“Perhaps fiction provides a way to engage with the dark aspects of your personality without making you question whether you are a good person in general,”
Negative characters seem fascinating. I want you to do a self-assessment and ask yourself if you loved that moment or not when The Joker kicked Batman’s ass? Didn’t you want Munna Bhaiya to survive somehow at the end of Mirzapur Season 2? You did. Talk about the character of Thanos or that of Vito Corleone, your inner self knows that you do love some negative characters but you don’t show it publicly. Maybe because you don’t want to be judged in front of everyone for loving a villain.
I always wondered what attracted me to negative characters so much! And that’s why I researched. And to be very honest, research is always fun when the subject comes under your interest.
I started the research on myself first. I watched these iconic movies a few times to come to a conclusion. And here are a few reasons that I would like to list down, it includes:
Power of Villains
Believe it or not, Villains are extremely powerful. Contrary to heroes, they don’t have to be ethically correct to do anything. If a negative character has the power to manipulate minds, he manipulates them without thinking of the good or bad. It is the immense freedom that fascinates me. Freedom never feels bad in any way, at least for me.
Sense of Revenge
I want to take revenge whenever I’m hurt by someone. It’s a natural tendency unless you have attained moksha. The amount of immediate reaction depends upon the amount of pain. When my ex cheated upon me, I wanted to shoot her, but that happened only in my mind because I’m not evil. I felt like looting the whole government just like ‘The Professor’ when I got scammed of some hard-earned money by shit government schemes.
Concept of Equality
When a hero tries to inflict pain upon any negative character, it is shown in a positive light. The hero gets applauded for the same. But if we see it with the goggle of equality “pain is pain”. Either a villain inflicts pain upon a hero or vice versa. Either way, it is an ethical sin but society watches the hero’s action as positive. So for me, this is a kind of equality as well.
Now, I know all this might sound a bit crazy to you but it is what it is. Although I may feel this at times while watching these web series or movies but in the end, it depends on your intentions. If your intention is not bad then it’s okay to have these feelings once in a while.
In almost any story, the villain plays just as vital a role as the hero. The antagonist is often the primary reason why the hero’s story is even worth telling. Without the villain, good has nothing to triumph over, nothing challenges the protagonist, and everyone just goes about their average lives.
Let’s talk about what scientific research has to say about all this. A study by psychologists from Northwestern University has explored this phenomenon. They explained why people are often attracted to malevolent, immoral, and downright rude villains (as long as they are fictional).
The researchers argue that the “sympathy for the devil” in a fictional setting is perhaps a safe way for people to relate to darker aspects of their personality without threatening the fragile sense of self.
“Our research suggests that stories and fictional worlds can offer a ‘safe-haven’ for comparison to our darker selves. When people feel safe, they are more interested in comparisons to negative characters that are similar to themselves in other respects,” Rebecca Krause, lead study author and a Ph.D. candidate at Northwestern University, explains in a statement.
“People want to see themselves in a positive light,” notes Krause. “Finding similarities between oneself and a bad person can be uncomfortable.” However, sympathizing with a fictional villain doesn’t appear to threaten our own sense of self if we manage to separate it from reality.
To reach these conclusions, the researchers first analyzed data from around 232,500 registered anonymous users on the character-focused entertainment website CharacTour. The platform contains a personality quiz that lets people see their similarity to a range of different characters, both good and bad, including Maleficent, The Joker, Darth Vader, Sherlock Holmes, Joey Tribbiani from “Friends”, Donkey from “Shrek”, Groot, and Yoda. By looking at the results of this quiz, as well as users’ responses to their results, the researchers found that people tended to like both villains and nonvillains more as they realized they shared similarities with them.
The researchers concede that further robust research needs to be carried out before we reach any solid conclusions. The immediate findings suggest people are attracted to villains because they notice a similarity with an aspect of their personality. However, if these similarities become too “real” and start to manifest in reality then people tend to be repulsed by the villains.
The real world is a lot different and you can’t really be inclined towards the villainous character(unless you are a real-life villain) and live peacefully in society. It’s totally understandable to have that temporary feeling of idolizing or supporting a villain.
I would love to see some of your favourite negative characters sitting in the comments section. Don’t forget to add up some details that justify your fascination with them.