A more likeable villain than hero?

One of the more popular trends in entertainment for young adults are superhero movies. The audience for these films is often people who are no longer young adults. In fact, some have not been in that category for decades. They go to watch the super good guy defeat the super bad guy for pure entertainment (as opposed to the dark and disturbing entertainment often aimed at adults). 

These formulaic films often suffer from having more interesting villains than heroes. For example, Clark Kent in the 1980’s Superman movies was fearless except in matters concerning Lois Lane. But that seemed like an unnecessary worry. She never failed to be impressed by his ability to fly through the clouds and take bullets for her without getting injured. However, many members of the audience preferred the antics of Lex Luthor, a man not as handsome as Superman. His intelligence and penchant for scheming often failed him. But, he was more a complex and more relatable character.

The next generation showed the same kind of preferences in the competition between Thor and his adopted brother. Loki originated from another place and another race and could not fit in. Thor had the greater strength, and a greater tendency to behave like a spoiled brat. However, when Thor matured, he became less interesting, while Loki still intrigued audiences. It seems hard to design superheroes without making them boringly perfect.

The mark of an excellent writer is being able to produce villains who see themselves as right, and yet the audience sees through this façade, realizing their evil intentions. Sometimes this is accomplished by having the villain be insane. But, these authors often misunderstand mental illness. The relatable villain is more likely to be a normal person who has decided on a course of action that is cruel to others for an ultimate cause that he rationalizes as good. It helps to avoid creating a totally vicious villain. If the author expects a reader to be engrossed by impending danger and wondering who will survive, both sides need some redeeming qualities.

In real life, people are frequently eager to point out their own faults when they see them in others. They view their own determination as persistence while the other person’s similar attitude is just plain stubbornness. In well written fiction, the reader can also detect the similarity between a person’s accusation against others and their own actions. A wise person once pointed out that real people, who refuse to acknowledge their own shortcomings often, become the cruelest towards people with these same faults. This wisdom can be used in real life, but can also help when creating an engrossing hero and villain.

This entry was posted in Characters, Generational differences, Writer's resource and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to A more likeable villain than hero?

  1. That drawing’s really cool.

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