A reader asked:
Does it say something bad about me that I empathize with storybook villains?
I doubt it. There are a lot of good reasons that people emphasize with storybook villains, for instance:
Storybooks can be very simplistic.
- They don’t tell the whole story.
- The things villains do often don’t make apparent sense
- They’re crying out for an explanation
- And if you make up a backstory of a character, it’s likely to be a sympathetic read of them. Because people create characters they like, more often than not
- In that case, it’s very likely that you’ll sympathize with your version of the villain over the canon version of the hero
Sometimes the villains seem to have more agency than the heroes in storybooks.
- Sometimes, villains make choices and do things, while it seems that the hero just sort of has a lot of things happen to them
- Eg: the hero wanders into the enchanted forest and shares his lunch with a witch, or doesn’t, according to how he’s accustomed to behaving. The witch had decided to hang around that part of the forest, and decides in fairly creative ways how to curse or bless the hero.
- That’s sort of.. more personal, somehow?
- So it’s possible that you have more empathy for the villains because they seem more like people and less like simplistic embodied morals of the story
The heroes are sometimes not actually in the right.
- You don’t have to like the hero just because the story says they’re the hero
- Eg: in Jack and the Beanstalk, the hero steals all the giant’s stuff and then kills him.
It might have to do with your experiences being treated as bad:
- If you’ve been taught to think of yourself as bad, it can be easier to identify with villains than heroes
- If everyone treats you like the wicked witch, ogre, giant, or evil queen, you’re likely to identify with the villain than the people who kill the villain
- When you’re bullied by a mob a lot, it’s not so appealing to cheer on a mob that rips someone apart
- The story may call them the villain, but so do the people who call you the villain
- And the villain may have had the chance to defy them, or come close to winning, in ways that you’ve never been able to do
I think the only way it might say something bad about you if it’s part of you convincing yourself that it ’s ok for you to treat others badly. Or, if it’s part of building your identity as a person who is intrinsically destructive of everyone, and seeing that as a good thing. If you’re doing that, you should stop. But that’s probably not what’s going on.