On Heroes & Villains Pt. 2


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.


DSC_0547The 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.

What about you? What qualities do you like / dislike in in heroes? And villains? Which if your favourite sort of villains: empathic or redeemable? I’d love to hear from you!


16 thoughts on “On Heroes & Villains Pt. 2

  1. Thanks for the shout out :)

    The kind of heroes you described as liking are the kind of heroes that I like as well.
    As for villains, I agree that they need to be complex. Villains are human too, and unless they are complete psychopaths, they should have a little good in them too. Even if it is only slight.
    But redeemable villains are the most fun and would love to see more.
    Thanks for sharing. And you’re not silly, your opinion is as valid as anyone else’s.

  2. Complex villains are so intriguing and we definitely need more of that in YA. If I had to name a villain I really loved to analyze off the top of my head, all I can think of is the Darkling from the Grisha Trilogy…maybe…? But even he was cast out of the limelight after the first book. And if you asked me to name a “villain protagonist” I would be lost at sea because when has YA ever done that? 0_o I’d like to know lol

  3. Oh yes, I tend to rant about heroes who seem to have no flaws at all, and who think they can either save everyone or no one. I much prefer ones with depth in their personality and experiences, and try their best but can maybe fail.

    Yes to the villains as well! I like the ones who seem to be transparent at first, but then you realize that they have a lot more to them once you get into the story. ;) (Is it bad that I only got through seven episodes of OUAT and therefore don’t know if Regina is really redeemable?)

  4. I definitely prefer it when heroes have some sort of flaw- too perfect villains are just not relateable, and not really realistic. But yeah, totally agree about the ones who don’t get anything right as well. A stupid protagonist is not a likeable one. My favourite author actually has this theory (named Sanderson’s Second Law of Magic) which is that limitations > powers. And this is so true- a character is really only as interesting as his/her flaws.

  5. With a villain, for me it all depends on what kind of evil things they’re doing, I think in YA the villain is much more forgivable as their crimes are usually pretty mild to suit the audience. There’s a whole other category of hero / villain nowadays too. The villain or asshole type character that readers place in high regard. The same theory with contemporaries and new adult, save the girl from herself and become the hero. Like the Travis Maddox’s of the book world. What can we call those ones, asshollains?

    Great follow up topic Kara, it looks like most of us are far more passionate when it comes to the bad guy <3

    • AHAHA, ASSHOLLIANS. OH MY GOSH THAT IS BRILLIANT. But DUDE. I cannot STAND those villains/heroes (I call them “heroes” because like you said, that are often regarded highly in the readers’ eyes — and often the female main character’s, too.) I think those sorts of love interests set terrible standards for girls these days.


  6. Great extension of your discussion Kara – you’ve brought up some great points here. I totally agree with the whole ‘heroes being just that little too perfect’ idea – sure they can go and save the world, but it’s important that they are relatable as well I think. When it comes to villains, complexity is a big thing too, and I think they’re most interesting when even they show that tiny hint of goodness to shake things up. Thanks for sharing :)

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