Normally in stories there is the hero vs the villain or the protagonist vs the antagonist. As the audience, we generally expect to root for the hero or the protagonist and hope for the villain's or antagonist's comeuppance.
But there come those times when we find ourselves rooting for the villain instead!
There are several reasons why this can happen.
1. The protagonists are annoying.
This isn't necessarily unintentional, or generally due to bad writing (though it can be). It's a regular occurence in horror movies, especially splatter or gore fests, or where the attraction is watching the protagonists being creatively murdered. It's a lot more entertaining to watch annoying people get skragged rather than sympathetic ones.
Of course there is the unintentional variety too, which simply comes out of poor dialogue, unsavory characterization, or hamfisted overused tropes. If that happens, the audience might wish for the villain to rid them of the character.
2. The villain's motivations are very relatable.
There come some villains that aren't seeking to conquer the world or destroy it. They may simply want to get cancer treatment for their kid, or save themselves from hunger, or escape terrible abuse, or any other situation or context that makes the villain's actions feel… not necessarily justified, but understandable, even warranted.
This type of villain could easily have been the hero if only they targeted someone who was ethically liable for their plight: the problem is they are lashing out to other innocents. Despite that, often these villains will get the audience at least partly on their side, which creates tension and conflicting emotions, thus even better immersion and engagement.
3. The villain is fighting an even worse villain.
The villain might be horrid in every way, with little to no redeeming qualities whatsoever. The audience normally loathes this person…
…but then along comes this even worse villain who manages to be more horrible, more terrifying, more loathesome than the usual one. And it so happens that for whatever reason, the usual villain sets out to fight this new, worse guy/gal. (Usually their interests clash)
That's when the audience will root for the usual villain against the worst villain they are facing, and cheer on if they are winning. There's great entertainment value in this kind of duel/fight because a villain fighting another villain will not be constrained by ethics or inhibitions like heroes tend to be: they will fight dirty, they will fight to win, they will go all in with whatever twisted practice it is they have. And this time the victim deserves it, so the audience can enjoy the scene without anxiety for the protagonist/hero.
Have you ever had your audience root for the villain?
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- The Jagged
Tantz_Aerine at 12:00AM, Sept. 11, 2021
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