When I think of the great literary bastards, I don’t think of the villains. One can be an utter bastard without being villainous. Professor Severus Snape was a complete bastard despite being arguably the most courageous character in the Harry Potter series. Namor, the ruler of Atlantis in the Marvel Universe, is fearless and brave beyond measure, but when it comes to his personality, the word bastard seems tailored for him.
A bastard is self-serving, self-important, arrogant, and a total jackass to those around him. For that reason, I can think of no better gentlemen to be my favorite literary bastard than the President of the Galaxy, Zaphod Beeblebrox from Douglas Adams’ classic Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy series.
His run for the presidency was done almost solely to kill his boredom. He stole the Heart of Gold, the first-ever ship using an infinite-probability drive, for the hell of it. While he does seem to have some feelings for Trillian (the former Tricia McMillan), he also seems mostly unaware of her or her needs/feelings. He’s cordial to his cousin Ford Prefect, who finds Zaphod to be a gas, but when it comes to Arthur Dent, he’s an ass of the highest level. He treats Dent with absolute contempt and when he’s not rude, he’s dismissive of the Earthling “monkey.”
Any situation Zaphod is in, his primary concern is himself and himself only. It can be argued that he’s not necessarily a bastard, but hardwired in such a manner that only allows for self-preservation. I don’t buy it. Of course, he’s entertaining in the series and his exploits make for a great read, but how many people do you run into on a day-to-day basis who are exactly like Zaphod? Not so funny when the person looking out for Numero Uno to the exclusion of everyone else is sitting in the cubicle next to you. Beeblebrox’s incessant bragging and egomaniacal behavior is funny; not so much when it’s your boss.
So Zaphod, here’s to you, you delightfully unapologetic prick.