Why the World Needs Villains | Teen Ink

Why the World Needs Villains

May 24, 2019
By ninjaman529 BRONZE, Sparks, Nevada
ninjaman529 BRONZE, Sparks, Nevada
1 article 0 photos 0 comments

Why do we abhor evil? What’s so bad about the “bad guy”? Why do we continue to create villains in our story if we want them to be defeated? Why do we even need villains?

In order to understand these questions, we must first begin with why we adore our heroes. They’re the good guys and they save the day, obviously, but it’s through their adherence to their morals and their heroics that they teach and encourage us to be better people. Their courage and initiative towards danger and evil, especially in the face of powerlessness, motivate us to bravely take action towards the struggles we all face in our own lives. Heroes inspire hope in a world that desperately needs it through their own positivity, strength, and determination. In many ways, villains seek to tear all that apart. They are the direct opposite of heroes. Their twisted sense of morality, or perhaps even the lack of any morals at all, is repulsive. We as an audience only wish for their sinister plans and wicked deeds to be undone. While most villains do have the same initiative and determination towards ensuring their plan is a success as a hero does towards thwarting it, it doesn’t inspire hope, but rather, fear.

If the goal is to inspire an audience in the way that a hero does, and villains create the exact opposite effect for their audience, why include villains at all? The answer is that our heroes are nothing without villains. All lights shine brighter in the presence of darkness, and the same can be said for heroic deeds. Without the presence of a surrounding darkness, a light blurs with the other lights around it, and if only good things were to exist, the heroic deeds of our heroes wouldn’t matter. The fact of the matter is, no great light can shine to its fullest extent without the darkness, and without terrible acts of evil, neither could heroic deeds. Effective, interesting villains, repulsive as they are, should serve as literary foils to our heroes; that is to say, they’re a direct contrast to our hero’s character. Villains emphasize the lessons and feelings our heroes engender in us through this contrast, uplifting our own perspectives, opinions, and support towards our heroes, while simultaneously lowering our support for our villains’ heinous actions. In the words of Dani Eide of the Curiosity Quills Press, “Opposition is needed in a story because it helps the protagonist grow. Growth in a hero helps the reader to relate to the character and want to take their journey with them. Growth only happens when the right kind of opposition is provided for the protagonist.”

Contrast in mind, villains are also necessary in the creation of conflict within a story. Through their direct contrast of character to our heroes, and the fated interactions between the two, it can be said that villains are the ones responsible for creating the conflict. What use is a hero to the world without a villain to defeat? Anyone who’s ever experienced a story, whether they be the writer or the reader, the creator or the viewer, knows that the most interesting part of a story is the conflict. Perhaps it’s learning to live with a disorder or traumatic memory in some stories, but between our heroes and villains, it’s the epic fights, the showdowns, and the hostile tensions between the two that we love. Without conflict, a story would, quite simply, be boring. We need villains to create that conflict with our heroes; the kind of conflict which grabs the reader and creates the initial interest in the story that is being told. Roger Ebert, in his review of Star Trek II, explains that “Each film is only as good as its villain. Since the heroes and the gimmicks tend to repeat from film to film, only a great villain can transform a good try into a triumph.”

Villains make a story interesting. It’s thanks to our villains that we appreciate our heroes; that through their conflicting nature our heroes become the inspiring characters as they were meant to be. We might not support villains, but that doesn’t mean we don’t need them.


Works Cited:

Eide, Dani. “Opposition: Why We Need Villains.” Curiosity Quills Press, 29 Mar. 2017.

Ebert, Roger. “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan Movie Review (1982) | Roger Ebert.” RogerEbert, 1 Jan. 1982.

Edens, Kathy. “Why a Fully Realized Villain Is as Important as Your Protagonist.” ProWritingAid, 12 May 2017.

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