Recently, I have learned something about myself that is probably not so admirable. It was excusable the first time. I thought to myself, “Oh I must have read that wrong.” But upon return and reexamination, I came to the very same conclusion.
I root for the villain.
Book after book, movie after movie, I tend to side with the one person you are absolutely designed to hate. I’m not talking murderers or kidnappers or rapists, I don’t side with criminals. Well, I side with Dexter, but don’t we all? I side with the disturbed, tormented and broken. I side with the evil queen over the princess or the stalker instead of his victims.
I look at their flaws and see something worth forgiving. I try to see myself in them, and realize that we are all terribly messed up over something. Just because we may make one awful choice as a reflection of our experiences, doesn’t make us evil. Does it?
What if the witch in Hansel and Gretel was just lonely and needed company, so she lured them to her gingerbread house because her own grandchildren won’t give her the time of day? I mean it doesn’t excuse her trying to eat them, but what if she was diabetic and was only surrounded by sugar and carbohydrates, and was delirious with hunger and her blood sugar was throwing off her decision-making skills? It’s possible, right?
Side note, I’m pretty sure this mountain is trying to fatten me up Hansel and Gretel style so that one day it can eat me, but I’m not about to blame the mountain either!
I read a book years ago, written from the villain’s point of view. He was obsessed with this woman. He followed her everywhere, broke into her house, hacked into her computer and tricked his way into making her go out with him. It wasn’t until he started killing people I even realized he was the bad guy. I was rooting for him the whole time, thinking, “He really loves her, he’s willing to do anything to protect her and make sure she’s safe.”
I immediately recommended that book to a friend and was like, “Just wait, your mind is going to be blown!”
Later, I asked her how long it took her before she realized she was on the wrong side and she was rooting for the bad guy. She looked at me like I was an idiot. It was so clearly written that we were reading it from the perspective of the villain, and I almost missed it altogether.
Then I realized, maybe I root for the villain because I am a villain myself. I definitely don’t always use good judgement, I’ve definitely made terrible choices that have hurt other people. I tend to see things in grey instead of black and white. And if there’s a line drawn in the sand, I’m definitely going to backflip over it a few times.
I can look back on many events in my life where I have intentionally made the wrong choice. I looked at the scenario, and weighed out my options, and decided to take the chance and live with the consequences.
Here’s the thing though, I always thought the consequences were worthy. If I made a mistake, it was because I thought that in the end, the results would justify the choice. There was always something weighing in my decisions other than myself.
Are those the actions of a real life villain? Maybe. But, probably not.
The villain won’t sacrifice themselves for someone else. They don’t raise their hand and admit they are awful.
The villain will lie to you over and over again. They will look you in the eyes and tell you they love you but never choose to show it. They will put themselves above everyone else and make you feel bad for questioning them.
Here’s the hard part though, the villain isn’t ALWAYS the villain. There is always some good mixed up in the evil. Enough good, that they can spread out their douchebaggery, so that we can continue to second guess OUR people judging skills. They can be charming and kind. Maybe they would even give you the shirt off their back. There’s a good chance it’s mostly because they like the way they look naked, but still…
It’s not their fault. You don’t blame the snake for being a snake. They don’t even know they ARE a snake. They just do what they have to do to survive. I think the villain does the same. They are so caught up in their own lives, their own stories, their own hurt, their own insecurities, that they can’t see past what’s staring at them in the mirror. They can’t feel that people love them, they can’t see that others are hurting because of them.
We can’t change someone else. We can’t fight their battles or love them enough to turn them into the people we wish they were. The only thing we can do is decide how much of ourselves we are willing to lose to someone who isn’t willing to lose anything. How many of our pearls are we willing to cast before swine?
I will still always root for the villain. I will always hope that somehow the good will start to outweigh the bad. I will be waiting for the plot twist where I can throw my hands up and jump up and down and scream, “I knew I was right to stand by them!”
I’ll just keep my pearls to myself until then.