Monday, October 11, 2010

Sympathetic Villains

Today I would really like to hear from everyone who your favorite sympathetic villain is. They can be an antagonist, an anti-hero, or just a supporting character who happens to be a real bad guy, but also one that you feel for, for whatever reason.

I'll allow you to select from film as well, just so that someone can pick Darth Vader, because even though he doesn't seem very sympathetic at first, once you know his whole back story how can you not pity poor Anakin Skywalker? [SPOILER ALERT] Driven to the darkside by fear and manipulation, forced into the killing younglings and attacking his mentor? Is there a more tragic tale out there?

The character you pick doesn't have to be completely evil, in fact it's best if they're not. They can even be a red herring, like one of my two favorites: Severus Snape from Harry Potter. Professor Snape certainly is a tortured individual, and one who we spend thousands of pages essentially despising on Harry's behalf. [SPOILER ALERT] But once we discover the truth about his past and the full depth of his courage, we really begin to admire him, in spite of some of his distasteful personality traits, or at least I know I did.

Or your character can be even more pathetic, like my second favorite sympathetic villain: Smeagol/Gollum from the Lord of the Rings Trilogy and The Hobbit. Like most sympathetic villains it takes quite some time to discover Gollum's past, [SPOILER ALERT] but once we do we certainly feel for him in his experience of being twisted for centuries by the addictive power of the ring.

So who is your favorite sympathetic villain? Try to pick just one but if you must break the rules like me and go with two, I won't really mind.

37 comments:

DEZMOND said...

To me this has always been Poison Ivy from Batman because she fights for everything I stand for as well, and she is actually a beautiful soul who went a bit crazy in one moment :)

Ian said...

Funny you should mention this, but I'm trying to create a sympathetic main villain in my story now.

Frankenstein's 'monster' is a great one that springs to mind for me. Tragic character, only one of his kind, rejected by his creator and cast out.
In a very similar mode is Roy Baty from Do Androids Dream...? Love that book and the film, too.

Jared Larson said...

Man, this question is way too hard. I guess I'd have to go with Smeagol as well.
There are so many good ones though. A great villian from a classic book is Javert, from Les Miserables. Good stuff.
And then there's those villains that you detest, and just want to put the smackdown on their sorry souls the entire book. And when they get their due in the end, it's extremely satisfying.
Good post, Matt.

Christine Fonseca said...

This is HARD! You took my fav - I think the Phantom (a la phantom of the Opera) is a great sympathetic villain.

Hannah Kincade said...

Awww, Christine stole my answer!! Yes, the Phantom is my favorite sympathetic villain, especially in my fave book, PHANTOM by Susan Kay. Beautiful and tragic.

Vicki Rocho said...

My brain shuts down when asked a question like this. Then I read the other comments and I sit here goin', "Oh! Yeah! That's a good one. Why didn't I think of that?" To sum up:

What they said.

Justine Dell said...

Okay, I'm not talking books here. I'm talking tv shows. I've recently become addicted to Vampire Diaries and I do believe I love Damian more then I will ever love Stephan. Sigh. I love me a baddie. ;-)

~JD

Melissa Gill said...

That's a tough one. Maybe Sue Snell (was that her name?) from Carrie.

Emily White said...

Well, you already named my two favorites--Snape and Gollum. It's true that you hate them at first, but by the end, you can't help but feel for them.

Em-Musing said...

My husband. Whoops, you mean fiction huh?

Slamdunk said...

I am going way back with the original King Kong. Poor beast.

Jessica Bell said...

Hmm, can this apply to non fantasy too? I don't read much fantasy ... Um ... I'm stuck. I'll come back if I think of one!

Shannon said...

Let me try this again. Blogger is being a bugger.

Great topic!

For me - it's King Lear. In a nutshell, Lear goes mad after wrongly distributing his estate two his two horrid daughters, based on the strength of their flattery, while shunning the one daughter who truly loves him.

Kelly Dexter said...

Aside from Snape, it would probably be the Devil from Glen Duncan's I, Lucifer, who is hilariously presented as both protagonist and antagonist of his own story.

Melody said...

Ben Wade, from the modern 3:10 to Yuma movie, no question. :)

Nicole Zoltack said...

I also vote for the Phantom and Anakin. I guess great minds really do think alike.

Cole Gibsen said...

My all time favorite sympathetic villian is Mayor Wilkins from Buffy.

"Now, Faith, I don't find that sort of thing amusing. I'm a family man. Now, let's kill your little friend. Don't worry, I wouldn't ask you to do it. Not this early in the relationship. Besides, I think a vampire attack would look less suspicious, anyway. In the meantime, let's look at the rest of the apartment, huh? If I'm not mistaken, some lucky girl has herself a PlayStation"

Falen (Sarah Ahiers) said...

Hands DOWN, Captain Kennit from Robin Hobb's Liveship trilogy.
omg i love him so much.
I mean, he actually rapes one of the MCs and by that point you love him so much (even though he's a villain) that you don't even get really mad at him. You're just sad that he did something he can't come back from.
LOVE HIM.

LTM said...

mbrr... I'm actually writing my first villain right now, and I want to make him sympathetic. But so far he's just not. ;p

hmmm... I've been a bit in THG mode, so perhaps Haymitch? Would he count? NO!

Prince Zuko. Yessss~

Lisa said...

Am I crazy that I kind of feel a little bad for Voldemort? Jo Rowling does a good job of making you feel bad for him in Half-Blood Prince.

This is from TV, but Sue Sylvester from Glee always makes me cry during her most touching moments. She could have been such a one-note villian, but the writers gave her a little bit of heart, too.

Ted Cross said...

Jaime Lannister. Mr. Martin manages to make this fellow that at first seems irredemably evil (tosses a very lovable young boy out of a tall tower window) actually sympathetic, to a degree, later on.

Colene Murphy said...

Snape is mine. You totally already said it. Oh well. He's just killer awesome enough to mention again!

or Spike, from buffy. yum yum. and tragic and funny.

Carolyn Abiad said...

Great post! Snape, Phantom, Smeagol...they're all great choices. I noticed we spend a lot of time with them in the story vs just learning about them through observation. Must be the take-away for creating one of my own...

mshatch said...

I always had a soft spot for the cat woman, as played deliciously by Michele Pfeiffer, in Batman. Meow!

Bish Denham said...

Gollum's a good one. The flying monkeys of Oz. Wolf Larsen from the Sea Wolf by Jack London is good too.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Gollum's a good one. But the more we know, the less we pity him.

Lydia Kang said...

I like Snape. He really has that dueling issues thing down pat. And kudos to Rowling for making him so complex!

Old Kitty said...

Does Albert Camus' The Outsider count as a villain or is he more an anti-hero?

Otherwise Cat Woman!!! :-)

Take care
x

Bryan Russell (Ink) said...

Shelob. Always misunderstood, poor Shelob.

Elizabeth Poole said...

Prince Nuada from Hellboy II. OMG he is soooo hot and so very tortured. If you've never seen the movie, it's amazing, and Luke Goss (the guy that plays Nuada) does such a good job of making you feel the prince's pain.

Basically, Nuada wants to use the Golden Army to take back the land humans stole from the fey. So very tragic.

Lenny Lee! said...

hi mr matthew! probably someones gonna wanna shoot me but im gonna say the shark in jaws cause for me that great white was just doing what sharks do. swimming and hunting for food and sometimes making little sharks. so for me hes not a bad shark just a hungry one. its like that for the roadrunner too cause he just wanted to get a meal and got smacked all over the place just for being hungry.
...hugs from lenny

maine character said...

Jaime Lannister from GRRM's A Song of Fire and Ice.

P.S. Lenny - you amaze me. And your sun makes me smile.

Raquel Byrnes said...

I think John Hammond from Jurrassic Park is the most sympathetic villain. He is not a cut and dried antagonist. He has reasons, logical ones, for creating the park...he just doesn't understand the price of arrogance.

Edge of Your Seat Romance

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

I'm going with Sue from Glee as well - any villain that makes me laugh has got something going on! :)

Jeffrey Beesler said...

I must confess I started feeling sorry for Draco Malfoy towards the end of the Harry Potter series. I can't believe I just typed that. Yikes!

Sara McClung ♥ said...

Snape ALL the way! And Draco too :)

Jemi Fraser said...

It's been said multiple times, but I'd have to say Smeagol - such a great character!

Love Lenny's answer though - and I'd have to agree with it!