3 Villains, 3 Virtues
By The Editors

Hannibal Lecter, Gordon Gekko, Hans Gruber...all bad guys, but each with so much to teach us.

3 Villains, 3 Virtues


"If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all" they told us.

That's why we've got so many nice things to say today about these three villains: Hannibal Lecter, Gordon Gekko and Hans Gruber.

Bad guys are bad guys in our favorite films because we need them to be.

But you may have heard the saying, “Everyone is the hero in their own story.”

So even though the worst of the worst bad guys both in movies and in life probably think of themselves as pretty swell fellas, we know better.

But look a little harder. Some of our favorite antagonists, aside from moments of humor and charm and evil, actually have a positive trait or two that a lot of us regular, non-evil guys lack.

Hans Gruber, Die Hard

Virtue: He values education and learning

Sure, he’s willing to murder all the Nakatomi lobby staff just to get in the building, pop point-blank caps in the heads of executives who hold him up, and kill all the hostages. But you know what Hans has that most men don’t? The curiosity of a voracious reader. As such, he has a deep understanding of how bureaucracy works in both the world of the business and American law enforcement – and how to exploit them. If not for a certain fly in the ointment, that monkey in the wrench who was part of no bureaucracy, Hans would indeed have wound up sitting on a beach earning 20 percent.

Your non-evil plan: How can you use what you know about your employer’s bureaucracy that can work in your favor? Make you look good? Give you a new win? Throw some genuine curiosity at the problem and do some reading to learn all you need to know about it. And do we have to say it? In a non-criminal way.

Gordon Gekko, Wall Street

Virtue: He understand the value of time.

Yeah, yeah, greed is good, we know. And yeah, yeah, Gekko became a role model for wannabe finance players back in the day the same way Tony Montana became the inspiration for wannabe gangstas. All that is what it is, and in truth is predictable. But dig in a bit. What did Gekko value above all else? Money? Please. Women? Hah. His children? Tax deductions and social props. No, Gordon Gekko valued time above everything else and that’s where we can learn. In the back of that limo with Bud Fox, he spoke about money and the game and then comes the line no one quotes: He wants to be “rich enough not to waste time.”

Your non-evil plan: If time is money it’s mostly because money buys you time. Make it a life goal to buy off time-consuming things by hiring people to cut the grass, paint the bedroom, and take all that junk away. You’ll gain hours and a newfound sense of what your days are worth. And if your budget just isn’t there yet for that kind of cash outlay? Well, Wall Street can inspire your investing ambition, too.

Hannibal Lecter, The Silence of the Lambs

Virtue: He values politeness and manners.

Feeding a guy his own cooked brains is its own level of genius and Lecter’s mind is indeed a massive cathedral of dark knowledge, memory, and primal inhuman urge. But eating his victims aside, you know what makes Hannibal the Cannibal like most of us? He has no patience for rudeness and discourtesy. Clarice captured his attention by treating him differently than any other law enforcement or psychiatric staff: She treated him with respect and genuine acknowledgement of his expertise and wisdom. She really was there to learn from him. In that light, torturing the semen-flinging Multiple Miggs to death with only whispering seems, well, appropriate, no? Lecter is right. Rudeness – particularly deliberate rudeness and dismissal – deserves our contempt.

Your non-evil plan: You already know how to treat people, right? That’s not enough. We need to get better at calling out rudeness when we see it. Maybe that means taking your business elsewhere, literally saying something, or, to take it in the opposite direction, letting people know how much you appreciate their courtesy and kindness. Hannibal knows: We’re only as horrible as we allow ourselves to be.

BONUS: You know what else all three of these men know how to do? Dress impeccably (when not in prison, that is). Another virtue to keep in mind as you plan world domination, and here at PM we’re here to help with that.