Villains or anti-heroes have a way of capturing the popular imagination much more than traditional heroes. Oh, we all love to root for Aragorn or Luke Skywalker, but when it comes down to it, villains or anti-heroes seem to resonate with audiences. Just look at Erik from The Phantom of the Opera, Frollo from Notre Dame de Paris, Rumpelstiltskin from Once Upon a Time, Gollum from The Lord of the Rings, Darth Vader from Star Wars, or even Loki from the Thor franchise.
What is it about these evil yet flawed characters that attracts us to them? My guess–at some point in their stories, these characters are struggling for redemption. Some of them attain it (Darth Vader died a hero); others don’t quite make it (oh, Frollo, how far you fell–literally). Some, despite their failures, still manage to do something good before their demises (the quest would have been in vain if Gollum hadn’t been there).
We’re drawn to these characters because we can identify with their struggles. Oh, some of them aren’t quite in the same league, but the fact that they are struggling, the fact that they are flawed, is something we can understand. We all struggle with our own flaws. More importantly, we want to believe that we can overcome them in the end. We desire this redemption because we want to be better than what we are, and we cheer when the villains are turned from their ways because it reminds us that no matter how bad we are, we can change. We can be good again; we can be worthy of love again. Not that we were ever unworthy of love, of course; usually it’s the most damaged people who need the most love. Granted, they are not the easiest people to love, but this fundamental quality of human life should never be denied to anyone.