real life, what they see and hear all around them, even if it’s only something they synthesize into their work subconsciously. Fictional villains serve as a warning, a truth rendered more palatable in a story, that we shouldn’t fall for such tricks… or dismiss such a dangerous enemy just because he doesn’t “look” dangerous.
Darkiplier isn’t a trigger-happy thug. He’s a charismatic leader who’s playing a long game, the goal of which we can only guess at. We know less than we need to about Him… and He knows far too much about us. He knows exactly how to play us, like a seasoned maestro with a Stradivarius violin. That is what makes Him so dangerous.
And, for my fellow U.S. fans, if you’re thinking that we’d never fall for someone even a fraction as bad as that in the real world, in our country…
It’s too late. Because we already have.