As supervillain plans go, taking over the world makes perfect sense. We'd do it ourselves if running things didn't seem like such a pain in the ass. But a supervillain plan to destroy the world (or society) is idiotic by default because, well, where are they going to live?
Yet not only is this kind of scheme common in movies, but you could also argue that it's common in real life too (sorry, we'll try to keep the Trump talk to a minimum). This is why Richmond Valentine, aka Samuel L. Jackson's ridiculous character in Kingsman: The Secret Service, is the fifth bad guy we're taking down in our weeklong series "Wait, What Was Their Plan Again?"
The Great Culling Of Society
Jackson plays Valentine as a combination of Russell Simmons, Mark Zuckerberg, Justin Bieber, and Sylvester the Cat.
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His flavor of "destroy the world" scheme is to kill all of the people but leave the stuff intact. Some villains go the weaponized virus route (like in 12 Monkeys), but Valentine's master plan is to hand out a free SIM card to every citizen on Earth, which will then broadcast a signal that will make them murder each other. Valentine provides a select group of elites with immunity from the signal so that when all is said and done, the Earth will be rid of everyone except for his pals and, uh, the peasants who are the absolute best at murdering? Already we're seeing some flaws.
Anyway, Valentine is an environmentalist, and sees this culling of the human race as a good way to fight global warming. Which makes perfect sense, because if we don't do something about it, a bunch of people will die. The plot is similar to something an old-school Bond villain would try (Kingsman being a pseudo-parody of old-school James Bond, back when the series involved more jetpacks and less brooding). Sure enough, in Moonraker, Hugo "Best Villain Name Ever" Drax is a multi-billionaire businessman whose rather straightforward plan is to select a few dozen genetically perfect humans, stash them onboard a space station, then wipe out all of humanity with the power of orchids so that his band of beautiful people can repopulate the globe as a master race.
But these guys have plenty of company. In X2, Magneto briefly tries to kill all non-mutants on Earth. In Transformers: Dark Of The Moon, Patrick Dempsey's character decides to help the Decepticons lay waste to the Earth in exchange for ... what? A job in their organization? A mansion among the ruins? Hmm, we're starting to see another problem.
Wait, What Was Their Plan Again?
What we're about to say may seem obvious at first, but bear with us: The weird mistake that villains like Valentine and Drax make is one real people make every day. Your boss might be making it right now. Let's take a look at Valentine's gigantic secret mountain base:
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20th Century Fox
20th Century Fox
Look at that shit! It's the size of a small city. We bet it took a lot of common folk to dig all that out, and even more to pour the concrete, build the structure, and install the wiring and plumbing. We bet it takes even more people to manage the trash, service the climate control, do everyday repairs, and kill the rats. Then it takes literally thousands of additional people to grow the grain, raise the livestock, mine the minerals, and manufacture the hundreds of consumer goods humans need to survive, from toothpaste to antibiotics. Hell, look at that picture of Valentine earlier and count the sheer number of working-class nobodies it took to manufacture his eyeglasses, baseball cap, shirt, jacket, wristwatch, microphone ...
So who's going to make that shit once all of the filthy common people have been wiped out? None of these villains choose the tiny remainder of the population-to-be based on anything practical -- like, say, who can grow crops or design and repair infrastructure. Valentine's small collection of royal Eurotrash, oil heirs, and trust fund nitwits would probably be even more useless than Drax's orbiting ubermensches and superfraus.
They now all have to go back to the Stone Age in terms of modern conveniences, only with the people least likely to be useful in that situation. They probably thought to save some surgeons, but can they manufacture their own tools or brew their own pharmaceuticals? (Note: You should probably be suspicious of any doctor who does this.) Even if Valentine really was such a committed environmentalist that he's willing to accept a future of toiling in fields and rampant diarrhea, who among the survivors is equipped to live like that?
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In the cases of both Valentine and Drax, we have people smart enough to make billions of dollars and engineer massive space-age supervillain lairs, but too dumb to realize their afternoon wine and cheese are the result of mindbogglingly complex supply chains involving millions of people who don't smell great at the end of the day. So that part is actually pretty realistic.
There's A Little Valentine In All Of Us
When confronting these villains, it's always on moral "You shouldn't kill people for being imperfect!" grounds. That's nice, but if someone needs to be told that, then telling them doesn't do any good. You rarely, if ever, see them confronted on the grounds of self-interest. "You're eating a hamburger while discussing a genocide that would kill the people who cooked that hamburger, as well as the ones who worked in the slaughterhouse, raised the cow, grew the grain ..." Even if the ultra-rich are incapable of feeling empathy, they could maybe be woken up to the fact that their comfortable life sits atop a pyramid of average everyday humans with chronic back pain.
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But honestly, it's possible that neither Eggsy (portrayed has having led a wasted life before becoming an elite Kingsman) nor James Bond even think of it that way. Most of us don't. As a society, we are currently in a race to see who can automate away the jobs fastest, because if you think about it, does a server at a restaurant really do anything? Is there any reason to have a human delivering your packages or driving your cab? You've all called a customer service line manned by a robotic voice giving you options to punch in; isn't that as good as a human? Meanwhile, it seems like most of the world's CEOs think their business would be perfect if it wasn't for all of those whiny, bumbling people gumming up the works.
Society has developed a weird mental blind spot for common working folk. Sure, most of us don't sit around and fantasize about unleashing a virus to wipe out all of the worthless people (though some of you absolutely do, admit it), but it's easy to shuffle along a sidewalk packed with sweaty people tossing cigarette butts and jabbering on their phones and wish you could have all of the cool stuff in the city without "the crowds."
We also tend to assume the ones who really matter are the Elon Musks and Kanye Wests, not the nameless nobodies who labor in the Tesla factory or work security at the concert. After all, great thinkers are rare, but anybody can work on an assembly line! Aside from the fact that the last part is blatantly untrue, we then somehow make the logical leap from "Anyone can do that job" to "That job is worthless." Nobody respects garbage collectors, but holy shit, if they stop doing their job for a month, your neighborhood turns into a dystopia.
If we can't appreciate that all lives have inherent value (which is apparently a tall order), we can still appreciate that they are doing and building the very stuff that makes our lives worth living. It would at least be a step in the right direction.
Tomorrow, for the finale of "Wait, What Was Their Plan Again?" we'll be trying to understand why anyone crosses, or even works with, John Wick.
Make sure to check out the rest of the series:
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For as much as people love them, the 'Star Wars' movies have gotten rather awkward from time to time.
Bawitdaba, pass the green beans.
It's hard out there for millionaire purveyors of garbage pizza.