On paper it all seems so simple. The good guy wins. The bad guy loses. That’s the way it’s supposed to go, right? I think there’s nothing wrong with that if you buy into the premise of a villain that only exists to be a malevolent force, which is pretty silly when you think about it. I think that everyone believes they are a good person and what they’re doing is for the betterment of society/earth/family/etc. People aren’t just born and decide “I know what I’m doing is wrong but I really want to bring about destruction just for the sake of destruction.” This just doesn’t hold true. At least, not with characters who are fleshed out.
Take Loki for example. On the outside he’s a terrible deceiver, a trickster, a plague to all the citizens of Asgard, a poison to contain and destroy. Okay, okay I realize that’s harsh and personally I just don’t see it but this is what we’re supposed to believe. Anyway, once you look at his motivations it becomes clear that in his warped view of the world, the terrible things he does are either responses to injustices he’s already faced or ways to correct what he perceives to be already misaligned.
Although he has some obvious anger issues that a little family therapy would probably help to work out, just take a look at what he has gone through (and all in one fell swoop mind you): His father betrayed him, he found out he’s not a true heir, his brother is heavily favored (adding fire to the sibling rivalry), and in an ultimate act of punishment he was denied access to his mother, the one person he loved the most. All he wants is to be accepted but that’s the last thing anyone is willing to give to him. How does this not create a pretty pissed off person looking to change things in their image?
Often times, in well-crafted stories at least, villains are just misunderstood and are rarely given the tools to properly deal with the plight they were placed in. I’m not advocating for evil to reign over us all, just making a plea to try to see things through their eyes.
Of course it helps when you have the perfect person playing the part. I mean, the actor can easily make you love or hate a character. It’s very likely that the entirety of the above well thought out, deep and philosophical rhetoric would be moot if someone other than Tom Hiddleston was playing Loki. Yes, I know, it should hold the same regardless….but come on….we all know that just isn’t true.
Yes, yes, I realize that when Loki lays waste to Asgard and takes the throne, we’re supposed to be appalled and dismayed, and morally we should call for his downfall. He’s the villain after all. However, all of that falls to the wayside with Tom Hiddleston’s mischievous grin and we instead find ourselves rooting for his success.