Festival of Fiendishness Day 3: AGENT SMITH

I’m kinda diggin this “post when I wanna, when I get around to it” approach I got to blogging. Though I miss the regularity the A to Z Challenge provided, the inconsistency is freeing. But left to my own devices, I get a little sometime-y, depriving you of a regular installment into the mind of pop culture’s best menaces. My intentions are good; my execution is dicey.

What I don’t do is fly in the face of my orders, unplug myself from the world around me, and become a virus so caustic both my enemies and my friends collaborate to get rid of me. That’s not me; that’s Agent Smith, the Matrix’s favorite man in black, and today’s villain du jour.

When we first met Agent Smith, the black-suited, white-shirted menace of the Matrix played by the incomparable Hugo Weaving, is warning local police of the danger of lil ol Trinity. Stepping in, trying to intervene, save lives of his uniformed comrades. Because, up in the room, Trinity is beating the cowboy shit outta the cops. Noble guy, right? Until he tries to hit her with a garbage truck. A garbage truck?

But Smith is kinda raw. Who wasn’t freaked out with the whole “Mr. Anderson…who are you going to call if you are unable to speak” soliloquy that ended with Keanu Reeves losing his mouth and the agents putting a robot crawdaddy in his belly? I wasn’t alone, was I? From here, Smith loses all decorum: he unplugs himself from the Matrix and his electronic overlords, captures Laurence Fishburne and tells him he stinks. He then violates all his orders, takes over homeless people and throws Neo into a train.

This is plenty, right?

Not one to go gentle into that good night, Smith comes back, footloose and fancy-free. Completely disconnected, this cat learns how to take over ANYTHING and ANYONE in the Matrix..and how to take over real people in the real world. Talk about free agent. He gets all multiplicity on us until the humans and the robots have to forge a peace based on the eradication of Agent Smith. All they needed was a Coke and a bunch of hippies to gather on the beach and sing.

The point here about Agent Smith is he took villainy to an entirely different level. It is ballsy enough to wage war on a story’s messianic character: Lex Luthor does, Voldemort does, Lucifer does it. It is something else to become such a problem that people on both sides of a conflict—in this case, the robots who are trying to commit genocide of the humans—decide that they have to forego their differences and focus on you. This is the epitome of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.”

Most villains begin an end an arc of singular focus. Hell, I’ve even talked about it in my this very blog. They usually start what they finish, focus on the hero or their galactic domination or whatever, but they generally don’t deviate from the original plan. But Smith is different: he gains both power and insight and grows with them, modifies his approach, changes his goal and his method of achieving it. He grows. Just as Neo grows, Smith grows. He has his own independent arc in the story and is treated as the main character he is. The Matrix not only challenges perceptions of reality, it reshapes the idea of what the villain is and could be.

And that is what makes Agent Smith such a compelling villain and an excellent submission in the pantheon of fantastic villains.

Up next, it’s the man who screwed up young Peter Parker’s life: Mr. Osbourne AKA The Green Goblin!