Anyone who has read Harry Potter hated Snape until the third last chapter of the final book. And ever since, he has been one of the most loved characters in the magical universe. Suddenly, everything he ever did to Harry Potter and friends was understood, forgiven and forgotten. It all made sense in hindsight. It was almost justifiable.
That’s the magic of the mind. When something can be empathized with, it is allowed.
Superman and Batman were my favourites growing up. Not in the same league because Superman is kinda like my first love of sorts. But point being, I grew up watching them beat the bad guys. And me being boolean (or so I am constantly told), one was either good or bad. No shades of grey. (sorry E.L.James).
And then, I grew up. Or rather, grew a little bit. And I realized that you can be both. You can be utterly naughty, with a touch of goodness in you – like Loki, or you can be a hero, with a touch of darkness to it – like Deadpool.
And then you have Thanos. The guy who was hated by the entire universe. All universes. And yet, if you peel him like an onion, there is something that shines. The willingness to make a sacrifice in order to ensure sustainability. He was a powerful (not to mention mad) Titan who believed so passionately that everything needs to be perfectly balanced that he was willing to wipe out half the universe just because he thought it was the right thing to do. And at a personal cost. He sacrificed the one person who meant the world to him. So that the universe could be saved.
The hardest choices require the strongest will. He showed that when he realized he would have to pick between his daughter and the survival of the universe. Hence the tears rolled down when he had to make the call.
“I Know What It’s Like To Lose. To Feel So Desperately That You’re Right, Yet To Fail Nonetheless. It’s Frightening.”
He felt that he was right. Hence his willpower.
Who remembers this dialogue from Captain America, Civil War
Captain America: Did Stark tell you anything else?
Spider-Man: That you’re wrong. You think you’re right. Makes you dangerous.
Captain America: Guess he’s got a point.
After a point, the grey shades in life that you realize does exist, tells you that there is no right or wrong, just a perspective. (For instance, my kids think it is wrong to study during the summer holidays but I disagree 🙂 )
After Thanos succeeded in killing Gamora for the Soul Stone he was transported to a different world to contemplate what he did. There, he met with a young Gamora who asked him “what did it cost” to which he responded “everything.”
And then, Thanos destroyed the stones. He realized they were just a temptation. He didn’t want unlimited power. He had no use for it.
So, was he good? Bad? Or plain psycho?
Here’s a list of ‘villains’ that could be seen as good. Depending on where you are standing 🙂
The mischievous Asgardian who was raised right but still had traces of the Frost Giant – his bloodline. Innately good, he’s often seen as the misguided God who has tried to bring power to the self to come out of his brother Thor’s shadow. Well, which sibling hasn’t had that issue now?
A human that evolved beyond most due to his powers; all Magneto wanted was to save his fellow mutants. He was sent to a concentration camp and shunned aside because of something beyond his control. He might have adopted some rather extreme methods but in hindsight, can he be blamed?
First of all, he did something almost no one else did. He broke The Bat. And from his point of view, he wanted the same thing that Wayne did – to get rid of corruption and empower the citizens of Gotham. Fine, he was a tad erratic, wanting to blow up the entire city without a care for the innocent civilians. But he probably wanted a clean slate. Do we still hate him?
Here’s a list of good people, who did a bit of wrong before they turned a new leaf
- Natasha Romanoff
Kidnapped from family. Raised in the red room. Taught to be a spy, she became ruthless, sly and exceptionally skilled in martial arts, hacking and psychological manipulation. The original antagonist of Iron Man, she later defected to the U.S. and became one of the core members of SHIELD. We don’t remember her past, nor do we use it against her. The magic of Second Chances.
One of the earliest adversaries of Batman, Catwoman’s criminal activities were what brought her to the limelight. As history goes, she stopped stealing jewels when she stole Batman’s heart ( A bit cheesy I know). She eventually gave up all outside-the-law activities and became a full-fledged hero. The caped crusader does have his ways, doesn’t he?
Here’s my good person, seen as a villain simply because he and the hero wanted the same thing.
- Cal Hockley
One of my most favourite romantic dialogues in history came from Titanic’s Cal Hockley.
You know, there’s nothing I couldn’t give you. There’s nothing I’d deny you… if you’d not deny me. Oh, open your heart to me, Rose.
Now, that’s a line that’s neither cheesy nor cringe-causing. It’s a beautiful line coming from a man who genuinely wants to give his woman something. The man wanted to marry Rose and take care of her. Despite knowing that her mother wanted the wedding to happen so that she would be out of debt. And to top it all off, she wasn’t just snubbing him, she was off dancing with a good-looking artist-stranger.
Hockley is often called evil, misogynistic, and downright sociopathic. But walk the deck in his shoes. Does the blue-blooded Cal not bleed?
“The world is divided into two kinds [of people],” Billy Zane said to Us Weekly in another defense of Cal. Women, he said, who were loyal to Rose and Jack, but change their tune with age. “And when they grow up,” he added, “They [say to me], ‘What was Rose thinking?’” Good question, Billy Zane. We’re wondering the same thing.
And here’s a list of psychos who had absolutely no logic (again – this is from where I am standing today. It could change tomorrow – if and when I grow more 🙂 )
- The Joker
The clown prince of Gotham’s crime scene, The Joker rather lived in a world of his own. Until his solo movie in 2019, Joker was always a symbol. Like Batman. Narcissistic, violent and a sociopath, the closest we got to understanding him until 2019 was what he told Harvey Dent – “Introduce a little anarchy, upset the established order and everything becomes chaos. I’m an agent of chaos.” He’s prone to impulsive violence, rather than targeted and calculated measures, and elicits a visible thrill from psychological games. But when you see Joker, the movie; you can’t help but cheer for him as he kills everyone who brought pain to his life – in a rather barbaric manner at that.
“All it takes is one bad day,” the Joker says in the comic, suggesting that we’re all just one traumatic event away from madness. He’s not bad anymore, is he?
Possibly the FIRST Marvel movie that I wasn’t really excited about. I mean, Iron Man had just died. I didn’t quite put my heart into the next movie. And when I did see it – Mysterio totally confirmed my gut feeling. One of the silliest villains and not just in the Marvel Universe, Beck was mad at Stark for calling one of his inventions BARF and hence wanted to take over the world by creating a ‘problem’ and pretending to ‘solve it’. I mean.. Sigh.
And then there is Lex Luthor : The ultimate villain who brings in the good, the bad and the psycho!
This has been written keeping in mind how he was raised and the value system that was drilled into his brain. A big fan of ‘Smallville’, I saw the side to Lex that almost makes me understand why he wanted everything Clark Kent had – a loving family, a devoted girlfriend, and a fantastic support system with best friends. He wanted to be Clark’s friend. Looked up to Jonnathan Kent. And genuinely wanted a mom in the form of Martha. When he realized they refused to trust him with Clark’s secret, he was upset. ( I mean, if you had a friend who kept his/her super powers away from you, wouldn’t you be upset now? )
In the end, his anger and anguish turned him into something he might have never wanted to turn into, if he had someone to talk to. Lex wasn’t born bad. He made a choice that he felt the world deserved. All he wanted was a friend.
End of the day, can we really bracket everyone into good, bad or psycho? Cos, in my head, there is a bit of all three in all of us; yes? Course – the proportions matter. And it helps to have all three, yes? Be it a hero or a villain!