Rooting for the villain

Feb 3, 2019 | Daily Bits | 10 comments

Today I have a funny little topic for you, one that if we were to look at from a very serious perspective would probably not qualify as funny. But I say we keep it nice and light and ask ourselves casually: why do we sometimes find ourselves favour and secretly admire the bad guys? Or girls, we’re not talking genders here, only types.

Might be for a lot of reasons, like the fact that we all have at least a spec of evil in us, suppressed feelings and so on. Jordan Peterson talks about this in “12 rules for life”, so if you’re up for a deep dive in philosophy or history of religion, go for it. Funny fact about this – and the 3rd time I use the word “funny” in just 2 paragraphs – is that this book is supposed to be the “easy” version of “Maps of Meaning”, the other book he published. Well, it still makes my head spin…

In any case, one of the most comfortable ways of giving in to our evil inclinations is with fictional characters. There’s no harm when they’re not real, isn’t it? Well, the answer to that might not be too simple either, but let’s just not go there.

Let’s look, instead, at some movie villains that are really quite fun.

Joe from the Netflix series “You”. In fact, from the book with the same name written by Caroline Kepnes. I haven’t read yet, though, so we stick to the series.

Joe is a genuine sociopath. From very early in the first episode, you realize there’s something wrong with him, but it turns out it’s too late. You’re already hooked. This is probably because almost the entire plot is narrated from his point of view and his monologues are utterly charming. I mean he’s funny and smart, what’s not to like about this? Maybe that he’s a stalker, liar, he manipulates people, including the girl he allegedly loves, that he’s a killer? Maybe all this.

Oh, and don’t worry, these are not spoilers, it’s quite obvious early on in the series. But you’ll still like him. For once, because he’s also compassionate, although not towards the same people he uses or disposes of for fulfilling his purposes. He has a great sense of humor and he adds a sarcastic, yet hilarious twist, to all situations he finds himself into. Or rather puts himself into, because no one tells him to kidnap or kill people. These are choices he makes, and he always finds romantic or honorable justifications for his actions.

Now, I know I said we keep it light, but it’s worth noting that underneath what makes the series entertaining there are plenty of pointers on the type of behavior you need to run the hell away of if your gut feeling tells you to. Grrr, what a long phrase…

Red from the Blacklist series. Also on Netflix. And, actually, Mr. Raymond Reddington, to be exact. International criminal, on the FBI’s most wanted list, but secretly working with them as an informant. He helps catch the criminals no one even knew existed, but he always follows his own agenda and does all that to be close to one special agent.

Nothing more about the plot, but a lot to say about the character. He is a rather unimpressive middle-aged man, who steals the scene once he starts talking. He’s very intelligent and witty and, of course, he is kind and charming and has the capacity to inspire a loyal following everywhere he goes. Even in prison.

He has a story about everything and he appears to have seen every corner of the world. Most times he seems to not have a very clear plan in place, but as things unfold you realize he has thought everything through and carefully considered all his moves.

To put it briefly, he’s a walking anecdote and even if you’re not into FBI kind of series, you still need to give this one a chance.

Tom. What do you mean, Tom who? Tom from “Tom & Jerry” of course. He’s the bad character I always rooted for. Poor him, always tormented and beaten and made fun of by that little jerk, Jerry. I know you were supposed to like Jerry, because he’s the hero of the series, but I always felt so sorry for Tom and wanted him to win just once.

After all, he has a lot of qualities, doesn’t he? He is resourceful, very imaginative, very flexible and sings very good. Just to name a few of his strong points. It’s true that he’s on a permanent pursuit to catch and eat Jerry, but that’s a detail. I’m sure that in fact he just wants to become friends with him, but life gets in the way.

My gallery of villains, true or undercover, is not by any means limited to the above. But I’ll keep a bit of mystery to it, I learned at least this from them.

I’m curious, though: who are your favourite villains?