As a disclaimer, villains are not my favorite. I’m a hero/sidekick person. However, a thought struck me while I was watching Merlin fanvideos on Youtube. The reason why I like the few villains that I do like are because they are sympathetic characters. If the story was shown from their point of view, they would be the hero.
The villains I’m referring to are Morgana Pendragon from BBC’s Merlin and Regina from Once Upon A Time. The fact that it actually hurts me to call them villains is a great illustrator to that point. If you want to avoid spoilers for either show, I would suggest that you stop now, because I’m going to be spoiling several key plot points.
Still with me? Ok then. I’ll start with Morgana. One of the first thoughts I had when I first “met” her was that she was a woman out of time. She is an independent and opinionated woman. In modern times she would have been a politician or an activist. In Camelot though she is repressed and sheltered. When she learns, rather violently, that she has supernatural abilities that are also highly illegal, she turns to the people she thinks that she can trust and they lie to, belittle, and betray her. The one person she finds she can trust is completely crazy and manipulative and power hungry. And so she goes off the deep end. If one of the people you thought you could trust tried to poison you, wouldn’t you go a little off too? This is a woman twisted and manipulated and pushed to her limits. Eventually, she gets pushed over the edge. And that is what makes her sympathetic. Even in the later seasons when she is continuously trying to kill the heroes, she thinks that she is doing what is right. She thinks that herself and people like her will never be safe until Camelot is under her rule. She’s the embodiment of the idea that one man’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter. Colin Morgan even said in an interview that if Merlin had not known his destiny, he would have sided with Morgana.
Now I’ll move to Regina. You might better know her by her more common moniker, the Evil Queen. At her origins, she was an innocent girl in love with a stable boy. Her mother has delusions of power and kills the man Regina loves so that she can attain that power. The only reason that this was allowed to happen is because Regina saved the life of a little girl, Snow White. Since Snow White was the king’s daughter, he repays her by asking her to marry him. Her mother accepts for her and Regina plans to run away with the stable boy. Snow catches them kissing and Regina makes her promise not to tell. Being a 10 year old girl and completely innocent, Snow blabs to Regina’s mother. She catches them in the act and kills him. Regina vows to have her revenge on Snow and lets that revenge corrupt and darken her heart.
These two actually have a fair amount in common. Both have abusive parents. Both are manipulated and twisted by people they trust. Both lose people that they love. Both believe that they are in the right. Regina believes that she is justified in her revenge and Morgana believes that she is fighting for what is right.
This is what makes them such compelling characters. They aren’t one dimensional villain characters. They are people with motivations and reasoning behind their behaviors. Their behaviors are obviously awful, but they are very difficult to hate.
This obviously isn’t just a female phenomenon. The quote used in the title was coined by a man. I’m looking at you Loki. Considering the fact that the Loki fandom scares me I won’t say much more on the subject, but this is a man that believes his birthright has been stolen from him and intends to steal it back.
Another example from Merlin is Mordred himself. When he is first introduced, he is just a boy. Even when he is reintroduced as an adult, he only seems dangerous because Merlin has been told that he is. He only turns against the heroes when they execute the love of his life. Unlike with Morgana and Regina, the heroes are actually right in doing this. She has committed treason against Arthur and must die. Arthur even tries to give her a second chance, but she refuses and is hanged.
What do y’all think? Who are your favorite villains? Do they fancy themselves heroic or do they just do it because they can?