Contains spoilers for Game Of Thrones season six.
I Can Make You Happy.
No, not the last-ditch plea of a sobbing spouse, but the title of a popular self-help book. From its cover, the soberly bespectacled face of demon headmaster Paul McKenna fixes you in its gaze and promises to grant your deepest desire: happiness. Using powerful psychological techniques, it says, this book and CD combo will help you experience greater joy than ever before.
It’s little wonder people bought it. Happiness is an elusive bugger – there one minute, undermined by a creeping sense of ultimate futility and inevitable decay the next. If only we could all be happy, we’d all be so much happier.
There are those with no need of Mr. McKenna’s powerful psychological techniques of course. Fictional characters from whom we could learn how to wake up every morning tingling with glorious anticipation at the day ahead, happier than Larry, a clam, a pig in muck, and a dog with any number of dicks combined.
Ladies and gentlemen, I present the utter TV bastard.
The utter TV bastard stands alone among fictional villains. They’re in a different league from both the ooh-it’s-a-moral-grey-area baddie, the reluctant foot-solider of evil and the ‘well, when you consider their childhood…’ damaged foe, all of whom have to swallow down their conscience before booting a baby off a bridge or whatever evil act is required in pursuit of their cause.
Utter TV bastards have neither conscience nor cause. The arbitrariness of their villainy is precisely what qualifies them for the title. As the chief utter bastard of them all, Game Of Thrones’ Ramsay Bolton, laughingly explained to the object of his torture in season three “This isn’t happening to you for a reason. Well, one reason. I enjoy it!”
And he did enjoy it. Ramsay Bolton took more joy in torturing his victims than Ned ‘holier than thou’ Stark ever took from anything. A new wolf-pelt cloak. A bit of the other from the wife. That lovely, cozy feeling when your head is attached to your neck. Honor might have earned Eddard Stark respect, but it sure as hell didn’t make him happy.
Ramsay though, before he was turned into so much dog food, had never known a bad day in his life. Chiefly because he spent his life bringing about other people’s bad days and relishing every blood-soaked second. Why waste time hanging your own, figuratively tortured head about evil-doing, ran Ramsay’s logic, when you could be literally torturing other people’s actual heads? And feet. And bums. Why mournfully ponder your relationship to your fellow man, thought Ramsay, when you know precisely what your fellow man is – a walking, spinning kebab from which to cheerfully slice chunk after meaty chunk.
We shouldn’t confuse the utter TV bastard with the mere television psychopath. The Simpsons’ Sideshow Bob is clearly the latter, but he spends so much time being consumed by revenge that he stops himself from being the former. Untrammelled happiness in evildoing is the chief condition here. Someone like Cersei Lannister might do things because they feel good – smirking at a beloved pet direwolf being sliced up, exploding a Septful of her enemies or setting an undead monster on a nun – but as someone who clearly has the capacity for grief, rage and – most dangerous of all – love, she’s far too complex a character to be a real UTVB.
No, a true utter TV bastard has to be shiningly, uncomplicatedly happy in villainy. Think the delight of Mr Burns opening that ecology-destroying pet-food factory to Lisa Simpson’s profound dismay. Or the unimprovable joy of Joffrey Baratheon slicing through a rare and ancient tome with his name day sword like a demented booth demonstrator in a branch of Wilko. Or every chilling smile in the eyes of Fargo’s Lorne Malvo.
It can be a lonely life, that of the utter TV bastard. That comes as a natural consequence of murdering your family and making a hobby of sadistically abusing your minions. Not that isolation really bothers them. Self-contained, living-in-the-moment, content types, unlike the rest of us they don’t need companions, only victims.
Take Skeletor. Have you ever met a happier evil bodybuilder? (Skeletor rule#1 Never skip arm day.) He may be continually thwarted in his plans to claim the throne of Eternia, but does he ever get despondent? Of course not. Defeatism is for the weak-minded and people who don’t have a magic ram’s head on a stick.
When Skeletor fails he merely brushes himself off and sets about the next complex scheme to turn Eternia’s royal family into brie, cackling louder than a Glasgow hen night at his excellent puns all the while.
Whatever the result, Skeletor was perpetually chuffed with himself. That’s the natural state of the utter TV bastard. They can meet with those two imposters triumph and disaster just the same.
Doctor Who’s Missy is clearly of their ilk. Whether raising an army of the dead, blasting an adorable science nerd (temporarily) out of existence or facing extermination, Missy is guaranteed to be having a ball. High on life and mad as a box of particularly unhinged frogs, she doesn’t sweat the small stuff. Regrets are a foreign country to utter TV bastards like her.
The outfits might have something to do with their confidence. These folk dress to please nobody but themselves. From Skeletor’s BDSM Centurion chic to Missy’s Scary Poppins get-up, they clearly enjoy getting ready in the morning. No dull polyester or faceless uniforms here. It’s all sharp tailoring and looks that wouldn’t be out of place riding into Studio 54 on the back of a pony. An evil pony.
Choose a job you love, it’s said, and you’ll never work another day in your life. That’s something the UTVB gets spot-on. By choosing the job of an incorrigible, ninth-circle-of-hell evildoer they guarantee themselves workplace satisfaction. And they’re always employee of the month, if only by dint of the fact they’ve nailed their photo to the wall through the flesh of their shrieking colleagues’ earlobes.
So there you have it: the secret to happiness, confidence and – judging by these trim examples – an enviably slim silhouette. Become an utter bastard and every morning will feel like Christmas.
You have a blessed day.
This article originally appeared on Den of Geek UK.