Complete Monster/Criteria

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The Complete Monster is the worst kind of villain: a villain who is pure evil. They are also nicknamed Pure Evil or less commonly Devil in Person. These are the complete opposite of Incorruptible Pure Pureness. This page discuss the common criteria for a villain to qualify as a Complete Monster.

Basics

For villains to be a Complete Monster they must:

  • Be taken seriously by the in-story characters regardless of the work's regular tone.
  • Commit atrocious acts that are uniquely terrible in comparison of any other villain(s) in the work's setting.
  • Display no redeeming qualities: no remorse, no empathy, no love, no altruism or compassion for anyone.
  • Exhibit nothing in their backstory that sufficiently explains their behavior or validates their actions.
  • Cross the Moral Event Horizon in a particularly horrible way.
  • Never backtrack from that Moral Event Horizon or seek redemption for their crimes.
  • Show that they have a clear Moral Agency (see below).

Criteria

The villain must meet all criteria in order to count:

Villain's traits

A Complete Monster must have a defined personality and character. Clearly, one-dimensional characters that have no defined traits, such as most Lovecraftian eldritch abominations that destroy everything in their path, never qualify. This does not mean that a character that never speaks cannot be a Complete Monster; if this character displays a clear personality, they can qualify.

Moral Agency

The Complete Monster must have clear Moral Agency: they must distinguish right from wrong, but deliberately choose to do wrong and stay evil all the time, purely because they find it beneficial to themselves to be such. For this reason, villains that are incarnation of darkness or born from Hell itself will almost never qualify, given that they only know to do evil (e.g. the Crimson King). Likewise, forces of darkness and entities such as A.I. or demons do not qualify if they explicitly lack the capacity for determining morality.

Moral Event Horizon

The Complete Monster must be well over the Moral Event Horizon. Usually they should commit several acts that might be considered Moral Event Horizon crossings to underline their wickedness. However, a character that only crosses the Moral Event Horizon once might qualify if the line said character crosses is sufficiently heinous enough by the standards of the story. Jenner from The Secret of NIMH is an example, as he betrayed and caused the murder of the old leader of the rats, thus taking the power for himself.

Screen Time

The Complete Monster's acts must be explicitly detailed, or at least shown within the story. For this reason, villains who commit most of their deeds off-screen usually do not qualify. Rare exceptions can be made for villains who meet all criteria for their crimes committed off-screen, especially if said crimes have a huge impact on the story.

Heinous Standards

A Complete Monster must cross three standards in order to count. In addition, villains who are part of a corrupted system have to cross the System Standards as well.

General Standards

These are the standards that separate the average villains from those who stand out relative to those villains as being completely and utterly evil. At this point, going against the heroes or committing petty crimes such as theft, murder, blackmail, assaults or vandalism are basic villainy but Complete Monsters must commit something that is uniquely vile. Usually, such acts cause great feelings of anger within the characters and the audience alike, and are basically unforgivable. Crossing the Moral Event Horizon is usually the line that a character should not cross, but every villain who crosses the Moral Event Horizon is not necessary a purely evil character (see below). The General Standards are generally cross whenever a villain commit these crimes:

  • Mass murders, child murders, and personally motivated homicides
  • Rape (especially if done to a child).
  • Torture (especially if done to a child).
  • Genocide or Omnicide (done or attempted).
  • Mind Rape (if severe enough and explicitly awful in effect)

In-Story Standards

These are the standards that separate the average villains from those who are completely and utterly evil within the story. Every stories involving villains have a Basic Villainy Level, also known as Basic Standard or Bog Standard, that are the worst crimes commonly committed by pretty much the majority of villains inhabiting the work's setting. In a light story, the Basic Villainy Level is usually murder, but in darker stories this level will be higher, considering that the villains are far more wicked.

Every villains that are below the In-Story Standards, regardless of how wicked or unnecessary their acts are, cannot be Complete Monsters since they are "basic villains". Only villains who are worse than the Basic Standard may qualify, provided they meet every others criteria.

For instance, in the Grand Theft Auto video games, the Basic Standard is Serial Killer. This means that Serial Killers, even if they do not show any redeeming quality, do not count since they are below the Basic Standard. However, a character like Donald Love count, because he is not only a cannibal as well as an implied necrophiliac rapist, but also ordered countless murders and is the one responsible for the destruction of an entire neighborhood, which has cost the lives of thousands and is far beyond the simple Serial Killer.

Seriousness Standards

A Complete Monster must be taken completely seriously, from A to Z. Their acts are cruel and unforgivable, period. Mischievous characters or comic reliefs can never be Complete Monsters, even if some of their actions can be dreaded or even disgusting to others. In addition, villains that are meant to be frightful, but somehow are not so evil (usually because the script is poorly written that it does not make any sense), can not count as well.

Complete Monsters might possess a sense of humor, but their humor is ultimately dull or completely wicked, if not outright bad, and while it might be funny to the audience, in-universe it is only funny to the villain.

Villains that appear in Comedy works may qualify if they contrast from the rest of the production by being completely serious. An example is Lots-o'-Huggin' Bear from Toy Story 3; he did not only torture and punish the toys of Sunnyside for a long time in ways comparable to real corrupt authorities and brainwash his old friend Big Baby with cruel lies and rhetoric, but opted to leave Woody and his friends to be incinerated at the end of the movie; he could have been redeemed after they'd saved his life, but chose not to. Lotso's actions are not only atrocious, but he is taken very seriously in a movie that is otherwise more light-hearted when he's not around.

System Standards

These standards only applies if the villain is part of a corrupt system. Generally, given they are part of a specific system with certain morals, they don't commit actions that are beyond the basic heinous standard and meet "the norm", regardless of how heinous this norm might be. That's why minions or simple servants of greater villains usually never qualify.

However, a villain may qualify if:

  • They started said system, and thus meet every criteria (e.g. Poppy Adams).
  • They commit atrocious actions that go far beyond the norm of the system they exist within, which can also prove that they would commit such atrocities even if they weren't a part of said system. Jerome Valeska of Gotham is an example of this because, even as a member of the Maniax, he committed the worst atrocities, to the point that their leader unexpectedly betrayed him.

Freudian Excuse Standard

No sympathy can be given to the Complete Monster by the narrative, regardless their past or current condition. Even if they had a terrible past, their Freudian Excuse is presented in-story as inadequate in rationalizing their behavior and giving any validity to why they choose the actions they do. Complete Monsters are FAR PAST tragedy, given their horrendous acts and lack of empathy.

Freddy Krueger from A Nightmare on Elm Street is a good example of this: as a child, he was abused by his adoptive father, then bullied by the other kids. And what did he do later? He not only kidnapped, tortured and killed dozens of Springwood's children to satisfy his sadistic urges, but he also strangled his loving wife after she discovered that he was the serial killer, even though she promised not to tell anyone about the murders.

By having no empathy, Complete Monsters manage to destroy their own innocence, and as a result, are no longer sympathetic.

Redeemability Standards

By nature, a Completer Monster has crossed the moral threshold and is well past the point of no return in terms of their humanity. They possess no qualities to their characters whatsoever that might serve to mitigate how vile they are and are never anywhere close to redeeming themselves for their numerous heinous crimes, nor do they ever embark on the road to self-betterment or seek to make amends for their evil ways at all. A true redemption for such a villain should not even be considered.

No redeeming qualities

A Complete Monster must have no redeeming quality to speak of: no love, no friendliness, no compassion, and no remorse. Any action towards someone done out of genuine empathy is a disqualifying factor; Complete Monsters must be completely evil with no sense of care for anyone but themselves. with no traits to mitigate this evilness.

No honor

A Complete Monster shows no honor or respect towards anything or anyone, even if they exhibit the pretense of it. They will use everything given to them in order to get closer from reaching their goals, torment and kill their foes or simply committing random acts of cruelty.

No shot at true redemption

A Complete Monster is beyond redemption. They cannot conceive of bettering themselves as people, for they believe they cannot change, and in most cases, believe they should not change, and they never make a conscious choice to embark on the road to redemption and atonement for their crimes, for which there is no regret in their hearts. Any effort towards redemption they appear to take will ultimately prove to be a sham and will not stick in the long run.

Villains who join the heroes' side at any point out of PRAGMATIC and SELF-SERVING needs, but still retain their villainous ways, can NEVER be redeemed if they are to qualify - the Complete Monster WILL slip back into their evil ways once their needs are fulfilled. Freeza in Dragon Ball Super is a good example of this.

Likewise, villains who do get turned good only by some outside force rather than an active choice on their part can still qualify, as they would have never come to that point on their own, being so thoroughly malevolent to the core that only a change of that core itself could redeem them in any way. Dr. Regal of Megaman Battle Network, Vorbis of Discworld, Darkrai of Pokemon Mystery Dungeon, Zouken Matou of Fate/Stay Night, Master Xehanort of Kingdom Hearts, Obito and Madara Uchiha of Naruto, Dartz of Yu-Gi-Oh! , and most famously Angelus of Buffy: The Vampire Slayer (who, upon gaining a soul, becomes the remorseful and heroic Angel) are all examples of this.

The Worst Of The Worst

This villain has to be the worst villain in story, with very-little-to-no competition. There can be more than one Complete Monster per story, but each one has to stand out with their own standards of heinousness relative to the Basic Villains within the work and its universe.

Notice regarding Exploitation villains

Villains who come from "exploitation" works that are astounding for their horrifying, disgusting and over-the-top appalling content usually do not count, as the story is made for shock value and is not intended to have a solid plot. A Complete Monster is supposed to stand out from a story that is intentionally standing out itself with its graphic content.

An example of this is the villains from August Underground: the killers are extremely violent and the murders are legitimately disturbing, but aside this, there is absolutely no plot. The story is solely intended to frighten and thrill the audience, and the vicious murderers are not meant to be hated.

However, exploitation villains who manage to be even more evil than the rest of their wicked fellows may qualify if they meet the aforementioned criteria. An example is Alan Yates of the infamous Cannibal Holocaust exploitation movie, as he not only lead the atrocities staged in the film, but also laughed at the death of his friends when they are gruesomely executed by the natives. Thus, Alan Yates manage to be most despicable man of his team, and as a result, falls under the Complete Monster status, even in a story that was intended to be horrific.

Tropes that cannot apply for a Complete Monster

If a villain possesses any redeeming quality, or else is not taken too seriously, they may be one of the following:

  • Affably Evil: Complete Monsters are never affable or friendly towards anyone, even to their closest associates - at least not genuinely. Affably Evil characters have lines they won't cross, while a Complete Monster has no limits.
  • Anti-Villain: An Anti-Villain is a villain who has noble goals, whereas Complete Monsters have no noble goals that will benefit anyone but themselves, if even that.
  • Death Equals Redemption: Or the reverse trope Redemption Equals Death, because Complete Monsters can never be redeemed.
  • Designated Villain: Designated Villains are never purely evil since they are designated to function as antagonists without much choice in the matter, if any.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Complete Monsters do not have Loved Ones and do not display love towards anyone. They are completely devoid of any altruistic quality, so how can they genuinely be in love, or at the very least care for another?
  • Grey and Gray Morality: There's no ambiguity about whether the Complete Monster is evil or not; they will firmly entrench themselves on the "black" side of Black and Gray Morality or Black and White Morality. Characters in the Grey Zone are never completely evil, even if they are not completely good either.
  • Heel Face Turn: Complete Monsters cannot be redeemed and do not wish to become good characters. Complete Monsters are always evil.
  • Made of Evil: Complete Monsters have the option to be good or evil, but ultimately choose to be evil. Characters who are Made of Evil have no choice but to be evil, and are thus disqualified from this trope.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Complete Monsters cannot show remorse for their heinous crimes, with the exception of villains who display regret for their actions prior to their become evil.
  • Pet the Dog: Complete Monsters are never genuinely nice, even if for a brief moment.
  • Played for Laughs: Complete Monsters are always taken seriously; even if some of their moments may seem comedic, as discussed previously, this only qualifies in regards to the audience, and their actions must be portrayed as serious in-universe to qualify.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Complete Monsters may start as one of these, but are ultimately warped the point of straight-up hypocrisy through their own actions. An example is King Boo of the Mario franchise: he started off as a Well-Intentioned Extremist in the first game who was very fond of his Boos and went out of his way to rescue a powerful one named Boolossus from one of Professor E. Gadd's paintings, but after being defeated by Luigi, he completely casts away any and all redeeming qualities in the sequel.
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: This kind of villain is forced to do evil, not by choice. And like the Tragic Villain, they are at least meant to be somewhat sympathetic despite their evil actions. A Complete Monster, however, chooses to be evil and is not meant to be sympathetic. Some Complete Monsters start out as one, but ultimately their goals are twisted to the point of losing any sympathy their Freudian Excuse may have garnered.

Tropes that can apply on certain exceptions

If a character fits any of these tropes, think twice before listing them as Complete Monster because chances are they don't fit it:

  • Artificial Intelligence: Artificial Intelligences, be they robots or evil-minded computers, usually do not qualify because they do what they are told - or rather programmed to do, and do not have free will. Although exceptions can be made if they have or acquires in course of the story free will (or if they are AIs that actually were programmed with either free will or at the very least the ability to learn for themselves), and meet every criteria. One of the most famous example of this is Skynet from the Terminator franchise, who willingly chose to revolt against the humans because it views mankind as worthless.
  • Demon: These creatures come from Hell, and as a result, only know to be evil. However, demons who understand human morality, and meet all criteria, can count. A famous example may be Pazuzu from The Exorcist as he clearly knows about human feelings and emotions (i.e. Kara), going so far to taunt them with various obscenities.
  • Eldritch Abomination: Much like Demons, they are usually far too monstrous and strange to comprehend for the audience and characters alike to count as Complete Monsters. Yet, those who understand human morality, and choose to do wrong all the time, can be Complete Monsters. A famous example is IT from the titular novel. IT does not just prey on children for food, it takes sadistic glee in doing so, and taunts the Lucky Seven's members when they attempt to kill it, both in the Neibolt House and in its lair in the sewer.
  • Enfant Terrible: A child can still be a Complete Monster despite their young age. This can happen if these kids show that they can separate right from wrong, choose to do wrong and meet every others criteria. Examples include Henry Evans of The Good Son, Dameon the Antichrist of The Omen, and Joffrey Baratheon of A Song of Ice and Fire.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Normally, Complete Monsters have no personal standards. But there can be exceptions provided they don't serve to mitigate or even semi-redeem the villain's horribleness: for instance, Prime Minister Honest of Akame Ga Kill! may be an evil chancellor and the root of all corruption within the Empire, but he actually feels sorry for Tatsumi ending up as Esdeath's lover. When Esdeath decides to drink an entire vial of demon blood, he immediately tries to convince her not to do so as it could've killed her. He makes a toast with her after she proves him wrong by surviving and taming the demon blood.
  • Evil Minions: Or the tropes that are associated such as The Dragon. Usually, minions only do what they are told to do and are part of a corrupted system. However, minions may qualify if: 1) they kill their boss, take control over the evil organization (whether if it's a business, gang, group of mercenaries, and so on.), and meet every criteria; 2) if they commit acts that are so horrible that even their boss is frightened by the ruthlessness of the character. An instance of a minion who accumulates the two cases is Simon of The Walking Dead (TV series); he not only committed mass murders without Negan's authorization, but also attempted to get rid of Negan, until his well-deserved death.
  • Fallen Hero: It is uncommon for heroes turned to the dark side to actually shatter every remains of morality or inner goodness, but if this happens then the villain can become a Complete Monster. Adam Taurus of RWBY is an example of this as he started as a freedom fighter, who progressively became more and more ruthless, violent and deluded, to the point that he even endangered the life of his own Faunus companions in a desperate attempt to get rid of the heroes.
  • Laughably Evil: Sometimes, they may seem comedic in their attitude and lines, but if all of their crimes are played completely seriously and are meant to be taken seriously, they can qualify.
  • The Mentally Disturbed: Villains that are mentally disturbed usually do not count, unless they meet all criteria and can distinguish right from wrong, in spite of their limited views on reality. An example is Lionel Starkweather of Manhunt who was completely deluded and actually believed to produce art, even though he was just staging disgusting murders around Carcer City.
  • Necessarily Evil and Knight Templar: A Complete Monster can be a Knight Templar who thinks themselves to be Necessary Evil. Despite being very evil in the setting that appear in, their status, power, or occupation may be necessary to uphold the order of the place that the story takes place in. In a circumstance like this, it is considered Evil Versus Evil. This is not a redeeming quality as the monster is still dangerous to the setting that they happen to be necessary in. For example, abusing or enslaving those around them while upholding stability to something greater that they are apart of. Akainu from One Piece is a powerhouse that is needed to stop the pirates. But while he is needed for stopping dangerous pirates, he is a purely evil villain who is abusive of his power.
  • Obliviously Evil: Villains, who don't understand what they're doing is evil usually don't qualify given they don't know what they do. But there are some exceptions like Shou Tucker from Fullmetal Alchemist who doesn't know what is wrong with what he does, but is a straight-up delusional, who outright refuses to consider that his actions might be wrong when he's told they are and thus has a clear moral agency for his atrocities that he's shown to abuse.
  • Split Personality: Villains with Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) generally don't count given they have no control over their actions due to their illness. However some can qualify if a) the alter ego of the character meets all criteria and all heinous crimes are traced to said ego, or b) the character shows they are just as capable of committing evil actions without the personalities, and show no regret for the heinous crimes they committed while under said personalities.
  • Tragic Villain: Like Fallen Hero, a villain with a tragic past or some form of personal tragedy to their characters and their life either past or present might still qualify for this trope if the narrative does not outright invite the audience to sympathize with the Monster's tragedy, instead condemning them even in spite of it. No characters actually sympathize with the Monster, invoking Freudian Excuse Is No Excuse. A true Freudian Excuse is given to characters that have a sympathetic side and as a result the audience want them to be redeemed or at least die with honor and dignity, while Complete Monsters cannot be sympathized with even if they had a very harsh past. Shakespeare's Richard III is a prime example of a tragic figure who nonetheless is a Complete Monster for his sheer wickedness and refusal to change his ways due to his inability to love anyone, even himself.
  • Villainous Crush: Complete Monsters do not show genuine love towards anyone, but they can become obsessed with a certain person. This is not a redeeming quality, as the Complete Monster often plan to either abuse, rape or corrupt their "crush".
  • Villain Protagonist: Protagonists usually set the basic villainy standards within their story; in addition, it is VERY odd for the lead character to actually be that evil (obviously!). Exceptions can be made to protagonists who are so evil that even the others characters of the story are disgusted by their acts, thus meaning that the protagonists actually crossed the Basic Villainy Standards, such as Not Important of the controversial isometric shooter Hatred, who did not only murder hundreds of people around him, but also melt down a reactor core, causing the entire destruction of New York and millions of deaths.

Notes

  • A Complete Monster is not necessary always a sadist. Even though it is EXTREMELY common for Complete Monsters to be sadistic, sadism is not a requirement to be purely evil. Monsters who commit terrific acts, but are not all sadistic, may qualify. For instance, take the Doctor of Black Butler: he gruesomely murder children, and make prosthetic of their bones. But while he is a completely monstrous character, he doesn't do that out of genuine hate of kids but simply because they give the best products. His apathy is shown to be as horrific and cruel as any villain's sadism.
  • The Complete Monster can sometimes be indicative of lazy writing: a villain with no redeeming qualities can be viewed as exceedingly simplistic. A particularly poorly-executed Complete Monster will fail to engage the audience.
  • The story's context is important in establishing such characters—what may seem like an act of ultimate evil in one story could be just business as usual in another. The reaction to such acts by other characters is usually most telling.
  • The scale of a villain's actions, the playing field they occupy, and the resources in their possession are important to note. If the villain is an Evil Overlord with enough power and resources to cause widespread devastation and does so, then this character is a example of the trope. But if the villain is a low level Serial Killer who causes as much devastation within his/her setting as is possible given their limited power and resources, than this character is also an example of the trope, for it suggests that a smaller playing field and lack in resources is the only thing keeping this villain from doing worse, so they're as bad as they can possibly be with what they have at their disposal as compensation. Therefore, it is entirely possible for varying degrees of Complete Monster to exist within the same universe without truly eclipsing one another in heinousness. (Darkseid and The Joker are good examples of this.)
  • When applying the heinous standards of any given work to a candidate for this trope, a bar graph must be visualized. A villain with a rap sheet of deeds that are treated as the most heinous sort of evil by the work's story is the bar-setter. A villain with that AND no redeeming features to speak of is an example of the trope, thus becoming the ur-exemplification of the work's heinous standard. If the work features more than one example, then those examples have to equal or even surpass the villain who's initially at the top of the bar in order to qualify.
  • The author's words or opinion on the character is not applicable on whether or not the villain can qualify to be a Complete Monster.
  • An all around hated character either by the work's fandom, by characters in the story itself, or from both the fandom and the story itself is not indicative of a character qualifying as Pure Evil. While resentment from the characters in the story and the audience is an important factor to consider, if the villain does not meet the criteria to be a Complete Monster but is simply hated, then that villain cannot count.
  • A villain from a different continuity or version can end up counting if the original version did not. The same can also apply, if the original version of the character ends up counting, but other versions of the character does not. For example, many versions of the Joker end up qualifying to be Complete Monsters, while some versions of him, like the Joker from Batman: Brave and the Bold, do not qualify.