Tuesday, April 9, 2013


(I have decided that hiatus will mean posting when the urge takes me.)

I find it interesting how many people I see complaining about the phrase, "Every villain is a hero in their own mind."

The general complaint runs something like this: "Would you stop pretending irredeemable villains are redeemable? It is really annoying."

I understand that idea to a certain extent. I have seen arguments along the lines of, "But this guy loves puppies, so he can't be that bad!" These arguments get old quickly, and also ignore the fact that, in real life as well as fiction, essentially no one fits the platonic ideal of "evil" perfectly. Just as functionally no one is perfectly kind and giving to everyone in all aspects, functionally no one is absolutely everything we hate. It might be even harder to find a person who fits the latter--being evil all the time makes it difficult to gain allies, which means that a perfectly selfish but rational person will likely try to at least look heroic or kind in some contexts.

But none of that is what the phrase is about. "Every villain is a hero in their own mind," means simply that the people who are wicked and powerful enough for us to consider villains have some strong and important goal which they are seeking to complete. Every villain thinks they are going through the hero's journey, that they have some boon to give to the deserving. The fact that their idea of a boon and their idea of deserving differ from ours is what makes them a villain in our eyes.

"Every villain is a hero in their own mind," is not necessarily a call for universal forgiveness, or reinforcing some idea that everyone can be redeemed into what we think of as a hero. It is a call to review carefully those whom we think of as heroes.

Because not everyone who is a hero in their own mind is a villain, but sometimes...

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