Villains

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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 9 months ago
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  • 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. 3 months ago
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  • 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 1 month ago
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Monsters that Make Us Think

Within video games, we’ve met a whole host of monsters/villains, whether they are an individual consumed by a need for wealth, a mythical beast with an attitude, or a good guy turned bad. For this topic, one could come up with a list of monsters/villains that really made them think. Maybe it was a villain who actually had a point about his motivations to destroy a corporation, or a monster that was so vile and disgusting that we couldn’t fathom how they came into existence.

This article would likely focus on the morality and ethics of villains, as well as concepts to do with storytelling, backstory, and motivation.

  • I think this is a very interesting topic! Though I do not think it needs to be limited to video games if someone wanted to grab it. Whether its video games, literature, television, or film, there is plenty of fuel for this topic across all genres. – Sean Gadus 1 year ago
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Who is "The Bad Guy"?

Enter into a discussion about the identity of the villain in media and how this identity has changed and/or evolved over time. I think it would be interesting to take a sampling of different media over time (film, TV series, video games, literature) and analyze which group/people represent the "Bad Guy" in each and how that may correspond to the specific historical time period. Older Bond films often pit British intelligence against the Soviets – along with films such as Hunt for Red October – while many modern films concentrate themselves on Middle Eastern conflicts (i.e. London Has Fallen.) Does the bad guy always fall under a certain nation? Are directors forced to deal with the ‘politically correct’?

  • Looking at the shift in villain identity in media over time could be an interesting read! Over my lifetime I've seen an apparent shift from villains as just wanting to destroy the world into a character we can relate with, however looking back to when film first came out, it's easy to see that the villain was sometimes racialized as a form of propaganda. Bringing a variety of media into the discussion could be a difficult task and I wouldn't blame someone for narrowing that down. But who knows, maybe there's a direct correlation between when film came out in regards to literature or when video games came out in regards to film, that the new media type inspired a change in villain identity across the others? – Slaidey 3 years ago
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  • One could easily address this topic only using superhero films. Or even just one studio's superhero films. Or just one superhero's films. In particular I think of the richness of the Joker in his depiction of an enemy that thrives on conflict, without a past or real identity. – jackanapes 3 years ago
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The Appeal of Introducing Villains in TV Shows (Netflix / TV)

The success of superhero TV shows and the success of bringing villains from the comics onto the screen every week (or on Netflix every season). AOS (Agents of Shield), Agent Carter, Flash, Supergirl, Gotham, Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Arrow, etc. These TV shows all have something in common and that’s appeal to the viewers that still like watching TV shows weekly and keeping on the edge of their seat until the next week comes.

Aside from these shows being popular on the screen and keeping the suspense coming, what does the effect of bring in villains from the comics appeal to the show? I know they are supposed to be there, yes; but, does it appeal to bring in one every season like Daredevil? Or bring them in all at once, like Flash? Which appeal works best, introducing them one at a time or introducing multiple at one time. With Netflix, you have Jessica Jones and Daredevil who have introduced one each season so far. But, TV shows like Supergirl and Flash are already having a crossover and Arrow has had one as well.

There are multiple topics to speak upon on this one, but there’s also the difference between Netflix and TV show on TV. There’s the fact that Netflix puts them all on the table in one night / day, is there enough leeway to have more than on villain based on that? Flash and Supergirl, even Arrow have the ability to introduce one every episode BECAUSE they come on weekly. What is the difference in doing that? Gotham has introduced the origin of the majority of the DC characters from Gotham in one season. Every show has a different way of doing it and why are they all so successful? Not only really copies the other, even on different publications like Marvel and DC.

  • I think this also speaks to our interest in the villain. We aren't satisfied with an all evil, kill-everybody-they-see type bad guy anymore. We are just as fixated on sexy conflicted heroes as we are on sexy conflicted villains. Good topic – DClarke 5 years ago
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  • An excellent topic! One might also consider how the plot arcs of these shows proceed. Does a series that contains a sustained plot arc across the entire season benefit from introducing a single villain vs. introducing multiple villains from the start? If a series is more episodic in nature, do they necessarily lean to one side or the other? If the series is going to be taking place in one of the "expanded universes" that have become so popular, how does that affect the introductions of villains? – SMurphyEGB 5 years ago
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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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