say what you want about woobifying villains, but i think tragic backstories and redemption via love are staples for good reason. we want to believe that people are fundamentally good, just hardened by a harsh world. that suffering earns you a happy ending. because then it means something, then pain isn’t just senseless and futile.
people don’t ‘excuse’ the actions of villains because they just don’t take those actions seriously. i think it’s a kind of projection – we forgive them because we want to forgive ourselves, and we look for the good in them because we want to see that in the world, even in people who have wronged and hurt us. because earth is a goddamn terrifying place if other humans really are evil, if they’re really monsters.
and idk, i just think it’s kind of beautiful that we all want to believe that the scariest mass-murdering motherfucker alive can be brought down by something as pure and innocent as love. that love is the answer, not violence. i don’t think that’s cheap or ‘problematic’ or a bad influence. i think it’s human, and profoundly optimistic in a way that few people are brave enough to be.
If I didn’t hold the hope that love could make a difference, my world would be cold and bleak.
People who ONLY ever like “pure, cinnamon roll” characters and try to buff away every flaw and every morally grey dimension and reduce stories to pure heroes and pure villains give me the creeps, because it seems to me like those are people who refuse to acknowledge their own capability to do terrible things, the inevitable fact that they have done things that hurt others in the past and will do so again (because that IS inevitable if you interact with other humans), who never question themselves, who think incredibly harsh standards of judgment are just fine because of course THEY would never need forgiveness or mercy.
THOSE are the people who are most likely to stomp on your face with a boot while being utterly convinced they’re doing the right thing and you deserve it. And they will never admit they were wrong and they’ll never apologize, because only bad people do bad things, and of course they’re not a bad person, so if they did it, it must have been good.
Give me friends who are honest about their own capacity to harm, who know where their own darkness lies, and can see it played out in characters good, bad, and – best of all, somewhere in between. Who understand when to rage, when to forgive, and when to just walk away. Who understand that other people, just like them, are ever-changing bundles of contradictions. Those are people I feel I can trust.
^This last comment. I’ve been thinking about this, and it’s not just that “every villain is a hero in their own mind.” I think it’s that act of making oneself into a hero in one’s own mind, of giving up self-criticism and clinging to an identity that’s based being Good, that opens the door for a person to do truly horrible things to other people. I honestly wonder whether philosophies or faiths where good is a thing you ARE rather than a thing you DO are more prone toward instigating violence in the name of said philosophy.
This. This, this, THIS.
Reposting this bit for emphasis because I think it also speaks directly to what’s wrong with Tumblr’s black-and-white-morality Purity Culture:
“THOSE are the people who are most likely to stomp on your face with a
boot while being utterly convinced they’re doing the right thing and you
deserve it. And they will never admit they were wrong and they’ll never
apologize, because only bad people do bad things, and of course they’re
not a bad person, so if they did it, it must have been good.”
There are definitely fic (and canon) narratives of villain redemption that are creepily worshipful and too ready to dismiss the harm the character has done. Some seem so eager to get to redeemed character stuff they don’t give their wrongs enough weight. But those are individual problems. Done right, these can be some of the most powerful stories.
“we forgive them because we want to forgive ourselves, and we look for the good in them because we want to see that in the world, even in people who have wronged and hurt us.”
Very much this.
I think this is the best post I’ve read on here for a while…