I was going to do a big post about this topic, but I realized that this could be one that differs from person to person. So, it’s best for me to start with myself and then open up the floor. To opinions and not letting people fall into a vat of acid that also has robotic piranhas.
You see, it’s really hard to write a villain if you’re going for one who should be hated. I think it’s gotten more difficult over the years because people are more into sympathetic villains. We want to know why they do what they do and can reach the point where we kind of feel for them in a way. You get a group of the fandom that roots for the bad guys too. That seems to be the easiest thing these days because you pull back on how evil they are and give room for forgiveness. Once you cross that line, you can’t have them be sympathetic at all . . . Unless it’s Anakin Skywalker killing a bunch of children, which doesn’t seem to have reduced Darth Vader’s popularity at all.
Now, this topic isn’t about that, but I bring it up for a good reason. Every time I make a post about villains, people comment primarily with those that they feel sorry for or have some sympathetic side. It’s never a true villain that people bring up now even if the topic leans more towards that side of the coin. Why is that? Is it because people don’t want to think about the truly monstrous characters? I think it’s that way for some because there’s no connection there. That’s because they do the horrible things that we would never dream of doing. People who do tend to be the types that other humans would really want to avoid. In fact, we tend to call such people ‘monsters’ when they give in to that darkness and are caught. The villains of our world rarely have the sympathetic side that those in fiction have.
I’ve wondered for a while if there’s a way to go too far with the evil. Every time I try to talk about the subject, I run into that ‘beloved baddie’ issue. So, I never get very far. That might be because everyone has a different limit as to what they will accept from a character before they turn away. The gradients are small, but they’re definitely at a point where you get debates over if a character is redeemable or not. For myself, rape is a big ‘you are dead to me’ thing with villains while another person might put the line at ‘shoplifting’. Seriously, I talked with a person years ago who had this pet peeve about shoplifting in fiction. On the other side of me, I know people who will still root for the rapist villain because they’re ‘cool’ or ‘entertainingly evil’. So, there are those with incredibly high tolerances for evil acts in fiction to the point where they won’t turn on a horrific monster. That isn’t to say they would do it themselves, but they enjoy seeing the darkest depths of depravity.
Now for the questions:
- What is your evil limit?
- Does a story lose you if the villain goes too evil?
- Have you found that the lines of what is too much have changed as you get older?