Dick Dastardly: great human

Is it possible for a bad human to be great? Historians certainly seem to think so given the amount of attention they pay the likes of Genghis Khan and Ivan the Terrible. The path to greatness involves influencing large numbers of people, which can be achieved in many different ways – killing them is one method, terrorising them is another, and getting them to follow your example is a third.

Dick Dastardly was that rare example of a bad man who influenced people through the force of his example. Let’s start with that faux English accent of his. It’s clearly the voice of a weedy boy who got bullied at school and is now looking for revenge on a world that betrayed him. His manner of speaking was so evocative that it’s been copied by villain after villain in subsequent Hollywood movies. To this day, if you want to know who the baddie is in an American film or TV show, just look for the man whose speech patterns most closely resemble Dick Dastardly.

Dastardly’s accomplices also set the standard for what the villain’s henchmen are supposed to be like – the guiding principle is that they should be even more weird than the villain himself. His main side-kick is the impertinent dog Muttley, who evidently has nothing but contempt for his master, forever sniggering at his misfortunes and sometimes cursing him under his doggy breath. He’s clearly much smarter than the pea-brained Dastardly, so why does he stay with him? The answer, bizarrely, is that the dog has a peculiar fetish about getting medals pinned to his hairy chest. Dastardly’s other henchmen in his doomed flying escapades are simply too weird to be described adequately with words.

Dastardly has one lone virtue that’s essential for the bad guy in any TV show which runs over multiple episodes – he never gives up. He wakes up every morning believing that today is the day that the annoying pigeon will be plucked and served in a tasty pie. Wile E Coyote was doubtless inspired by Dastardly’s optimism in his own quest for the Roadrunner’s gizzard. This is an important lesson for the youth of today – however dumb and ineffective the bad guys appear to be, they may one day achieve their nefarious aims through sheer persistence. Thus, the price of freedom is eternal vigilance and an unconquerable will to outlast the bastards until they give up.

Here’s the
song from Dastardly and Muttley in Their Flying Machines.
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