Ah, evil characters. The villains, the antagonists, and the lawbreakers. Where would our favorite characters be without their respective villains? Living a boring life, that’s for sure. Without them, our awesome heroes wouldn’t have any conflict. And without conflict, stories kind of suck. If stories suck, that means books suck, and I know for a fact that’s not correct. So, let’s give it up for the evil characters that give our stories the conflict they need.
Evil with Purpose
Villains in real life are an unnecessary evil. But in books, they are a required evil. Whether evil characters attempt something large, like dominating the world, or something small, like making high school life hard on one of their peers, these characters help create the stories we enjoy. I’m almost positive that your favorite book has a villain in it, and as much as you may hate that villain, the story wouldn’t be any good without them. There may not even be a story without them.
The villains push the story along by giving the protagonist something to struggle against and strive to overcome. Unfortunately, this means that our beloved protagonists have to struggle for a while and contest whatever it is the villain throws at them. But this gives them time and a necessity to grow and overcome whatever is happening to them, which is something everyone can relate to, no matter the genre of villain — being faced with difficulty and finding the courage to get through it.
Villains Are People Too
What about the villains themselves? Everyone has a villain they despise because of what they did in their favorite book, but perhaps that is something that should be celebrated. For a character to be a villain and leave a mark on the reader shows that they were well-written. Yes, an evil character is still evil, but that doesn’t change the fact they managed to make space in the recesses of your brain to park themselves in. Something about that character stuck to you and left a mark. Maybe it was how evil they were or how fleshed out and well-written they were. An evil character can still have depth and importance to them. No one is born a villain; something happens to them during their life that made them who they are. Understanding the villain, humanizing them, and realizing what happened that set them on this path are things that help make them seem less evil.
Corrupting the Good Ones
The finest villain characters are ones that didn’t start as villains. What I mean by that are characters that are introduced to the readers as good-hearted protagonists that eventually fall to evil.
My favorite example of this type of “villain” is the classic character of Darth Vader and Anakin Skywalker. A pure-hearted child with ambitions of helping people. He saw the good in people. Tragically, he couldn’t find the good in himself. Through the course of his story, events unfold and turn him into the villain everyone knows him as. The major turning point for him was the desire to save his wife from dying in childbirth. He loved her so much he would do anything to help her, even if that meant turning his back on everything he once believed in. These types of villains should be celebrated because they struggled through a major turning point that forced them to become the one thing they once fought against. Succumbing to the tide of a harsh reality that swept them down a river of change.
As an antagonist lover, I adore the villains of every story. I often find myself rooting for them even though I know they won’t end up winning in the end. As I mentioned earlier, something happened to them that caused them to be this way. Whenever I bring up my enjoyment of villains to people, they look at me like I’m crazy. Which is true. But, to defend myself, I always bring up Mr. Freeze from Batman. Please don’t call me crazy yet; hear me out.
Ultimately, Mr. Freeze wanted to save his wife from the disease that was slowly killing her. To do this, he turned to a life of heavy and fantastical crime. This is not the morally right thing to do, but it is understandable. He loved his wife dearly, and the thought of losing her was something he couldn’t imagine going through. I can almost guarantee anyone who has loved someone else would want to save them in any way they can, even if it meant a life of supervillain crime. I know there are people in my life I would turn to supervillain crime for if it meant saving them. Plus, the villains always have the best outfits, so you wouldn’t have to twist my arm too hard.
Villains should not be blindly hated but rather thanked for their service. Without these characters, our stories would have no conflict, and without conflict, there is no story. Being a hated villain is a thankless job but a necessary one. The next time you find yourself really hating a villain, remind yourself that something happened to make them that way. Their reasonings might not be morally right, but oftentimes, they are, at the very least, understandable. Thank you, villains and evildoers. Thank you to the henchmen and disposable fodder that the villains manage to employ. Thank you for everything you do, but maybe try being nicer.
Read more about what Bookstr is thankful for here.