What Went Wrong with Villains

Before we start–What is a Villain?

A character whose evil actions or motives are important to the plot.

I would think it’d be that simple. You know, the concept of it but there’s more into depth of what makes a Villian. Their backstory, what led to it, their motivation, etc. What does that have to do with a title? Well, in this day and age, I have seen the way others been making them in stories, movies, TV shows, and…they’re not good. Yeah, some have been pretty okay but the main issue is with the tropes.

First Part - Redeeming

A overused trope is giving a villian a redemption arc. I don’t usually have a problem with that. However, I do have a problem when it’s being done for villains that do not deserve it and being given to them frivolously. I’ll name an example:

The Diamonds from Steven Universe

Yeah, I’m going there first. :new_moon_with_face: I really don’t care who attacks me, I’m saying it here: They didn’t deserve a redemption. The Diamonds, even including Rose Quartz/Pink Diamond, are awful people. The Three Diamonds (Yellow, Blue, and White) are fascist dictators that have enslaved, killed, harmed, and bubbled many gems. They even put humans into a ZOO! The cluster is probably millions of gems forced together into a bubble to become a hideous monster. It’s awful and sickening. But they get redeemed because they are sad??? And they’re Steven’s Family??? ¿◇¿ I know Pink Diamond hasn’t done those things but she started a war just because she wanted to have fun, without thinking of the risk of what happen to her Gem folk. I know Rebecca said that the Diamonds resemble abusive family members but abusive family members don’t kill or torture millions of their race. :upside_down_face: And we shouldn’t forgive our abusers for being family. That’s stupid. Making them sad doesn’t excuse what they did. That’s an awful way to give a villain redemption. Especially when they did something so toxic.

I could name another but I doubt anyone here has watch My Little Pony. :rofl: But that show is a good example of where villians who do the most destructive things are getting redemption. Also, I think people are also forgetting to make good motivations and reasons for why their villains are doing what they’re doing or the way they are. The show Phineas and Ferb even made a joke about this. In the movie, the Second Dimension, Dr. Doofenshmirtz counterpart in the other dimension became a villian because he lost his toy train. A TOY TRAIN! To me, it felt that it’s jabbing at the fact people make a small situation that happened to a villian and make that the reason for why. Basically overreacting a small situation. :skull: That isn’t a real motivation.

Second Part - Confusion 

Let’s not forget people mistaking antiheroes for a villian. They’re not the same. An antihero IS neither bad or good. Villians will always be bad, unless you give them a redemption arc than that doesn’t make them a villian anymore if you do it right. And an antagonist isn’t always a villian. Anyone can be an antagonist by situation and conflict, not only a villain.

Third Part - Forgetfulness 

What makes your villain–A VILLAIN! Surprisingly, a lot of people tend to forget this. And you can tell as well, with their writing for them. It’s like they just randomly choose a character to be one and thought that’s a smart idea. :woman_facepalming:t4: Pick a person that’d have a justified reason or arc for what they want to do that is evil. It has to make sense. Speaking of making sense–

Fourth Part - Plot Twist 

Now Disney is at fault for this one. :sob: They did this a lot more with their movies. The only one I could say that was good was the one in Moana. It was brilliantly done in my opinion, even though I don’t like the movie so much. However, I can’t say for the other movies. Zootopia with the Sheep, Hans from Frozen, the Professor from Big Hero Six–AND I LOVE BIG HERO SIX! It just doesn’t work for them. Sure, they had a reasonings for when it became revealed but what about before that? What indication did we get other than the reveal? And when I look into it, their reasons for it seems like a stretch. They’re doing something so detrimental for something so small? Overreacting isn’t a good thing to give villains.

I’m too tired so I’ll add more later to this post. Comment down what you think failed with villains in TV shows and movies and books nowadays.

Shannii’s words:

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I honestly feel like my past villains in my stories failed to be redeemed, but I’m trying to show my readers that my next villain will have a lot more layers.

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This is probably my Christian side talking, but I don’t think there are many people out there who are past deserving a redemption arc, personally. I believe that most people can be forgiven for their actions, but only if they get a lot of poetic justice, learn from their mistakes and actually show remorse for their actions.

In terms of writing, I think a few things need to happen for a redemption arc to work:

  1. The amount of justice or “bad karma” they get for their actions needs to be directly proportional to what they did wrong. In other words, the bigger their evil, the more they have to lose and pay to make up for it. That means anyone can be saved, but they need to be willing to give as much as they took.

  2. We need to see inside their head. I’m not going to forgive any villain I can’t understand. It’s as simple as that. I don’t have to agree with them. However, I need to be able to see where they’re coming from and know how they got there in the first place. I need to know they aren’t just being evil for the sake of being evil — whether that be because they have other priorities and value other things or because they think it’s better to play the villain to save the world from a greater evil, I don’t mind. I just need to get it. And when I get it, it needs to feel like, though it doesn’t justify they damage they caused, it means that they aren’t just bigots or murderers. There’s more to them than that.

  3. I need to see their real remorse. I need to see that they learnt a lesson and that they’re changed. But even more than that, I need them to reflect on their past actions and realise what’s wrong with them. And I need them to come to a realisation that they never made before. If the villain always knew what they were doing was wrong, it would fall flat. What would they have to learn? And if they chose to play the villain for the purpose of some misguided greater good, I need them to realise that the ends do not justify the means — that the thing they thought they needed to save everyone from wasn’t worth all the trouble they caused along the way.

  4. I need to see them struggle. Psychologically. With both their past actions and their decision to change. Even though they’re doing the right thing, old habits die hard and I need to see them take time to adapt to their new situation. When that doesn’t happen, they either seem fake or like they could become evil again at any moment and not feel any remorse.

  5. I need the other characters to forgive them before they forgive themselves. When you’ve hurt someone so much, you don’t get to choose when they move on. So I want the villain to keep trying to make things better — long after everyone is ok with them again.

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Also, people tend to use them experiencing trauma as an excuse for us to forgive them. :roll_eyes: It’s more forceful than a choose to. Mainly when that person is constantly shoved in your face to like them.

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This is gonna come out of left field, but the two best redemption stories for villains I can think of right off the top of my head are the ones that most people forget about, and I think there’s good reason for why they forget, but it doesn’t mean they aren’t great. Spoilers for Naruto Shippuden and Star Wars: Return of the Jedi :wink:

Darth Vader is the most popular villain of all time. Maybe second only to the literal devil. And if the prequel trilogy is considered Canon which it is then he was manipulated by a corrupt dictator into killing children. You shouldn’t get a redemption arc from that alone, nevermind the 17 years of slaughter and chaos he caused after that. But he did get a redemption arc. And no one ever seems to complain about it. I wonder why?

The same can be said about Pain in Naruto Shippuden. Originally supposed to be the finale antagonist and overarching villain of Naruto. He kills a lot of main characters like Kikashi and the like. He hurts many more, and best girl Hinata gets really badly beaten by him before Naruto is barely able to fight him off. He still killed a lot of people we as viewers know and love. But he was also redeemed. When he brings back all the people he killed, dying in the process

That’s the important part. The magnitude needs to fit the redemption itself. Vader killing the dictator to save his son, and Nagato bringing back all the dead of the Hidden Leaf village both end up in them dying. They give their lives to redeem themselves. There isn’t really much more you can give than that

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I don’t think I’ve seen a lot of proper villains in stories, however I have seen plenty in movies and TV shows.

The best ones I’ve seen are in things like Arrow.
Slade was an Awesome villain in this. Not only did we see his progression from ally, to friend, to villain, then back to ally. But we got to understand his reasons. Of course the Mirakuru was the biggest impact on him becoming a villain, and the largest reason for his redemption. However they didn’t just leave it there. They gave him a back story , characteristics and reasons for his changes. Even though he did awful things both Oliver and most of the audience forgave him.
I think the same to an extent happened with Malcolm Merlyn. Although he wasn’t truly forgivable as he was a snake, you can understand his reason to an extent as to why his behaviour altered to that. You sympathise, yet still realise he is a villain. Almost until the end. But even he was redeemed by his last movements.
I’m agreeing with Shannii, I may not be Christian, but I think there’s a lot that can be forgiven. Especially when valid reasoning is given.

Arrow is pretty great with villains. However it doesn’t particularly stretch across the companion shows. Silver Banshee in supergirl, she went pretty villainous just over something so small. Although she has got her new abilities to thank for it. Her destructiveness wasn’t all that valid to me. She redeemed herself too, but wasn’t the best. Reign on the other hand has mitigating circumstances yet absolutely aces the villain theme.

In Die Hard 4.0 the huge firesale is major overreaction from Thomas Gabriel. I get his reasoning to a small extent. He felt dismissed but at the same time. Is that a valid reason to shut down an entire city, throw everyone into danger and go on a killing spree, all for a pay day and to show off.

There is definitely too much of the weak reasoning that floats around places like episode. As far as I’ve seen, though not truly villains, the “bad, villainous” characters have rarely got a good enough reason, or motivation to cause the trouble in the story. It’s fine if they will have little impact, however if it’s going to affect the story a lot. Give them a reason. Don’t make it, the troublesome mean girl will destroy you, because she’s jealous. All the time… elaborate, make her stand out to be a good villain. (Yes it’s a common error to start off with, but improve yourself as you move forward.)
Don’t make a rival of a gang or something, be the villains, just for a power play or to randomly kill people or whatever. In that world they need to have morals and codes. You don’t just find an up and coming gang want to go knock off the top one with no reason. Give them backstory and reasoning that is valid. If you intend for them to just be villains, then don’t give them a redeeming one. But give them something that makes them a good villain, something that drives them. Otherwise your villain has no impact.

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Here is one thing that’s wrong with villains, they want to kill or harm the good protagonist soo badly and then they finally have the chance to have them in front of them, they have the protagonist at gun point and do a whole speech of their undying hate without even shooting them, the remember to shoot them right after the protagonist is saved by their friend or somethin’

dumb :expressionless:

And i do understand that it’s the main character and MCs don’t diee but make it at least more realistic

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I mean the issue with monologues is that most villains in media have the same or similar flaws of being overconfident, arrogant and very, very sure of themselves. Its completely in character for someone like this to want to take a minute to run it in their rival’s face that they won fair and square. And it can be done really well, it’s when it’s out of character that I find myself being bored by villain monologues, when they’re supposed to be a look into their world view and psyche. A disturbing peek into a mindset we never knew we wanted.

Rarely is, though as with most things this has been getting better over time. People don’t realise how spoiled they are in the modern age and just how good the media they consume is

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I think when you make a villian, you need to think of the concept of “Moral Event Horizon”. Yes, you’re going to hate it but it helps. Based on what your villian did, it’ll be able to help you see if they have a possibility to be redeemed. If they pass the horizon though, they cannot.

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I recommend for beginner writers mostly.

I dunno if I’m inclined to agree with the idea of an event horizon. If Darth Vader’s redemption arc worked, there aren’t many people who can’t be saved. It just has to be earned.

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Yeah I agree. I don’t really use it either but I’m just suggesting it for people who cannot understand what is considered “too far.” Of course they need to keep in mind it has to be earned but earned when they haven’t passed the certain line.

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I hope you’re not saying there’s a line Darth Vader didn’t cross…

He murdered kids :joy:

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I don’t know anything about Darth Vader. :skull: So I wouldn’t have known or can defend him.

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Yeah, he murdered kids, inadvertantly killed his wife while trying to save her, shortly before viciously attacking and trying to kill his only friend, tried to kill his son no less than three times and enforced a murderous, tyrannical and imperialist stranglehold on a whole Galaxy for 18 years :joy:

He got a very believable and worthwhile redemption story. Not overly long either. Around forty minutes?

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I’m glad you know about my brother’s bio :eyes::sparkles::sunglasses:

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Wow, so Star Wars was the only one that pulled it off successfully? Take notes everyone–

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Last :clap: Air :clap: Bender

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I truly admire Darth Vader, his story is tragic, fear and love leaded him to the dark side. Star wars made the quote ‘Desperate times come to desperate measures’ a thing.

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I definitely don’t admire him, killing kids and all that xD

But I do love his story, even if the very beginning wasn’t shown all that well. Like you said, it’s very tragic

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