Dapper chaps you love to hate
What's a 'dandy,' you may ask? Why, it's nothing more than a gentleman who appreciates the finer things in life: eloquent language, snazzy clothing, and a certain degree of vanity. Dandies strive to maintain a prim-and-proper demeanor, entertaining others with their witty speech, charming mannerisms, and debonair attire. You could say they're effeminate, but all it takes to be a dandy is a devotion to style above all else.
For whatever reason, the dandy archetype pairs wonderfully with a life of villainy. It must be something about the disconnect between a dandy's cavalier attitude and a slew of abominable deeds, making the bad guy seem likeable and reprehensible at the same time. Pagan Min from Far Cry 4 is probably the most famous evil dandy at the moment - but he wasn't the first, or the dandiest. Straighten your bowtie, dust off your top hat, and sharpen your bloodied butterfly knife as we take a look at gaming's most memorable, despicable dandies.
SPOILERS AHOY for the following games: Bayonetta
The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
7. Graham Jones (Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow)
Deep-pocketed fat cats, take note: this is what 'the one-percent' should/will look like in 2035. Graham might as well be a male model, with his three-piece suit, silk scarf, and eyebrows that have seen more tweeze than Elmer Fudd in a dense forest. At first, he seems like an amiable fellow, treating our hero Soma Cruz with cordial respect. But Graham's tune changes real fast when he realizes that Soma might be a threat to his true intentions: becoming the reincarnation of Dracula.
Graham is actually a 'Dark Lord Candidate' - someone who was born at the exact moment that Dracula was previously killed. His belief is that, by rights, all demons should serve under his command, and he slowly loses his sanity to delusions of grandeur as Aria's story runs its course. But maybe we shouldn't blame Graham for his villainy - a lifetime of kids saying that your last name should be 'Cracker' is enough to drive anyone over the edge.
6. Razer (Jak X: Combat Racing)
Just listen to that flamboyantly menacing German accent and tell me Razer isn't a high point of the Jak and Daxter sequels. Not to be confused with the PC hardware brand or the long-forgotten Motorola flip phone, Razer simply oozes snobbiness, from his splendiferous coat to his pristinely trimmed goatee to the cigar ashes he's always tapping hither and thither.
It's hard to imagine that a man so dapper would get his jollies by decimating competitors in futuristic death races, but that's just how Razer rolls. And even for all the taunts, thinly veiled threats, and plumes of smoke that Razer sends Jak's way, Daxter still can't help but appreciate his "certain odd, sexy style". You know a villain's got panache when even the heroes can't help but adore him. Jak puts up a gruff front, but you just know that deep down, he's intrigued by his long-eared frenemy. I better stop before this launches into full-on slash fiction.
5. Ash Crimson (The King of Fighters)
Now there's a beautiful man. Wait, please wait officer - I wasn't aware that Ash is only 16 when I said that! If you filled a pixelated blender with the the pyrokinetic powers of KOF poster boy Kyo Kusanagi and the leather-obsessed fashion sense of Iori Yagami, Ash Crimson would be the result. But unlike his masculine predecessors - Kyo with his everyman appeal, Iori looking like a guitarist in a goth metal band - Ash is a lithe, effeminate fighter with a hairstyle that seems better suited for a 1960s go-go dancer. And if you don't stop staring at his extravagantly painted nails, he'll punch in your guts with fists of green flame.
When you meet the sardonic, uncaring gaze of Ash's blue eyes, you know that this guy must be a straight-up sociopath. That assumption is reinforced by the fact that Ash treats enemies and allies like pieces on a chessboard, displaying almost zero emotion in his quest to rob KOF's leading super-humans of their powers. Maybe he's not technically the most evil guy in town, but Ash's motives are so ambiguous for the majority of his convoluted plotline that he might as well be the villain.
4. Father Balder (Bayonetta)
Attempting to understand the entire plot of Bayonetta is like learning a new language: there are tons of unfamiliar words you need to memorize, and you're going to be confused as hell for at least a month. So instead of getting into Father Balder's time-traveling escapades and 500-plus years of existence, let's just focus on the dandy-osity of his extravagant ensemble. The flaxen half-mask/monocle combo; the ornate white-and-gold robes; the actual peacock carcass draped over his shoulders complete with full plumage. If a villain was any sharper dressed, they'd have to be wearing a tuxedo made out of knives.
It's clear where Bayonetta gets her sense of outrageously sleek style - let's just say that they don't call him 'Father' Balder because he's a priest. But even when he's threatening to eradicate his own flesh and blood, Balder's elegant rhetoric makes his attempted filicide seem A-ok. He's the classic combination of dashing and dastardly, much like David Bowie in Labyrinth (though by comparison, Balder's crotch-bulge game still needs work).
3. Marquis De Singe (Tales of Monkey Island)
One look at De Singe's made-up, ghostly pale face, and Aerosmith's 'Dude (Looks Like a Lady)' will instantly get stuck in your head. Then you hear his voice, which sounds like a French person doing an impression of an American person doing an impression of a French person. De Singe constantly peppers his lispy speech with words au francais, completing the illusion that he could never be a threat, even to a pirate as gullible as Guybrush Threepwood.
But that couldn't be further from the truth - which you might've already guessed, given that this villain's name is a play on Marquis De Sade, the aristocrat whose last name is the actual root of the word 'sadism'. When De Singe isn't conducting experiments on helpless animals, he's trying to amputate Guybrush's pox-ridden hand in a misguided bid for eternal life. To make things even more 'mad scientist', De Singe is controlling the winds around Flotsam Island so he can strand pirates there to serve as his not-actual-guinea-pigs-for-once guinea pigs. But with that foppish attitude, powdered wig, and aristocratic garb of his, you'd never guess that De Singe is probably more vile a villain than the infamous Captain LeChuck.
2. Alfred Ashford (Resident Evil: CODE Veronica)
From reading his rap sheet, you'd assume that young royal Alfred Ashford is an absolute monster. Not because he's a test-tube baby - Alfred and his sister Alexia had no say in the genetic experiments that created them. It's more the way he conspired with his twin sis to infect their father/creator with the t-Veronica virus before imprisoning him in the basement. If that wasn't sadistic enough for you, there's also Alfred's love for administering torture in his private prison camp. He also enjoys taking potshots at people with his sniper rifle when they're not looking, which is so uncool.
But when you actually meet Alfred for the first time, he seems like such a sweet (albeit a little demented) guy. It's a one-two punch of dandy charm, what with Alfred's well-groomed appearance in his regal-looking military uniform, and the ludicrously high pitch of his voice as he eloquently accosts our heroes, Claire and Steve. Allow me to take a shotgun approach to some pop culture comparisons: Alfred Ashford has the pomposity of John Travolta in Battlefield Earth, the delivery of Will Stamper as the narrator from Battleblock Theater, and the distressed squealing of Regular Show's Muscle Man. If you got all that, guess what: we just became best friends.
1. Lord Ghirahim (The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword)
Yes, it's true: you can be intimidated by a skinny, pale elf rocking an emo haircut, gigantic jewel earrings, purple eyeliner, and a skintight, patterned leotard. Ghirahim's degree of self-assured fabulousness rivals even Beyonce, and I dare say he's the most sexually charged character Link's ever had the pleasure of meeting, given how often he speaks in moans and licks his silver-glossed lips. Ghirahim is what every dandy aspires to be: a cross between the authority and poshness of an aristocrat and the flamboyant charisma of a hair metal band's lead singer.
But this is a list of the most menacing dandies - and Ghirahim's got evil intent out the wazoo. Whenever this pretty boy loses his cool, you get a glimpse of his true self: a psychotic sword-wielding murderer who's more than happy to dole out slow, painful death in his quest to abduct Princess Zelda. At least, that's what I gathered from quotes like "I need to vent all this unhealthy anger, and your agony is a great stress reliever!" or "I'll do more than just beat you senseless. I'll make the affair so excruciating you'll deafen yourself with the shrill sound of your own screams". Damn.
Long live the villainous dandy - without them, we'd have to endure a never-ending stream of big, uncouth brutes as our antagonists. Are there any other evil-doer dandies - like the young Revolver Ocelot or Kingdom Hearts' Marluxia, both pictured above - that you think could've made the cut? Tell me all about it in the comments below - but please, do be courteous about it, lest our genteel discourse be reduced to plebeian drivel.
And if you're looking for more, check out Top 7 Characters you couldn't date for some dumb reason and Ridiculous job titles in gaming (and what I wish they meant).