August 19, 2017

Steve Bannon and Nefarious Advisors from Movies

  • by Dr. Craig Pohlman
  • February 9, 2017
  • 0
Trump and Bannon

In 2016 Donald Trump raised eyebrows and blood pressures when he named Steve Bannon, former head of Breitbart News, as the CEO of his Presidential campaign.  Now Bannon is President Trump’s Chief Strategist.  Breitbart is, according to Bannon, “the platform for the alt-right,” and concerns are mounting over what kind of influence Bannon exerts in the Oval Office.  Time Magazine recently described Bannon as “The Great Manipulator” and the second most powerful person in the world.

Steve Bannon

These bizarre events and cast of characters are the stuff of fiction, and yet this is really happening.  Nonetheless, Bannon has gotten me thinking about nefarious advisors from movies- characters who were in a position to cause mayhem through someone up the organizational chart.  In 2015 I started writing about my Heroism Quotient (HQ) and Villainy Quotient (VQ); I rate villains along five factors (0-20), yielding a Villainy Quotient (VQ) with a maximum score of 100.  The factors are drawn from the thinking and research of Dr. Philip Zimbardo (of the Stanford prison experiment) and other experts on evil.  The higher the VQ, the more diabolical the villain.

Below are five on-screen nefarious advisors, along with a VQ for each:

Tom Hagen (The Godfather, Parts I and II)

Bannon

The way the narrative is constructed, Hagen and the Corleone family he serves are cast as the good guys.  But we should bear in mind that the family business involves racketeering, gambling, extortion, and murder.  Even though Hagen is not a “war-time consigliere,” he has the ear of the don.

1. absence of typical moral restraints on actions:  10

2. degree of harm or damage done:  14

3. track-record of evil-doing:  16

4. malice towards victims, intent to cause suffering:  2

5. taking pleasure in actions:  0

VQ- 42

Hugo Goulding (O)

Hugo is the Iago character in this re-telling of Othello with a high school basketball team (it works, take my word for it).  He manipulates the star player, Odin (or “O”), with tragic results.

1. absence of typical moral restraints on actions:  18

2. degree of harm or damage done:  3

3. track-record of evil-doing:  3

4. malice towards victims, intent to cause suffering:  18

5. taking pleasure in actions:  16

VQ- 58

Wormtongue (The Two Towers)

Bannon

Theoden, King of Rohan, falls victim to the malevolent magic of Saruman, allowing Wormtongue (talk about an apt name) to keep the horse kingdom passive and dormant.  Fortunately, Gandalf breaks the spell and unleashed one of the coolest characters in The Lord of the Rings.

1. absence of typical moral restraints on actions:  20

2. degree of harm or damage done:  13

3. track-record of evil-doing:  12

4. malice towards victims, intent to cause suffering:  15

5. taking pleasure in actions:  6

VQ- 66

Eleanor Shaw Iselin (The Manchurian Candidate- 1962)

As mother of the eponymous Raymond Shaw, a Korean War vet mind-controlled as a communist sleeper agent, she has a role akin to Lady Macbeth.

1. absence of typical moral restraints on actions:  11

2. degree of harm or damage done:  9

3. track-record of evil-doing:  10

4. malice towards victims, intent to cause suffering:  8

5. taking pleasure in actions:  3

VQ- 41

Sean Parker (The Social Network)

The Social Network

This is in the only character on this list based on a real person.  After launching Napster, he caught the Facebook train before it left the station and steered Mark Zuckerberg into some decisions that damaged close personal relationships.

1. absence of typical moral restraints on actions:  8

2. degree of harm or damage done:  3

3. track-record of evil-doing:  2

4. malice towards victims, intent to cause suffering:  18

5. taking pleasure in actions:  15

VQ- 46

If you’re scoring at home, Wormtongue gets the highest VQ (66), followed by Hugo at 58.  The character who tracks most closely to Bannon probably would be Eleanor Shaw Iselin, whose VQ took a hit because her diabolical plot was foiled (spoiler!) before more damage could be done.

Disagree with any of these ratings?  Other characters to suggest?  Take it to Twitter (#nefariousadvisors).

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Dr. Craig Pohlman

Craig Pohlman is a neurodevelopmental psychologist who has written several books about helping struggling learners achieve success. That’s cool and all, but what he really wants to do with his life is be a game show host. Or starship captain. Or Jedi Master. Or some combination of all three.

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