The Joker, Batman’s nemesis, is far from a golden example of good. In fact, he’s more of a madman out to watch the world burn as he causes chaos, which he calls “justice”. And even though he is evil and madness incarnate, there’s still a place for him in people’s minds under the category of awesome. From the show Supernatural, the fallen angel, Lucifer enjoys torturing, killing and bringing on the apocalypse. Nonetheless, he’s a major character and has a beloved place within the heart of the fandom. Both the Joker and Lucifer are villains that enjoy causing havoc. Yet fans still love them regardless of their evil ways.
But why do people even care for the villain at all? There’s a rather fitting quote written in an essay called“Why Vampires Never Die”by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan, which is printed in Patterns for College Writing: “Monsters, like angels, are invoked by our individual and collective needs” (362). This is to say that in our minds villains, like heroes, are in place because we need them to exist just as the hero exists. Our minds are changing in favor of the villain because we ourselves are changing and evolving. But are our moral lines shifting to the point where we like the villain over the good guy?
Is the line between good and bad devolving to the point where we would more likely idolize the evil genius who puts us in harm’s way instead of the hero that pulls us from hell’s flame? It could be that this current generation prefers to show“sympathy for the devil” (Kripke) because on some level, we can relate to the villain. We can see where he’s coming from and how he may have been wronged. Another reason rises from how the villain engulfs the dark side that we often cannot show because it’s unaccepted by what is supposed to be normal society.
Everyday Joe may love the villain so much because we can somewhat sympathize with the devil. We understand, on some level, what he’s going through. It’s because the villain is usually the outcast. And like the villain, many of us can understand what it’s like to be the outcast. The bad guy is the guy that stopped trying to fit in and has accepted what he is. He has accepted that he doesn’t fit in with normal society. Most of the time he has some talent or ability which makes him exceptional. He holds a brilliance that not everyone understands or perhaps everyone neglects to recognize.
We all know that feeling of not fitting in with the norm or being looked over though we might have so much potential. But unfortunately, with the villain, he has held on to a lot of anger and resentment. And that is where, at least for most, our identification ends. But we don’t need to like people (i. e. the villain) or believe they are good in order to identify with them. “We could identify with a villain even if we did not think the person was good, and, subsequently feel more empathy as we internalized his or her world-view and began to consider events from that perspective” (Keen).
Nonetheless, identifying with the villain is one of the reasons they are loved. The true turning point and difference between us and the villain is our lack of harboring our hate and malcontent feelings. The villain allows his hate and resentment to harbor and uses it and his brilliant abilities for malicious intent. This is something a normal person would never dream of. Lots of us have found a way to take that feeling of resentment and turned it into a positive. Take for example, in the story line for season 5 of Supernatural. Lucifer comes to town after being unleashed from his cage in hell.
One might think Eric Kripke and his band of writers might paint him as the well-known strictly evil devil that we’ve all grown up learning about in Sunday school. Instead, Lucifer comes to the character Nick and asks permission to use his body as his holy vessel. He genuinely pleads his case to Nick. He tells Nick how the world doesn’t understand him and has the wrong impression of him. Lucifer’s story is best explained in the speech that he gives Dean Winchester, while having possessed Sam Winchester, in an episode set in the future.
He explains the real reason he was cast out of heaven: You know why God cast me down? Because I loved him. More than anything. And then God created…. you. The little, hairless apes. And then he asked all of us to bow down before you. To love you, more than Him! And I said, Father, I can’t. I said these human beings, were flawed, murderous. And for that, God had Michael cast me into Hell! Now tell me, does the punishment fit the crime? Especially when I was right. Look what six billion of you have done to this thing. And how many of you blame me for it;… Kripke) You can clearly see how Lucifer feels as though he has been cheated by his father and all of heaven.
And it was all because he wouldn’t bow down and say that humans were superior to angels. But it doesn’t matter his reasoning. The Villain opposite the mighty hero will always be considered the underdog. He is the down trodden just like us. Underdogs are pitted against something seemingly impossible to overtake, (i. e. the hero, society) and, therefore, undoubtedly feel hopeless, powerless, and at a disadvantage. They struggle and try so hard to succeed that audiences cannot help but wish them the best of luck.
We are the villain and the villain is us. Villains are what we wish we could be, but never dare. The hero usually represents light and good. They are the golden ‘saving kittens from a burning building’ standard of excellence. But the villain is the devious, evil, mayhem bringer we wish we could be. And that’s why some people love them. They live by their own rules and take what they want when they want. Most of us are constrained by rules and moral/ethical codes; villains aren’t. Travis Langley wrote an article, “Why Do Super Villains Fascinate Us?
A Psychological Perspective”, in which he said: Sigmund Freud viewed human nature as inherently antisocial, biologically driven by the undisciplined id’s pleasure principle to get what we want when we want it – born to be bad but held back by society. Even if the psyche fully develops its ego (source of self-control) and superego (conscience), Freudians say the id still dwells underneath, and it wishes for many selfish things – so it would love to be super villainous;… (Langley) In short, we’re jealous of the freedom that the villain wields. The villain acts out his deepest, dark desired ways.
He’s rude, crude and gets what he wants done his way. One example of such a person is the wrestler, CM Punk. The guy is a total jerk and does whatever he pleases. Just recently he stole an urn with the ashes of the Pallbearer, who is another wrestler. No matter how much America hates him for the way he acts, bad guy or not, he is still a favorite. “When people look at fictional villains, they see versions of themselves gone wrong. Maybe these bad guys were once just as innocent as anyone else. Maybe they were turned by one regrettable choice, or were in the wrong place at the wrong time” (Green). Either way, they are what we could never be.
Personally, I wouldn’t want to really be a villain, but there are days when I fantasize about how life would be without all the moral restrictions and rules that society has set in place. And I must say, it can be rather appealing. The Joker, for example, does as he pleases and is by far the smartest person in the room. He doesn’t fit into society and he doesn’t care. If anything, he feels he was put on the earth to shake up society. And on many levels, I agree with loving the villain for his flaws and relatability. The villain realizes his strengths and weaknesses. And I will admit that often I have seen myself in a villain.
Like the bad guy, I have been cheated before by life and beaten down by society because I’m different and don’t directly fit in. Besides understanding the complications of the villain and liking how he ventures where I never could, sometimes I just find the villain more interesting than the hero. They often have layers to them. Referring back to the web article,“Why Do We Root For The Villains”: Every villain has a motive and sincerely thinks he or she is doing the right thing. Take for example Iago from Shakespeare’s Othello. Never does he do anything for the mere sake of being evil; he does what he thinks is just.
He attempts to destroy Cassio and Othello because he feels they deserve it, and while he thinks that his actions are fair, society considers them immoral and cruel. It is this warped view – this paradox – that add depth to a villain, and people are generally more drawn to it than they are to the less complicated character of an average hero;… (Green) Patricia Hernandez perfectly sums up how I feel for villains in her web article,“Our Psychological Need For Villains and Bosses Explained”, “The more evil a villain is, the better they allow us to face our fears? o maybe the creation of monstrosities is a necessary sacrifice”.
The more vicious the villain, the better he is. It yields for an amazing story line, a true challenge for the hero, and allows average Joe to rethink his place in society. And that’s what the villain does exactly. The Joker is a prime example of a villain that shakes up society. He shakes up the mundane, burns things for no reason and makes you question everything. As the Joker says himself, “Introduce a little anarchy … upset the established order … and everything becomes chaos.
I’m an agent of chaos”(Dark Knight). When it all boils down to it, try as we might not to like the bad guy, we just can’t help it. They’re truly fascinating. We love villains because in a twisted way, they mirror ourselves and we can relate to them. Besides being able to show Sympathy for the Devil, the villain is so beloved because he/she encompasses our dark selves that we could never unleash to the light. So it’s not to say that we’re losing our morals but more that we are expanding. We are expanding and accepting villains for the vile, complicated beings that they are.