Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Rooting For Redemption

A few weeks back, I wrote yet another post wondering why people are so attracted to villains.  I went through the usual litany of things - apparent confidence, not seeing insecurities, power, etc.  However, as I was re-reading one of my favorite novels, something else occurred to me - the quest for redemption.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that as we see each villain, there's a piece of us, tiny though it may be, that wants the villain to find his soul at the end and be the good guy after all.  Yes, the other qualities still play in, but we also want the person to eventually take our side.  All the great villains that have truly attracted others - Darth Vader, Snape, Dracula, Lucifer - all have a small spark within them that shows the slightest possibility of redemption.  I think our hope is that they'll join us back in the light, while bringing their confidence and power with them.  I started to realize this when I thought of other villains that have all the same evil qualities but draw fewer fans - the Emperor, Jake Featherston, Khan Noonian Singh, the Amplitur.

So what causes this?  I think it's because people want to see someone fail, struggle, and then eventually find the right way.  We cheer when people seek to correct their evil ways, and that's usually regardless of how evil.  Is this some innate human longing to forgive?  Perhaps.

In my own work, the redemptive character is usually a major plot device, and they're the ones my beta-readers have most related to.  They find what they've done to be repulsive, but they enjoy seeing them oversome what they did because such actions were usually a corrupted form of love.

Or maybe I'm overplaying this.  Redemption sounds great in books, but does it translate to real life?  I doubt it.  So is it real, or is it only something we can enjoy from afar?


  1. It happens in real life, but not often. But your post does make me realize why the two vampires with souls in Buffy the Vampire Slayer became so popular.