I Have a Thing for Villains

For those who don't know, this is the great Sephiroth

For the record, I have very high standards for villains. I separate them into three categories. The least awesome villain is the one who fails to scare me. Laugh maniacally and do what you want, but I just can’ take you seriously. The one example that comes to mind is Mojo Jojo. You don’t scare me dude.

The second level of villainy is the person who is evil just for the sake of being evil. He or she has little motive other than to be bad. These usually appear in story lines that have a black and white separation of good and evil. These kinds of stories are usually unappealing to me. I have seen villains that fit into this category even though there is a little bit of grey area in the story. The best example of this is Seymour from Final Fantasy X. There are not enough words to describe how much I hate that guy. What really made me mad was that he kept coming back after I killed him. You’d have to understand the way the world in that game works to really get that. His overall goal was to destroy everything. He looked at the world and saw suffering, pain and death. If he destroyed the world and killed everyone in it, the people of the world would be at peace. How long did my characters spend wondering if Seymour was right? None, because that’s a messed up view of the world. There was a little grey, but not enough to make me happy.

Then we have the number one, best level of villainy. Here is where we find Loki, Sephiroth, Androids 17 and 18, and Darth Vader. If you focus on a single act, they’re pretty evil. All of these villains have taken their share of lives. There is no doubt of their viciousness. They are bad, and, yet, there is an understanding of how they became they way they are. Loki, whose birth parents were enemies of Asgard. Raised by Odin, king of Asgard, he always held dreams of ruling the kingdom. He seems to blame the world for his misfortune, claiming the reason Odin does not want him on the throne is because of what he is.

The other villains I listed are similar. Sephiroth fought for the government until he discovered the truth of their experiments and his origin of birth. Androids 17 and 18, originally delinquent teenagers, were kidnapped by a mad scientists who turned them into androids and programmed them for destruction. Darth Vader, formally known in his story line as Anakin Skywalker, found his road to villainy in his exceptional power and growing distrust of how the government was run.

This is all from memory, so forgive me if I’ve gotten a few things wrong. The point still stands that these are villains that we can understand. As you dive into their back stories, you come to understand why they are the way they are. That does not make up for their terrible actions, but it does make it hard to hate them. In fact, I can’t help but love them. They are like a super powerful, injured puppy. I just want to hold them and tell them everything will be okay.

I’ve often thought that my love of villains may have true roots in the bullies of my youth. Even when the bullying was at its worst, I didn’t blame my peers. I saw them as they played with their friends. I saw them be good, kind people. Despite their ability for kindness, they’re actions towards me were often villainous. Adults told me many things about these bullies. One statement I often heard was that they were trying to cover up their insecurities. Maybe the truth was that I had a trait or quality they wanted. Maybe life at home was tough and I made a good target. Like Loki, whose desires a crown he can’t have and then seeks to take over humans, a race of people too weak to resist his powers (see The Avengers).

Villains certainly have a ‘bad boy’ quality that can be very attractive. At the same time, I wonder if my love for villains is born out of how I understood childhood bullies. They were good people who made some bad decisions. Regardless of their motivations, I think we can all agree that bullying is wrong. So, why did they make these bad decisions? What was their goal? What did they want from me? On some level, these villains give me an answer. I like them, because I know that, behind their evil actions, there was once a good heart. Maybe that heart can be brought forth again if only someone would reach out in understanding to them.

…or maybe I there’s simply something about a maniacal laugh and smile that turns me on. Who knows.

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10 thoughts on “I Have a Thing for Villains”

    1. I still don’t think I quite captured my infatuation. Maybe it’s as simple as saying there’s something attractive about dark, moody types with a disproportionate amount of determination.

  1. I think it’s like my attraction to bad boys. Because I’m also slightly attracted to villians… Poison Ivy… Cat woman… Harley Quinn … yes yes yes yes!

    Ultimately I know they are bad for me… and that’s possibly the draw. That dark mojo they put out. The slight tingles you get from knowing they are somehow not all good… I’ve always loved the thrill of that. Beats jumping out of a plane anyday!

    1. It must be a bad boy/girl thing. Or maybe something about their freedom to just do whatever the want.

      Not good people and not the type I would date in real life,… but say they were real, I probably still would date them. On a scale of kill, fuck or marry, they all get a fuck… and maybe a kill after. I should do the world a favor…..maybe

  2. Haha yep, I’m right there with ya on this one. I freaking love Loki and his whole lot. They don’t make me feel the same way bullies do (like eating them for lunch) but there’s definitely a powerful draw to trying to understand how they’ve gotten to be the way they are.

    1. The bullies thing was just my way of trying to understand why I have this attraction. Maybe there’s not logic to it. I just love me some villains. I always like them more than the heroes.

  3. SInce I’ve never been into comic books or video games I can only speak of villain in the classic sense of the hero’s journey; in movies and books. How do we distinguish between a villain and a ‘bad guy’? For instance, one of my favorite movies is The Departed and Jack Nicholson is clearly the bad guy, but is he considered a villain? Are villains only in comic bookish/sic fi stories?

    Agent Smith in The Matrix; would he be considered a villain? he definitely wasn’t scary.

    I’ve never really gotten scared watching a movie or reading a book, and I enjoy horror movies every now and then, so for me the standard of a villain being scary wouldn’t apply; none of them scare me. for instance, “silence of the lambs” has Hannibal Lector but that movie didn’t scare me at all……

    Hmm, I’m left with more questions than conclusions on this one

    1. I’m so ready for this comment…

      “How do we distinguish between a villain and a ‘bad guy’? For instance, one of my favorite movies is The Departed and Jack Nicholson is clearly the bad guy, but is he considered a villain? Are villains only in comic bookish/sic fi stories?”

      The way I see it, almost every story has a hero and villain. Good Guy and Bad Guy mean the same thing. Whoever is the enemy is the villain.

      I also don’t think villains need to scare you in the horror movie sense. The fear I speak of is the fear of a villain succeeding. It has to do with their drive, their obsession and their disregard for casualties in achieving their goals.. It’s fear what the world might look like if or when they succeed. I used Mojo Jojo because he’s from a pretty simple cartoon (Powerpuff Girls) and he wasn’t thought out well enough to have that level of obsession and intelligence. He was more for comic relief. He was unimpressive and I never once sat on the edge of my seat wondering how the heroes would get out of this one.

      I have high expectations for villains in any kind of story. They need to be believable. I should fear their success. At the same time, I want to understand them. I want them to be dynamic characters who have some redeemable qualities. There needs to be grey area. The best villains (in my opinion) make you sympathize with them at least once. The greatest can make a hero question if they are really in the right.

      The most terrifying thing a villain can do is convince the hero and/or audience that they are actually the hero and that the hero of the store is actually in the wrong.

      1. “The most terrifying thing a villain can do is convince the hero and/or audience that they are actually the hero and that the hero of the store is actually in the wrong”

        I’m 100% on board with this statement because all my favorite villains are the ones I end up rooting for!

        —) For instance, during the first two seasons of Dexter I was rooting for Dexter, although by season three I was like, “would somebody kill this moron already, he is such a moron” and then I didn’t make it to season four cause I had enough……

        —-) In the HBO two season series Rome (FYI: ONE OF MY FAVORITE ALL TIME HBO SERIES) it seemed like EVERYBODY was a bad guy lol…I mean, they all did shifty stuff but I loved some of them and hated some of them and often there was no rhyme or reason as to who I would like because so many of the characters were guilty of really heinous activity!

        —–) I love the show Weeds (which ended its series run not long ago) and essentially all of the major characters in the show were criminals! They were all breaking the law; murder, theft, all sorts of bad stuff they were guilty of but I absolutely loved them! They were the hero’s for me! And the FBI who was trying to catch them had become people I hated! Ha ha…terrible I know.

        1. But that’s what makes them so… dynamic.

          I feel like we grow when we question the values and beliefs most sacred to us. A villain who is just bad does nothing but confirm our values without question. A dynamic, relateable villain makes you question those values. You may still come to the conclusion you were right all along, but for one moment, you sat in discomfort as you wondered if there was a situation where that value would be wrong.

          Maybe that’s the real draw of villains. The greatest ones cause us to question ourselves and grow in who we are.

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