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Why do People Relate to Villains?


        Throughout life, people encounter various forms of entertainment. It is a well-established fact that humans love a good story, and in the modern-age, with widespread communication and luxuries for many, entertainment has proliferated exponentially. Every story has obstacles for the central character(s) to overcome, often a fellow human being. When a great storyteller is at the helm, this villain can be disturbingly relatable. It is an uncomfortable experience, looking at a character known to be evil and seeing a personal reflection within them. Humanity relates to villains because villians show what everyone is capable of becoming: a monster.

        Imagine the following illustration. In the Lands of Hakonarhella, the Dark Lord Zalforth razed entire villages, forced thousands of people into slavery, and suppressed rebellions with immense brutality. These acts are entirely evil, and most people would likely feel a mild sense of revulsion to hear that someone would commit such atrocities, even if the character is fictional. What if they found out more about the Dark Lord?

        Zalforth was a meek child, obedient to his parents' commands. Good as he was, however, he could never change how his hamlet saw him. In Hakonarhella, looks are everything, and Zal's face was disfigured from a childhood fall into their cottage cauldron. Shunned by his fellow children, and looked at with horror by all who saw him, Zal eventually limited himself to the confines of his home. As time passed the entire hamlet shunned not only Zal but his parents as well, causing an unconscious hatred within them for their own son.

        With this air of dislike, he could eventually take it no longer. Zal left his hamlet. Even with all this hatred compounded on him, however, he dared to harbor a hope: that the metropolis of Hakonarhella would be more accepting of those like him. The metropolis was no different, and Zal eventually found himself in the slums. Lying ragged on a filthy street, he cursed his hamlet, his parents, and his country. A dark wizard overheard Zal and apprenticed him. With learning attained but hatred still seething within him, Zal burst forth, becoming Zalforth.

        Using the dark arts, Zalforth wrecked havoc on Hakonarhella, killing all while shrouded by a dark cloak. One day, he arrived at his hamlet. He entered in secret and then knocked on the door to his childhood home. His parents opened it and gasped when they saw the dark, mysterious man. When he pulled back his hood so they could see his face, however, their fear transformed into that familiar rage. Only wanting to be accepted at last, Zalforth killed his parents in a mad and furious rage.

        All humans, unconsciously or not, desire acceptance. With circumstances like Zalforth's, the reader's heart reaches out to Zal. Humans are empathetic by nature. Everyone can hear about a fellow human's troubles and feel sympathy. This fact is all the more impressive when Zal's atrocities are taken into consideration. All of mankind wants affirmation in what they believe to be true. What they see as good, true, and beautiful must be seen, from their point of view, as good, true, and beautiful by others. When others fail to view things in the same way that they do, anger follows. There is not a single person in the world who has not felt anger because of this. The logic is clear: if others do not believe that what I see or have created as a great thing, how can I myself continue to believe it? Mankind, sinfully, wishes for something unfortunate to occur to their enemies. If humans are not wishing for themselves to be swallowed up because of embarrassment, they wish for their objects of hatred to have this fate.

        Everyone has flaws and vices. All weave for themselves a web of lies to protect themselves from these flaws. Oh, sure, most people admit one or two flaws to themselves and others, but they are either false, or portrayed as mild. A great storyteller can pierce through this self-deception, and make all realize who they truly are.

         To sum up the point at hand, people relate to villains because they are both sinful. Mankind is fundamentally evil. Romans 3 and Psalms 14 and 53 say the same, "Not one is good, no, not one." Take any one flaw, alter the circumstances of the person with the flaw slightly, and watch as the path to maliciousness opens, the maw of the great serpent enfolding the person within itself. Everyone can take just a couple steps down the wrong path and see themselves become the villain. Magnified or not, everyone has the makings of a villain, a Zalforth, inside.
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