Burns: I'm absolutely evil. Bart: You're preaching to the choir, man. Burns: What do I have to do, grow a devil beard?
— The Simpsons
Appealing to my better nature? I'm a villain! Here is My Card! "Eve L. Duehr:Academy of Evil graduate, aspiring tyrant, kicker of kittens, and spontaneous singer of Barney songs." I crossed the Moral Event Horizon while still in grade school and have never once looked back. And you think you can talk me out of my evil deeds? Ahahahahahahahahaa!
Villains like this may be greedy, violent, comical, etc. but most importantly, they are Evil. It's in the job description. They refer to themselves as Evil, with a capital "E". Stretch it out to "Eeeeeevil" for emphasis. (They may even pronounce the "I" with emphasized shortness. Ee-vill. Like the froo-it of the dev-ill.) Terminal cases even require their minions to call them "Your Evilness". In fact, calling them evil, vile, ruthless, or any generally negative epithet will backfire and be received by these villainous types as the kindest of compliments.
The Card Carrying Villain demands to be respected and feared and on top of the heap over everyone else becauseEvil Is Cool and Good Is Dumb.
Thus, they are expected to Kick the Dog and never Pet the Dog. If they acted differently, they'd lose their Evil ranking. Especially ironic if the reason they fell was because they wanted freedom from constraints on their actions. Whatever action they as a good guy wanted to do is considered "bad", so they have to do other bad things as well now. After a while, they usually forget about whatever goal it was that turned them Evil in the first place. So...in a very odd way, they're very much The Fettered; since their actions are bound by the expectation of Evil.
There are, in general, three spheres of Card Carrying Villainy. A lot of villains combine one or more, though:
- Control - the Villain wants to rule; be it a gang, a city, a state, the country, the world, or a similar goal, and have everyone else below them obey their every whim. Sometimes goes so far as thinking of themselves as being of a superior race, a perfect being, or even a god, and therefore entitled to it.
- Corruption - the Villain wants to turn other people Evil. Give in to The Dark Side!
- Destruction - the Villain wants to destroy and kill for its own sake. Taken to the extreme, the first and second spheres may recognize that this includes them as well, so this often results in Evil Versus Oblivion or Eviler Than Thou if the villain teams up with the heroes so they can Take Over the World at a later date. (You can't take over the world if it's not there!)
A Black Cloak, a low-ranking Terrible Trio, an Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain, or someone who's succumbed to The Dark Side is usually most likely to identify themselves this way.
A subversion is for these folks to not actually be cruel, greedy, or unnecessarily violent, but just doing their jobs. ANoble Demon is a Card-Carrying Villain who talks the talk, but has a tendency to hold back or even help from time to time.
While the trope can result in an entertaining villain, he can also be cheesy or shallow. 80s kid's shows made a lot of these, where the villain referred to themselves as evil. Writers apparently believed that the children watching wouldn't be able to define the bad guy unless he was blowing up cities or poisoning lakes For the Evulz. It also reveals a condescending belief that children are unable to understand that evil people usually don't consider themselves evil. Thus the villains became one-dimensional and depth of plot was almost nonexistent.
In comedy situations/shows, this fate is usually averted, as it's a humorous thing (and thus right in place). It can also be used with a darker twist - showing a person so beyond redemption, so beyond what we call usual morality, that he is literally impossible to argue and reason with. This trope is also inconceivably difficult to pull off convincingly in a more serious, dramatic work or just live action in general. Most people in real life simply aren't that evil or conceited enough (or stupid enough) to proclaim themselves as such in any way. Not overtly, at least.
On the other hand, there are still dramatic situations where characters are that evil even in serious situations - certain kinds of world-destroyers, the excessively vengeful, and full-on psychopaths. Demonic entities also have full access to this trope. In the final stage, you have a villain who insists on justifying their actions because "it's what villains aresupposed to do"; see Contractual Genre Blindness. In dramatic situations, the hero may try to induce a Heel-Face Turn and tell them they have a choice. They choose to keep being evil.
Card-carrying villains are particularly likely to do something For the Evulz. Expect them to have relations with the darkand/or have evil powers.
Not to be confused with My Card, where the villain emphasizes their evilness in this trope, My Card actually deals with a business card (and is not always for villains). For people who fight using cards, see Death Dealer. Oh, and this is also not to be confused with the villains in Yu-Gi-Oh!, as everybody seems to carry cards in that series.
Subtrope of Obviously Evil. Dastardly Whiplash is a specific subtrope from comic melodrama. Many if not most examples of Ron the Death Eater are also this.
- I Am a Monster, where the character laments rather than embraces how bad they are.
- Knight Templar, a villain who completely believes that they are good. They can still become a Card-Carrying Villain if they have a Heel Realization and decide to keep being a villain anyway.
- Moral Myopia, where the villain doesn't consider the evil he's doing to others to be wrong.
- Punch Clock Villain, who doesn't take any particular glee in being evil, instead looking at it as just their job.
Compare Noble Demon, who is a villain and makes no bones about that fact, but will generally do less dog-kicking.
See also Always Chaotic Evil, Bad Is Good and Good Is Bad, Lawful Stupid, Chaotic Stupid, Stupid Evil, Villain Balland Eviler Than Thou.