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"But, now, you need to know who Saki, The Shredder, really is. He serves no great purpose, he fights no great evil. He is great evil. Any endeavor he undertakes, he does for his own selfish gain."—Splinter describing the Utrom Shredder, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2003)
The Complete Monster, also known as Pure Evil or Devil in Person is the most depraved of all characters: a villain (or any character for that matter) utterly lacking in redeeming features. Trying to put a value on the evilness of a Complete Monster is like calculating the credit score of Bill Gates; it's a moot point.
Or, anyway, that is how the character is presented in the story. The character is a bad guy, full stop. The author has not taken the character through any actions toward redemption, or at least any that stuck.
It is the complete opposite of Incorruptible Pure Pureness heroes, also known as Pure of Heart or Pure Good, which are heroes that are completely pure and incorruptible.
The Complete Monster can be recognized by these signs:
- Atrocious acts: the character is truly heinous by the standards of the story, and has crossed the Moral Event Horizon, usually several times to empathize of how evil they are. Villains who only cross the MEH once usually does not qualify, although rare examples exist if the line they cross was heinous enough for the standards of the story.
- Moral Agency: the character can distinguish right from wrong but choose to do what is wrong and stay evil all the time. To get an edge, here are some examples;
- An animal acts on instinct and learned behavior. But regardless of how sadistic it may be, it's not truly responsible in a moral sense for its actions.
- Children, for the most part, lack developed moral judgment, so they can't be held fully accountable for their actions. Of course, there are some exceptions.
- Elemental forces of evil, such as demons or devils may be compelled by their nature to act as they do and therefore, lack the capacity to choose a different path. Obviously, there are some notable aversions
- Robots and other automata, such as The Undead, are essentially pre-programmed, and as such, are not making choices. Robots or undead that are intelligent or free-willed enough to make choices may qualify, though.
- Seriousness: the character's terribleness is played seriously, even if the work is light-hearted or comedic. Other characters in-story must express genuine fear, hate, and revulsion of this character.
- No love nor compassion for anyone: the character can never feel love for others, only for themselves. If complete monsters claim to "feel love", that love would merely be obsession or perversion.
- No sympathy: the character has either no Freudian Excuse to validate their crimes, or their Freudian Excuse is presented in-story as inadequate. Any sympathy evoked in their backstories is long gone in the present.
- No redeeming quality: they are completely devoid of altruistic qualities, show no remorse for their crimes, are never redeemed nor have any possibility of redemption.
- No honor: to put it another way, a complete aversion of Even Evil Has Standards.
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Please note that a character crossing the Moral Event Horizon does not alone make them a Complete Monster. This trope isn't just about what the character does, but about what the character is. Their monstrous characters are reflected in their heinous deeds, which is what puts them a cut above the regular villains. And whatever their position, a Complete Monster has to go the full mile and meet all criteria: they are the worst they can possibly be in their role, in the space and scale they occupy. Offscreen Villainy is advised against, with few exceptions depending on how clear the results of said villainy are.
This trope is, surprisingly, not entirely subjective. A recurring evil character either has redeeming qualities presented as such within the moral framework of the story, or they don't. The Complete Monster may be a Magnificent Bastard or a Draco in Leather Pants to audience members, but the completeness of their monstrosity does not depend on how well the audience receives them.