If you’re a fan of sci-fi, fantasy, or horror, you know the trope of the Rich Backer. This guy is a man (sometimes a woman, but rarely) of means who funds the exploits of our main characters. His house is usually massive, his funds inexhaustible, his motives ulterior, and, most of all, his endgame the same as that of all other Rich Backers: immortality. Whatever rare plant or amulet or medical sample you’re fighting monsters in order to bring to this guy, chances are it’s some form of Fountain Of Youth.
Which raises a question: why do evil people always want to be immortal? Why is funding the mission–or conducting the experiment, or helping the vampire–so important? Is immortality really all it’s cracked up to be?
The reasons these villains search for immortality usually boil down to a few prime directives:
- Megalomania. These rich bastards want to live forever because they can afford to do so, and enjoy the idea of enduring even as normal people wither and die. They want to conquer death the way they conquered the stock market or whatever.
- Necrophobia. Even the rich and infamous feel that chill in their bones when they imagine their demise. They want to be rid of that fear, so that there will be nothing in this world that can so upset them.
- Avoiding judgment. If magic is involved, there’s a great chance that our antagonist knows there’s a Hell, and that they’re saving him a seat there. Immortality means never having to say, Oh God, take that live shark out of my rectum.
- Nefarious plans. How old is this character? Have they been around since ancient Rome? Are they waiting to find a special item (other than the Fountain of Youth) to end the world/resurrect their wife/bring back their god? This way, they can keep going.
- Hella laffs. Life is a treat, full of all the sex and drugs and opulent fireplaces money can buy! Immortality just means continuing a long life of leisure that can only get better the more cash you amass. Here’s to life!
The problem with all of these, of course, is that it’s rarely a young and vibrant person searching for immortality, it’s some old codger. Young people commonly feel like they’re going to live forever without the aid of a magical elixir, and if they already are interested in immortality, they rarely discover a means to it until they’re old and grey.
Not every escape from death has the same effects. Some, like the Lazarus Pit in Batman, make you young again, trimming the gray in your hair until it’s just at your temples. But most just keep you from dying as you are now, and if you’re past sixty years old and/or riddled with cancer, living forever will be, well, not fun. It’s an eternity of that pain in your hip, while all the while your grandchildren die around you.
Something rarely considered in desiring to become immortal is technology. Imagine having to learn not only the new iPhone, but the thing that replaces the last iPhone in a hundred years? Or learn the new features in Google Chrome v. 102? That sounds like a nightmare to me. Tech is hard enough as is–I’ll be lucky if this post ends up on my blog. I guess the idea is that if you have enough money to pay for a bunch of scientists to search all of South America, you’ll have enough money to pay people to do that for you, but still.
Maybe that’s the point of being truly evil, though: you just want things to have them. It’s not about living through the ages, it’s about other people dying through the ages. Sure, you can dress it all up in misguided personal ideals, but at the end of the day you’re a prick who can’t stand the thought that something out there will one day say ‘No’ to you, even if they do so with a gun.
There’s a beautiful irony in that, of course. See, time shows everyone the truth. So if you live forever, your options are either a) that you realize you’ve been doing it wrong the whole time and that life is a beautiful treasure worth protecting, or b) you realize that you’re a piece of shit. Either way, the reality of who and what you are comes out, and that’s a fate worse than death.