Villains Are Not Victims; it's Okay to Hate Them
Updated: Dec 3, 2022
If you were one of the many poor souls within my social circle, you would already be aware of the cold fact that my absolute favorite characters are the really bad ones. Now, I’m not talking about the poorly written characters you find on mediocre movies and T.V shows, or even the plucky sides who can’t seem to land a joke for the life of them. No, when I say bad, I mean, bad. I’m talking about the characters who are truly mean, spiteful, hurtful, and even downright evil at times. I’m not afraid to admit that I first became drawn to these perfectly vile characters as young as thirteen, when I first began expanding my interests beyond whatever my parents threw at me from childhood.
I had begun diving into a vast number of different manga that I had begun reading, along with the crime books I had taken a liking to. But nothing piqued my interest quite like the few horribly cruel characters I had come to enjoy reading and watching. Namely Ladd Russo, a crime Lord from the incredible anime called “Baccano!” (If you have never watched or heard of it, I highly recommend it!) Not only was this character violent and insane, but he was so dashingly charismatic and truly believed himself to be the greatest thing walking on this planet.
Another example, one that might be easier to relate to if you don’t fancy anime, would be Shane Walsh from the Walking Dead. Again, so many fascinating and dangerous qualities. To watch him go from being a perfectly sane, caring and a decent human being, to slowly falling into the insanities of the world and choosing a dark violent path…. I loved every minute of it! It was not only perfect storytelling, but I really felt something for Shane all the way until the end!
But the truth behind my affections for these characters goes so much deeper than simply, “I love how awful they were!” I didn’t love them because they did horrible things or because in some way I felt badly for the just ending they had received. I loved them because they were Villains, and it was okay for me or anyone else to hate them! While that statement may seem to contradict itself, allow me to give you something to think about: Imagine if someone made a case against the beloved character of Qui-Gon Jinn from the Star Wars Prequel series. In their case, they listed off several reasons that they have found to hate that character. While all of their points may make sense, no one would actually agree with it because that character is not only a good guy, but also a beloved character! But if someone were to write up a list of reasons to hate the Sith, you can bet most people would agree!
You see, there was once a time when loving the good guy and hating the villain was what you were supposed to do. In fact, if you preferred the villain to the protagonist, people would probably worry about you. However, you find more and more as the entertainment industry indulges in their political agenda, the villains are becoming more and more like victims than anything else. I can’t tell you how much I despise watching a movie where after all the trouble and struggles, it is revealed that the villain isn’t really a villain at all, but someone who has suffered and been mistreated their whole lives…
If you’ve ever watched Avatar the Last Airbender, you know that Zuko, -the first season's main antagonist- was a very troubled character from the very beginning. As the story went on and you learned about his childhood and all of his suffering, you did feel sorry for him. But never once did I ever wish that Aang would cut him some slack and be merciful to him. Especially after Zuko continued to make horrible decisions and commit horrible acts. But as most redemption story’s go, Zuko realized that he was a bad person and chose to be a better person on his own. He sought forgiveness for his crimes, and chose a path of light instead of darkness. His past of cruelty was not overlooked because he was a victim. He had to face the consequences of his actions many times!
Now, I do believe that in real life, bad people had bad upbringings. I do believe that horrible people sometimes had horrible things happen to them first. Victims and Villains alike may share a past filled with trauma and desperation, much like the good guy. However, the day you begin destroying and hurting others for your own validation, is the day you lose the victim title. This goes for real life, and storytelling. Let us not forget that some of the best villains were once the good guys! And oddly enough, some of the best good guys were once villains! Truly, I think this is what the entertainment industry is missing; good, heartfelt character development.
I think we all need that gentle reminder that what makes a good story, is one that has a good resolve. And the best resolve is when the overall struggle is overcome. I will always love dastardly villains that are evil for no good reason, or even for a good reason. I will always love watching them get what they deserve. I will always love seeing the protagonist struggle to beat them, and fail many times before doing so. Nothing beats the adrenaline of reading such a battle go on, not knowing if the guy you're rooting for will actually overcome the great evil they are about to face.
Just remember, without a truly devious villain, a Hero’s adventure to save his people, or their nation, would be pointless. I have always fancied the worst of the worst in most books and movies, simply because they serve their purpose so well; the purpose of being the absolute worst. So, if there is anything you can take away from this, just remember, It’s okay to hate the villain, they are supposed to be hated! Or in my case, love them because they are just too perfectly awful!