Why Villains are the GREATEST!

thoughts orangutan

Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about one of my favourite subjects: VILLAINS. Too often, I find myself drawn to the darker side of the story. Sure, it’s great to be noble and I love a great hero I can get invested in… yet sometimes I think the villains are a tad more fun. Sometimes I find the “Darklings” more interesting than the light bringers. Sometimes I find myself distracted by all their evilly-goodness. And I know I’m not the only one to think so, cos Trang @Bookidote wrote an awesome post a while back (which I really recommend) about why roguish characters rock! Which makes me wonder… why do we all find villains so intriguing? Let’s discuss!

i see you sauronThey provide a thrill– their terrifying ways and insane antics have a way of getting my pulse up. The more a villain gives me chills, the more likely I am to get heated over a book. Nothing makes a book more exciting than a properly scary villain. And nothing does that better than Lord of the Rings- a stroll through middle earth could involving crossing anything from wraiths, to Shelob, to hoards of orcs, to Gollum… to Sauron *shudders*.

paradise lostThey are alluring– they have to be in order to tempt the protagonist. Satan from Paradise Lost is the quintessential example of such a compelling evil character and it is Milton’s genius that he drew him thus. After all, if he were not seductive, how else are we to believe that mankind could be taken in by the literal devil? Rather than looking at Milton and screaming *SATAN WORSHIPPER* (as some are wont to do) maybe we ought to look to ourselves and wonder why it’s possible to see Satan as the hero of the story. So yeah, villains oddly attractive to the reader too.

magnetoThey can be sympathetic and that can make the story a beautiful, painful journey. I always think of Magneto as one of my favourite villains, because I feel so sorry for him, but at the same time I know he’s a complete shit- and yet I kinda want the writers to stop putting him through hell and just leave him be arghhh… So yeah, it’s another way a story can get under my skin and make me so invested in it.

carry onThey push the plot on with their antics. Because let’s face it, without something to fight against, there wouldn’t be any plot. I could literally talk about any villain here, because no story would exist without an evil force, but right now the Humdrum from Carry On has popped into my mind, because he’s certainly there to be a foil to the Chosen One (no spoilers 😉 ). Which leads us onto…

 

voldemortThey force the hero to be heroic. Usually for some personal reason like, “you killed my parents!” aka Harry Potter vs Voldemort. In turn, a personal connection can make us feel sorry for the lead. Speaking of Voldy and Harry…

 

iago othelloThey provide insight into the hero– because so often “neither can live while the other survives”. More than that, however, the best villains illuminate the flaws of the protagonist, such as how Othello mirrors Iago’s weaknesses. And thus…

 

hook.gifThey can project a possible future for what the hero might become– this is never more true than in Peter Pan, where Captain Hook represents a tyrannical patriarchal figure… the very future Pan fears becoming. All of this shows how…

 

six of crowsThey have to speak dark truths about the human soul. Indeed, sometimes it’s easier to identify with a villain, fallen into depravity and chaos, than the perfect hero. There is something *more* insightful about a baddie somehow. On one level we identify with their flaws; on a darker more primordial level, perhaps they show us what we fear we could become. Incidentally this is probably why I like anti-heroes most of all and why I fell for the Six of Crows duology.

macbeth2They create the moral questions. And really, that’s one of the ways we learn from a book. We can get lost in the psychology of a well written villain and have to find our own humanity to get back to ourselves. Shakespearean anti-heroes, like Macbeth, teach us our fallibility and our limits. It’s about knowing ourselves and identifying that little villainous voice egging us on. Learning about ourselves doesn’t stop at knowing our strengths and nothing tells us more about our weaknesses than a baddie. What they do, the lines they cross, can make us question everything- and that’s a good thing.

darth vaderThey have the chance at redemption– yes I’m one of those people whose favourite Star Wars character is Darth Vader, because he redeems himself- well, sort of… it doesn’t make up for the genocide of an entire planet… (and no, Anakin Skywalker from the prequels is not really Vader in my mind- those stupid movies don’t deserve a look in to the Star Wars universe) *Ahem* got a bit carried away there… ANYWAY redemption stories happen to be one of my absolute favourite story arcs- partly because they teach us they’re not all bad news!

So after all that, I guess it’s no wonder that a lot of us want to be “chillin’ like a villain 😉

supervillain orangutan

But am I alone in this fascination with the “dark side”? What do you think of villains? Love ’em or loathe ’em? Let me know in the comments!

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166 thoughts on “Why Villains are the GREATEST!

  1. Vera says:

    I like complex characters and villains usually offer more of that than some stereotypical heroes can.
    I don’t believe that most people are born villains and knowing why and how they turned up that way always fascinates me. Plus I’m the sucker for a story of possible redemption as that gives me hope in humanity. 😊

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Kat Impossible says:

    I do have to agree that villains add a certain kind of thrill, but I don’t think they always have to be scary. They can just be incredibly sneaky and snaky in their behaviour and I will looove them, but maybe that is more fitting for the alluring part. hmmm. I think I just agree with everything you said!! I especially loved the part about them being like a mirror of what the heroes might become in the future. That was a very clever observation!
    AAAH! NOOO! YOU BROUGHT BACK CHILLIN’ LIKE A VILLAIN AND NOW I WON’T BE ABLE TO LISTEN TO ANYTHING ELSE FOR AT LEAST 24 HOURS 😛

    Liked by 1 person

  3. lostartofreadingblog says:

    I love the complexity of villains, I find it so interesting what made them so evil. It’s way more interesting than what made someone a hero to be honest. I was watching the show Once Upon a Time(sort of lost interest) and my two favourite characters were the villains.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Andie @ Andrea's Nirvana says:

    I honestly saw the title and my mind went “LOKI!!!” mostly because I’ve been in a mad Loki mood lately… (I blame Infinity War).

    I definitely agree with your points though! I have to say some of them can get really annoying real soon though :’)

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Sophie Li says:

    I really love all the points that you mentioned here. I haven’t given much thought to villains before but you are so right that they deserve much more credit than they get 🙂
    Personally I love villains who we can sympathize with and villains who redeem themselves in the end!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Winged Cynic says:

    Such a thorough list, and a very accurate one at that! I especially concur with the moral questions one as I love analyzing the downfalls of humankind, and villains offer such great insight into our worst selves. Oh, and good villains amp up the drama (in a non-cliche way), so I do wish we’d get to see some more creativity in villains out there; I mean, I don’t get enough compelling mustache-twirlers in my books lol.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Adrienne Morris says:

    I love writing about villains. I get to experience my dark side through them. Sometimes I’m surprised at how easy it would be for me to truly be evil.

    Another great post. I’ve been away from blogs lately but definitely miss yours!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Never Not Reading says:

    Great post! Magneto is a favorite of mine too. Like, I feel sorry for him because, obviously. But just because you were involved in a genocide doesn’t give you the right to COMMIT genocide. Duh. And obviously there are plenty of Holocaust survivors who managed to come out with a positive outlook on life. Just look at Victor Frankl!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Nicola @ Thoughts on Fantasy says:

    Great reasons and examples!! I love villains and anti-heroes too, they really are often some of the most interesting characters. I particularly like your point about showing a possible feared future for the hero – I would have never thought about that one but it’s so true, especially with Hook. I actually always like it when there’s an element of “this is what the hero could become”.

    I’m also glad you mentioned Magneto because he’s one of my favourite villains too – somehow they really got that balance perfect between making you feel sorry for him and making you hate him/what he chooses to do. Though I did feel like in the last movie (X-Men Apocalypse) they really went overboard with putting him through hell thing (with the obvious overly happy set up so they could tear it all down). I agree with you – I wish they’d leave the poor guy alone! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • theorangutanlibrarian says:

      Thank you! So agree with you!! Aw thank you- I think I got that from a class at uni 😉 And yes I really agree with you!

      Ah I love him so much too. I think he’s a wonderfully developed character- I always feel so conflicted watching him. Oh gosh yeah- I was so devastated for him- yeesh, it was so harsh! hehe exactly!!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Dani @ Perspective of a Writer says:

    I feel like the more complex the villain then the more complex the hero has to become… They are like scales that have to balance out. You can tell right away in a book if its not developed enough if the hero or villain is shallow… I think we are now so fascinated with anti-heroes for many of the reasons you list! ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  11. shalini says:

    I love the villains, they pull such a dark emotion, hate, from deep inside me, that I am often left wondering how far can they go. This is the universal truth, good winning over evil. The bigger the villain is, the harder the hero/heroine has to fight to attain victory. That makes every story magnum opus (at least in my eye)

    Liked by 1 person

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