After last week’s On Heroes & Villains post, I thought I would write a follow-up that goes into a bit deeper detail on what I talked about last week. Last Wednesday I confessed I didn’t like many heroes, but liked a lot of villains.
Today I talk about WHY that is.
The sort of heroes I don’t like:
- Heroes usually want to save EVERYONE. Which is great, and nice, but you can’t really save everyone.
- Sometimes the hero/heroine tries to be… too perfect. They do everything right. They’re not flawed. They’re perfect.
- Or… on the complete other end of the scale, they do everything wrong. They make mistakes you know they shouldn’t have. They don’t grow. They don’t learn. Why should I like them if I feel they’re not trying?
The sort of heroes I do like:
- Heroes that try to save everyone… but eventually accept they can’t.
- Recognize that there ARE shades of gray in life; and sometimes, they even step into them to do the “right” thing.
- Characters that are a little bit… broken, and complicated, and don’t always do the right thing. But that’s okay, because they grow and learn — at a realistic and likeable pace.
What makes a villains likeable and/or relatable?
- COMPLEXITY, PEOPLE. It all comes down — to me (all this is one silly little reader/writer’s humble opinion) — a complex, interesting character. The straight-out villain who’s a terrible person (eg, someone like Voldemort, or Joffrey Baratheon, who, let’s face it, have little to no redeeming characteristics) is the kinda villain you love to hate, and in their own way are complex — but what about the other types of villain?
- The villain who, yes, is essentially a bad person… but are they all bad? (Here, I use the example of Wilson Fisk from Marvel’s Daredevil and Jaime Lannister from A Song of Ice and Fire series.) If you’ve watched either, then at one time or another you’ve hated this villain. But, wait. Think about it. Haven’t there been moments, brief snatches of time, where you’ve thought, Maybe they’re not so bad after all. And I came to the conclusion that although they are both “bad” people, there ARE things, people, that they care about. Then you ask yourself — if they care about something, something other than power and greed, then are they truly so terrible? These are the villains that I’d call empathic villains.
- And then there are the other types of villains — the redeemable ones. (For this I’ll talk about Regina from Once Upon a Time — shoutout to Rochelle for mentioning her in the previous Heroes & Villains post.) They start off terrible. Horrible. You hate them. You’re supposed to hate them. But then, slowly, over time, perhaps something changes, shifts, circumstances become different, and the heroes and forced to work with the villain/s, and… hang on, are you starting to like this villain? They’re redeemable villains.