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Sympathy for the Villain?

We all know that there cannot be a hero without having a villain but does this mean that we have to hate the villain? Sure there are those people/creatures that are truly monstrous and who want to destroy the world or inflict pain and terror but what about more innocuous villains? villains who just happen to share a different moral code than the hero? or rivals that engage in the same behaviour as the hero but happen to be on opposite sides (Gangs of New York, The Godfather). It is Manichean to see the villain as evil but are they totally unredeemable?

  • Wouldn't that make them anti-heroes? Villains are defined as villains when there is no good in them, or when they were once good but there is no redeeming factor for them. To which the other term that should be brought up is antagonist. Who is an opponent for the protagonist, but is not really evil, and is often mistaken for a villain despite the morality differences between antagonist and pure villain. – Ryan Walsh 5 years ago
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  • A good example of a villain versus an antagonist is in "Les Miserables" with Thenardier and Javert. Thenardier does evil for his own gain while Javert believes he is doing good while he is the antagonist to Jean Valjean. In the end Thenardier doesn't change while Javert realises the harm he has caused and *spoiler* commits suicide. – smartstooge 5 years ago
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  • I think I agree with Ryan Walsh. You seem to be conflating the anti-hero and the villain. Perhaps it would be more productive to study the rise of the sympathetic villain in Pixar. – InAugust 5 years ago
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  • Another good example of two differing viewpoint of antagonist and protagonist are Marvel Comics' Magneto and Professor X. They both want mutants to be treated better, but because of Magneto's past as a Jewish boy during WWII, he believes that the humans will never see the collective "other" as their equal - at the very least, not through talk. Magneto believes he is doing the right thing by mutant-kind, but so does Prof X, who wants nothing more than for humans and mutants to get along. Another example is Regina from Once Upon A Time, who is a sympathetic villain and could be seen as the protagonist of her own story. – VelvetRose 5 years ago
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