Good vs. Evil (Or, Ode to Loki)

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.


36 thoughts on “Good vs. Evil (Or, Ode to Loki)

  1. I like Loki because he only doing what any little brother (or little sister!) would do — torment the older sibling. He is just doing it on a cosmic level and with a whole lot of power. And charm.

  2. There are some SERIOUS issues in that family that Odin should have worked harder to avoid. However yes, we can all understand at least a little of Loki’s torment, when haven’t any of us felt someone was favored above us, someone else was picked, someone else was liked better despite the fact that they weren’t as smart, talented, or far seeing as us… well now maybe I’m projecting but I can TOTALLY see the Loki/Thor relationship in myself and my sister, and I’m sure she and I both see ourselves as Loki.

    What I personally find most amazing is that Marvel has created 2 characters one on each side of the good/bad divide for you to root for. I hope for Thor to find a way to redeem himself, become a better more well balanced person, & to save the earth. I root for Loki to find peace with himself and who he is, what he means to his brother, and to rediscover his good. Finally I root for both of them to repair their relationship and to once again be a healthy family. Basically Marvel has taken a very real family relationship and Supered it without losing any of the realness of the family dynamic and that’s amazing.

    Final note, and somewhat off topic; raise your hand if you want to see what happens when Loki and Darcy are left alone together.

    • I’d definitely pay good money to see Loki and Darcy alone together! As far as movie Loki goes, I’m not sure he’ll ever find his “good” side again…I think he enjoys the evil at this point and of course what happened to his mother sent him over the edge. But he might be able to find a bit of love for his brother again which would be a nice thing to see.

  3. Lol. You bring up a very good point though. Not all villains ae bad just for the sake of being bad and I agree that the audience liking the actor or not is a huge factor too. Tom is just way too charming. 🙂

    • The actor can definitely make or break a part and I think Tom Hiddleston makes a perfect Loki. Part of my problem is I often feel sorry for the bad guy and/or root for the bad guy because they’ve usually gone through a lot of crap to get them to the point of being evil.

      • I think it’s because we tend to root for the underdog. So once they get into the inner workings and flawed characters of the villains and you see all that history that made them into what they are, you kind of stop seeing them as the bad guys and feel sorry for them.

  4. Reblogged this on Scribing English and commented:
    I was listening to a podcast the other day about how villains are generally the more interesting characters, since they usually a) have to have a background as to how they got to their point of villainery and b) constantly have to come up with different, crafty way to foil the hero. As a result, they become more beloved to readers than the hero (at least in terms of series’ and/or super Heros). There is a great deal more development of the character with villains than the hero, generally speaking.

    • Thanks for reading and reblogging! And I agree with you, there is always more character development in the villain. And oftentimes he becomes villainous due to the hero’s not so heroic actions so I think people see that and it makes them empathize with the villain because of that as well.

    • This is very true, and is something I discovered in my dabblings with my local community theater. It’s more fun to play villains because the villainous characters allow for the actor to use more of their talents. Usually there is a wider emotional range, more motivation, and more realism and reliability to the villains than the heroes. They’re just deeper, richer characters.

      Really the only heroes that are really fun to play are your Byronic heroes, those tortured souls who are ultimately good but struggle with their own villainy. For example the way that Benedict Cumberbatch plays Sherlock Holmes is almost Byronic, and you just know that, that is a fun role to play!

    • Exactly! And the set of rules is always skewed in the “good guy’s” favor. The bad guy is put through tremendous pain and heartache (often by the so called “good guys”) and then they wonder why he’s bad and bucks their system. I like the Loki of legend and have read a lot of the mythology. I do like Loki of Asgard though. He’s one of my favorite characters in the Marvel Universe.

  5. What a shame it is that in real life the bad so often win. Many are the times when one stumbles on hopefully against the truly evil, thinking hopefully, ‘They cannot win. They are Bad, and I am Good. And the goodies always win.’
    Alas! in real life they rarely do. At least for the moment. The day always comes when one can look back with satisfaction, knowing that the you, The Goodie, have won. The wicked will get what they deserve.

    • In the movies I often root for the “bad guy” to win…even though I know it’s not the right thing and I know that if they do win it would most likely be a horrible thing (as in Loki’s case), but with some characters I just can’t help myself. However, in real life, I shake my head constantly at how evil can persist unabated in the world and I desperately hope for much needed change.

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  7. I reblogged this article and added ‘My thoughts exactly.’ Because they are.
    I completely agree.
    Odin should have taken Parenting lessons,’What not to do- 101′ especially. He shows blatant favouritism, hypocrisy, and exhibits signs of megalomania, narcissism. While Thor is given the chance to grow up, Loki is sent to prison. Loki is ridiculed for his silvertongue and magic which I’m sure had saved many lives just because he prefers brains over brawn…which reminds me of high school cliques the overhyped and way too overrated Jocks and the Nerds or anyone else, really.

    It’s true, Loki is flawed but that is in large part due to the circumstances surrounding him.

    It’s easy to hate, but easier to sympathize. As Tom himself, people hate to love him. I do hate to love him, because he is a jerk and an arrogant brat sometimes; but love him I do.

    • I agree with you wholeheartedly about Odin and how he treats Thor and Loki differently. Not exactly ideal dynamics. I’ve never heard of Hiddleston being a jerk though…the interviews I’ve seen he’s been pretty forthcoming and down to earth. But maybe those were flukes rather than the rule.

      • I was not talking about Hiddles, I was talking about Loki. Tom is on my list, the favourite men. And one of my favourite actors, if not the favourite actor.

  8. Oh yes, Loki is definitely an arrogant brat! Although one can’t really blame him (or so I keep telling myself!). I’m looking forward to Only Lovers Left Alive (Hiddleston’s new movie) — I think it comes out middle to end of April in my area.

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