When I was first discussing my idea of this topic with my friend Christine (WeeReader) I realized I don’t necessarily love the true villains, like Professor Umbridge or Voldemort (for example), but what I actually love are the morally gray characters. Those that walk a very fine line, and frequently cross it, of villain and hero.
There’s a difference between the villain and the morally gray characters that often gets forgotten, resulting in the latter being considered as villains, and that difference is why I personally love the “villain” more often than the hero in a story. Ultimately these characters are still doing villainous acts but in their minds the reasons are for good, and that adds a layer of complication or depth to a character that is in my opinion often lacking in the “heroes”. I find this quality allows for deeper roots to be made on character development and gives me as a reader or viewer more opportunities to connect to the character.
Heroes are basically designed to do good to achieve the “happy ending” laid out for them, which makes the character less interesting and occasionally predictable to read about or watch. Leaving out the rare occurrence where an author chooses not to give their heroes the happy (or happy-ish) ending, we all know how the hero’s story is going to end, but for the morally gray character there is always room for speculation. Will these characters get the ending they’re striving for or will happiness always elude them?
Really what it all boils down to for me is complexity of character. Now I’m not saying a hero can’t be complex, absolutely they can be.. I just personally find “villains” to have more wiggle room for complexity to take root in the very bones of their stories that isn’t available for heroes. Basically morally gray characters have the space allowed to grow and change, the potential to be either the villain or the hero that heroes aren’t often allowed because they are too busy being the hero.
Do you have a preference? Hero or villain?
I hope my jumble of words formed a coherent thought, and I’d love to hear your thoughts on heroes and villains/ morally gray characters!