Where are all the naked villains?
I recently had occasion to revisit Paul’s Superheroes oeuvre, which led to me having another look at his post and Robert’s post and my post about naked superheroes. It all got me thinking: is nude villainy even possible? As naturist writers, we highlight how terrific nudity is, and some of us even reach the point of creating nude superheroes whose powers are wholly dependent on their nudity. Could there possibly be a nudist supervillain?
Hamlet complains “That one may smile, and smile, and be a villain.” Can one go nude, and go nude, and be a villain? Often in naturist stories, the villains – or at least the antagonists – are clearly the ones who keep their clothes on. They obstruct nudism and would never espouse it themselves… unless they have a change of heart somewhere in the narrative. There may be other characters who are also averse to nudism, without necessarily being antagonists. But surely the villain of a naturist fiction story could not be a nudist… right?
As much as we’d like to think that our natural state is so pure and wonderful that it would be impossible to misbehave when nude, we all know that simply isn’t true. I’ve seen gloriously nude folks, standing among other nudists under the wonderful sun, lie through their teeth right in front of my eyes. Undoubtedly and unfortunately, there are probably real-life examples of sicko criminals who prefer committing their crimes in the nude, for whatever reasons. A few years ago, quite a few of us naturist fiction writers channeled this kind of non-supernatural but naked criminal behavior into the stories we wrote for the anthology Murder in the Nudist Colony.
In the fictional worlds of superheroes, it turns out that sometimes there are nude villains, or villains who go nude at least once or twice. Here’s an entire list of such villains – and another one – and this excellent listicle provided by @GiantMoonApes on Twitter (thanks!) – and there are probably more instances. The writers of these lists performed a great service because they endeavor to explain the context for the villains’ nudity, which, to no one’s surprise, never has much of anything to do with naturism at all.
To return to the question of naturist fiction – what would happen if there were a character who needs to be nude, not in order to channel superhero powers, but rather to channel supervillain powers? I’m quite enjoying posing the question here, but I don’t consider myself to be very well-qualified to respond. My characters are sometimes ambiguous, such as Captain Barlo and the Empress, in Skinners, or Zé in Aglow. They’re obviously nudist, but their motives are neither clearly heroic nor absolutely malevolent. They have no superpowers, whether for good or ill.
I haven’t (yet?) written a nude superpowers work, so I don’t have a good answer for this question, and I defer to writers who have engaged with the nude powers trope more consistently, such as Paul and also Nick Alimonos. My suspicion is that having nude supervillain powers would be easy to relate to sexual villainy, but again, in the realm of naturism or naturist-akin fiction, I’m left wondering if it could work convincingly. If all the nude villain does is force other people to go naked against their will, then the character’s place in a work of naturist fiction is problematic without the character’s trajectory including some sort of about-face moment of reckoning. Could it be done? Definitely. Who might want to write something like that is another matter worthy of conjecture!