Villains these days are awesome. There’s no denying that recent times have given us the most interesting, complex villains we’ve ever witnessed. Be it Heath Ledger’s Joker or Josh Brolin’s Thanos, villains have definitely taken centre stage as of late.
Perhaps this reflects our evolving tastes towards more realistic entertainment than what previous generations enjoyed, because even our heroes have grown over time, operating much more in the grey than ever before. Great anti-heroes are what make or break shows, be it Cilian Murphy’s Tommy from Peaky Blinders, Ryan Reynolds’s Deadpool, or even Sherlock Holmes- both Downey Jr. and Cumberbatch coming to mind. Even in the animated world we can’t escape our draw for them. Can you imagine Dragon Ball Z without Vegeta or Avatar- The Last Airbender without Zuko?
These characters manage to steal every scene they are in. However, regardless of what we might enjoy watching on screen, we need to be able to dissociate that from our true ideologies. Television these days makes us support some very questionable characters. Take Tommy for example. Simply put, he’s a corrupt individual, who makes his money from illegal gambling, and killing off competition, and yet we are cheering him on every step of the way. We deplore the idea of him being taken into custody, even though we know that if this was real life he would deserve it.
Then there’s Thanos. There’s no doubt that quite a few of us stuck in traffic after watching Infinity War found ourselves agreeing with him. However, while you wish Thanos existed, do you realise you or your loved ones would most likely be part of the half that disappears? Some people may question why I’m spelling out something as basic as this, but trust me when I say this, I’ve seen people genuinely agreeing with Thanos. I only hope that it’s Marvel’s amazing cinematography that put such thoughts in their heads and not an actual appreciation for the ‘Blip’.
One show that absolutely excels at throwing this conundrum of supporting a questionable character into the limelight is House of Cards. The genius of that show is that even though we loved Frank Underwood during the first three seasons and wanted him to succeed, after a certain point we begin to doubt our own opinions. The perspective of the show, especially the constant breaking of the fourth wall, allows us to root for Frank despite his increasingly criminal activities. At a point though, we realise we’ve been supporting a lying, murdering politician all along, and a brilliant dissociation between the audience’s and Frank’s perspective takes place. His shift from anti-hero to villain is one of the most spectacular arcs I’ve witnessed.
Every villain is a hero in their own stories. That’s what makes them great villains. But the key thing remains; they are villains. Their ideologies are flawed, and when we witness their actions we should be under no doubt that the world they are imagining, or the methods through which they want to achieve this world, are not morally viable. After all, a spoonful of perspective never hurt anyone.
Rabita Saleh is a perfectionist/workaholic. Email feedback to this generally boring person at firstname.lastname@example.org