Movie Villains: When did the villain become the hero?



By | Posted on 07 December 2012

When did the villain become the hero?

I’ve noticed a trend where given any show/movie the bad guy (twice as fast if they are a skinny white lad – which says something as well) will become not just the most popular character but also a huge target of “I want to love and cuddle him until he feels better.”

It is, to put it simply – a wee bit creepy.

Look, in Thor and Avengers, is Loki a sympathetic villain? Well kind of. He lies to everyone, including himself.

Seriously he doesn’t say a single true statement in Thor and in Avengers, well his entire plan is to lie to the people using him, so he can bring together forces to stop the other guys and then get captured all so he can get home without having to apologize or say he wants to go there at all.

And along the way he merrily seems to start believing many of his own lies, which is, I suppose tragic. But only to a degree. Here’s a kid who finds out he was raised to be something other than what he is. Totally worthy of sympathy. But we also see that even before that he was a scheming liar who toyed with the destruction of his own people. The two wrongs do not make a right.

And yet! Look around at how much people adore him and consider him misunderstood.

The same happens with Moriarty over on the BBC’s Sherlock show. Poor Moriarty! He’s just so evil. If we love him enough he’ll… I mean yikes.

But I notice we don’t see that for Khan. Nobody wanted to cuddle Khan until he felt better. Now that might have been because his chest could break your ribs with a hug – by mistake – but I don’t think so. And it isn’t because Khan was meaner than Loki. Consider this: Khan killed maybe a few hundred people.

How many people in New York died because Loki had to stage a war simply because he couldn’t bring himself to ask to come home (something that we all know would have been arranged if he could have swallowed his own pride).

Khan wanted revenge. Loki wanted to not lose face. Loki got three times as many people killed. One of them is a big Internet Sweetheart. Though is Cumberbatch is playing a new Khan, I wonder if Khan will get all the love now. It’s possible.

Let me also quickly address that this isn’t all because the bad guy is more interesting than their counterpart. The psychology of Thor is, oddly, more complex than many people seem to see within the film. And yet they see Loki’s fine. We’re trained to see the villain as more complex, perhaps. We look for it. And then we look for ways to “save” them.

At least as long as they’re thin, white, preferably British males. Which, I think, explains the entire British Monarchy once and for all, doesn’t it?


Eisner & Harvey award winning editor, writer & tired person. Co-Writer of AMELIA COLE, ARTFUL DAGGERS and ACTION CATS. Editor of Jamal Igle's MOLLY DANGER. Writer of lots of other comics, novels & essays.

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  • http://twitter.com/gh_schuster Falling Skies Blog

    I’ve been proudly rooting for the bad guy basically every movie since A New Hope. I want to live with Bane and Loki. And there aren’t a lot of things I wouldn’t do to hang out with Khan Noonien Singh.

    And to REALLY nerd it up for a second, Khan caused the Eugenics Wars, which killed tens, if not hundreds, of millions of people.

    BTW, welcome aboard. -Gregory

    • http://twitter.com/adampknave Adam P. Knave

      Ya know, good point re: Khan and the Eugenic Wars, thanks! And thanks for reading!

  • JulianGreystoke

    Me, I don’t want to hug the bad guys until they become good. I like the evil! I love Moriarty because he’s just so….evil! I wasn’t thrilled with Loki at all and don’t understand the hype. He’s fine…I guess. The Tom Hiddleston is freaking adorable and I want to hug HIM, but that’s because he’s very sweet and nice. I like my evil to be evil.

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