Which Villains Did You Secretly Root For?
Sometimes the bad guy has a point.
It has become a cliche nowadays that the bad guys, when written well, tend to be more interesting than the heroes. Yet, one of the biggest complaints I have is when the bad guy wants to take over the world/destroy everything, “just because.” Sure, there are some versions of this that work, like The Joker for example, but personally? I love a sympathetic villain, and the best type of bad guy is the one that sits down and makes you ask: “Huh? Maybe they have a point?” So in honor of our recent entry into sympathetic/relatable baddies, Mr. Erik Killmonger, who we don’t of course think was totally right, but who had some good points, here are some of my favorite villains who also had good points, but took it too far.
The other Erik. I vividly remember watching the first X-Men movie and seeing the opening scene with Erik’s family being brought to a concentration camp and him reaching out to his mother who is being dragged away from him. It’s a powerful scene, and it reminds us that the evil in X-Men is not just the fictional aspects, based around mutants, but also the way we treat people in our own world. I understood how Magneto would worry. If people can’t accept other human beings who are different religions, ethnicities, sexualities … how are they going to accept people who are truly different from the rest of humanity? His disillusionment with human empathy is understandable, and every day it feels more and more true.
The problem is that he targets innocent people who might be allies to his cause, because, in his mind, all of humanity is a threat to mutant life. In that way, he has become what he hates. But it is no surprise that Magneto, who grew up as a Jewish/Romani man during the Holocaust, would be much less lenient in excusing mankind’s hatred towards others—in comparison to Charles Xavier, who was born into privilege. While there are those who suffer trauma of that degree and come out of it with empathy, there are also those who stare into the abyss and don’t blink at the darkness anymore.
Yeah, the humans on Gargoyles, at least in the past, were dicks. In the multi-part opener, “Awakening,” we see that the Gargoyles protect the castle because it used to be their home before the humans came. In order to maintain peace, they protect it from invaders in the night, while the humans keep the Gargoyles from being destroyed during their daytime sleep. Yet the humans treat them like monsters, calling them bullies and brutes, even while the Gargoyles save their lives on a daily basis. So when Demona asks Goliath why he doesn’t speak up when they treat them poorly, and his answer is “It’s the nature of humans to fear that they don’t understand.” It rings hollow. It rang hollow for me as a kid and it rang hollow now.
What makes Demona a compelling villain is that although she takes things too far and ends up bringing about her own sadness, her hatred for humans is constantly reinforced. Plus, Goliath’s “We will nice them into kindness” technique doesn’t seem to work until it’s already too late. Demona is evil, and she kills innocent people, but she didn’t get that way overnight—and her path to that evilness is based on seeing how humans destroy both themselves and others.
Zod (Man of Steel):
There are many things I strongly dislike about Man of Steel and how it portrays my fave, Superman, but if I can give it props for one thing, it would be its writing for Zod. Zod believes Jor-El when he warns about Krypton’s eventual destruction, and he launches a coup once he realizes the Council is incapable of saving their race. When the coup fails, the Council sends him to the Phantom Zone.
Zod is a killing machine, but he was bred to be that way. And why should the Council be allowed to make decisions when they are the reason Krypton is being destroyed in the first place? Not to mention, his desire to save all of Krypton through violent means is not okay, but the Els decided to save their son because he was the first Kryptonian to be born the “traditional” way, and that’s okay? Saving one baby vs. saving an entire race of people?
After everything he does, I can’t be #TeamZod, but his telling the Council it’s time for them to go because they failed so hard? I can’t be mad at that.
Amon (Legend of Korra):
The Legend of Korra had one of the best turnarounds ever. I did not enjoy the first two seasons, but the last two are some of the best television I’ve ever seen. And as someone who stuck it out, it was a wonderful reward to see such a well-done show featuring a fully complex female heroine. That being said, I did love Amon in the first season of the show, and part of my disappointment with the show was how they handled his character.
Amon was an Equalist who believed that the United Republic of Nations was forcing non-benders to live as second-class citizens. After all, benders basically ran the government, were the only ones who could play the most popular sport, were the majority in the military, in factory jobs and, of course, on the police force. Amon’s actions, stripping benders of their powers, was without a doubt bad, but the issues of inequality he raised were valid. Looking over the course of the series, as well as Avatar: The Last Airbender, we see that benders pretty much run everything in society. Unfortunately, when it was revealed that Amon was secretly a waterbender, it sort of ruined his whole argument among his followers. This was upsetting, because up to that point there was an actual validity to his points that was never really resolved in the universe.
All of the Legend of Korra villains, while extremists, had really interesting political ideas that the show actually began to deal with later on in the series.
Who are the villains/antagonists that you find yourself agreeing with?
(image: Marvel Studios/Disney)
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