Why Do We Always Like the Bad Guys?: An Analysis of Memorable Villains
Watching movies like Star Wars, Thor, and Captain America: The Winter Solder, I kept finding myself liking the “bad guy.” And it wasn’t at all because he was good looking (though that does help). 😉
In Star Wars we have Darth Vader; in Thor we have Loki, and in The Winter Soldier we have Bucky.
I finally sat down and thought about why so many people fall in love with these characters.
When we think of villains, what do we usually think of? Right. We think of bad guys whose mission (so to speak) is to track down the good guys and kill them or at least hurt them.
But if we take away the suit that covers them, what do we find?
A human being (or Asgardian) who was hurt in the past.
I would like to set aside this post for these three characters. I want to see what it is in them that makes me love them and want to cry when they cry.
Before we go “Oh, he’s the bad guy. I don’t like him,” we need to understand where he’s coming from – what his past was like.
Ani was a slave on the planet of Tatooine. He was separated from his mother when he was freed and she was not. He promised her that he would return and free her, but by the time he got back, it was too late.
This is when his fear turned to anger. Anger at the Tuscan raiders that captured her. Anger at not just the men but the women and the children.
In Revenge of the Sith, Ani was tricked into believing that the “Jedi are evil.” He wanted to save Padme and was told that the only way to that was to turn to the Dark Side.
His whole point of view was warped, resulting in his anger turning to hate and his name changing from Anakin to Vader.
He fights with his old master, Obi-Wan, the closest thing he ever had to a father. When he underestimated his own power, it almost cost him his life. And so begins the hate to suffering.
For the rest of his life as a Sith Lord, he struck terror in the hearts of the rebel army. But Luke Skywalker (Anakin’s son) was adamant that there was still some good in him.
At the end of Return of the Jedi, Vader ended up saving the day when he threw the real villain–Darth Sidious–over the railing and into the pit.
Oh, boy! This character is one of my favorites as well! Partly because Tom Hiddleston does such an excellent job portraying him. 🙂
Loki Laufeyson: adopted by Odin and brought up in his house. All his life, he was told that either he or Thor would sit on the throne. He was told that he was the son of Odin, but he began to have doubts. That night at Jotunheim when he was touched by a Frost Giant, his skin looked like theirs instead of burning.
Later in the movie, he had a talk with his “father.” He wanted to know just who he was. Here is the whole conversation between the two:
Loki: The Casket wasn’t the only thing you took from Jotunheim that day, was it?
Odin: No. In the aftermath of the battle I went into the temple and I found a baby. Small for a Giant’s offspring, abandoned, suffering, left to die. Laufey’s son.
Loki: Laufey’s son?
Loki: Why? You were knee-deep in Jotun blood. Why would you take me?
Odin: You were an innocent child.
Loki: No. You took me for a purpose. What was it?… TELL ME!
Odin: I thought we could unite our kingdoms one day. Bring about an alliance, bring about permanent peace… through you.
Odin: But those plans no longer matter.
Loki: So I am no more than another stolen relic, locked up here until you might have use of me?
Odin: Why do you twist my words?
Loki: You could have told me what I was from the beginning! Why didn’t you?
Odin: You’re my son… I wanted only to protect you from the truth…
Loki: What, because I… I… I am the monster parents tell their children about at night?
Odin: [unwell] No! No!
Loki: You know, it all makes sense now, why you favored Thor all these years, because no matter how much you claim to love me, you could never have a Frost Giant sitting on the throne of Asgard!
[an overcome Odin collapses]
Loki: Guards! Guards, please help!
Did you feel it? A hurt Loki talking with his adoptive father who had been lying to him for his whole life. Deep down, he still cared for Odin and for Thor. But when he learned who what he was, he was hurt and wanted to be loved. Truly loved. But though he saw that Odin never really loved him, he completely missed that Thor and Frigga truly did love him.
He decided to find a place where he could rule, and he came to Midgard (Earth).
Loki was, on some level, under the influence of the Tesseract, just like Selvig and Clint were. The Chitauri took advantage of Loki’s feelings of betrayal and inferiority and used them to bend him to their will with the hope that he would succeed in taking over Midgard and thus gaining them the Tesseract. The staff they gave him has a powerful influence, ensuring that Loki wouldn’t betray them. That’s why he gave up so easily in the end; the Hulk smashing him around brought him back to himself like the knocks to the head cured Clint and Selvig. He’s still bitter, but his brain is no longer “a bag full of cats.”
Now for this character. Bucky is a new favorite for me.
James Buchanan Barnes was the best friend of Steve Rogers during World War II. In The Winter Soldier, Steve made it clear to the viewers that, “Even when I had nothing, I had Bucky.”
But Bucky “died” and was brainwashed by HYDRA and then trained to do their work, returning 70 years later on a mission to kill Captain America. But Cap recognized him when his mask came off. “Bucky?” A little of the past came back to him. He knew Steve. He’d seen him before.
At the end of the movie, when Cap told Bucky that he wouldn’t fight him and that he was his friend, Bucky still didn’t realize who it was and said, “You’re my mission.” But after being punched in the face several times, Cap said, “Go ahead. Finish it. ‘Cause I’m with you til the end of the line.” And that was when Buck finally realized. Instead of fulfilling his mission to kill Steve, he saved him.
Well, now that I’ve given the basic background of these characters (as I know them), I don’t know what else to say! I suppose I’ll end with this…
Why do we love them (isn’t that what the whole post was about anyway)?
They are hurt and need love.
We have compassion on them because they’re misunderstood or misguided.
They are human, just like us.
They can have the tendency to be quite humorous.
And a quote from Tom Hiddleston: “Every villain is a hero in his own mind.”
With these three villains, I find that they have been misguided, misunderstood, or brainwashed…but in the end, I still love them.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go destroy Jotunheim…
By Eliza Loki