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Why Do We Love Villains?

We all grew up learning the difference between good and bad, and we were taught to always root for heroes and despise villains. Most of us never gave this a second thought and automatically loved the good guy. As I got older, I found myself becoming secretly fond of some of the villains.

I feel like it all started when I first watched Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and saw younger Voldemort (who was Tom Riddle at the time). All that my young self could think was, "Wow, how can a villain be so attractive?" From then on, I started to find more bad guys to be oddly fascinating — but not just for their looks — and realized that, surprisingly, other people were drawn to them as well. Even though we know that supporting morally evil characters is realistically wrong, there’s something satisfying about seeing what lengths anti-heroes will take to accomplish their goals.

Voldemort, Draco Malfoy, Darth Vader, Kylo Ren, Loki, Killmonger — the list of villains that make me want to join the dark side goes on and on. So, what makes all these villains so alluring? Shockingly enough, researchers have found that it's because we can relate to some of these villains. Rebecca Krause and Derek Rucker of Northwestern University suggest that people favor villains because it's a protective way to relate and explore their darker traits in a fictional world without the consequences and judgment of the real world. Many people are willing to make the comparison between them and a villain when it does not jeopardize their own self-image. 

Now, I know what you’re thinking — there's no way that you find yourself to be anything like these dark villains. But really, just think about it. Every villain has many layers of characteristics to unravel other than just being evil and looking for destruction. Maybe you relate with their backstory or motivation, whether it be for romance, revenge, justice, respect, etc.

Honestly, I feel like I can relate to this in some ways. My personal favorite villain is Darth Vader because of how intriguing his backstory is before he became evil. He grew up with so much potential, being the chosen one. However, Padmé was the love of his life and he was willing to do anything to keep her safe which led to his downfall. He started with good intentions and only wanted to save his wife, but he was badly influenced and let the dark side consume him. But, his overall motivation was love. While I don’t condone the methods that Anakin took to try to help save Padmé, when it comes to my loved ones I know that I would do anything I could to save them if I had a dream about their future doom, too. 

Let’s face it, whether it be their looks or ambition, anti-heroes are capturing our hearts. As long as you're aware that what they do is wrong, don’t feel bad to side with villains in a fictional sense. It changes up the game and can be very interesting to root for their side!

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Carissa is a senior majoring in Communication with a focus in business. When she's not writing, she loves to spend her free time online shopping, reading romance books, traveling, and going to theme parks!
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