Beloved Villains: The Line Between Love to Hate and Just Love

Many villains are fan favourites, some are sassy geniuses, some are sexy temptations, some have tragic backstories and a point of view you understand, some a pure unrelenting evil. A good antagonist can be the highlight, the draw point, of a book, show or movie. But where does loving a bad guy in their role as a wicked character and source of suffering become genuine love and desire by the audience?

As fandom culture becomes more widespread and relevant in social media, it’s easier than ever to see peoples opinions. And it’s easier than ever to development entitled feelings to media when you can communicate with the creators over the same platforms we reveal our inner thoughts.

So when does love for villains become an issue, a detriment to the enjoyment of the content? When a viewer forgets the character is a bad guy and is devastated when treated as such? When a casual fan posts a tweet about how horrid the character is and gets bombarded with hate?

Think Joe Goldberg from You or Kylo Ren from Star Wars, add whomever you think fits into these categories, and discuss how people’s opinions and entitlement have gotten out of hand.

  • In terms of fans who treat the villains as if they're actually the "good guys" in some sense, I feel as though it's important to draw a distinction between ignoring the villain's faults and liking the villain BECAUSE of those faults. For instance, I've seen fanfic where authors ignored everything about how horrible the villains were and treated them as if they were secretly huge softies all along, and then I've also seen fanfic that made the villain do the same terrible things he always does, while framing it as positive and expecting the audience to root for him anyway. It seems like there's two different mentalities there. – Debs 4 years ago
  • Great topic, because the line you discuss is such a thin one. You might also include anti-heroes, who are often considered villains or who engage in villainous behavior. Severus Snape is my personal favorite, and the controversy surrounding him is intense. You'd get a lot of article fodder from that one character alone. – Stephanie M. 4 years ago
  • Drawing a distinction between villains that have an arc, they start off bad but end up good, and villains that are just bad the whole way through could be good. I’m sure that must influence opinions. – Samantha Leersen 3 years ago

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