Rounding up just why we love bad guys so much, I bet you could guess this was coming. Looks are fine, their speech is another thing, but it’s who these characters are inside that really really touches us.
Let’s see (and yes, before you complain, I’m afraid my primary example is all about one character. From Buffy. *shrugs*).
Vampire *shudder*. English *happy leap*. Foul mouthed (insofar as Whedon’s vampires after get foul mouthed). He drops into Sunnydale with his girlfriend Drusilla and rounds up his very first episode by mercilessly (and very easily, by the way) killing the resident big bad. All through this episode we get a sense of how mean he is, how angry he is and how much he just enjoys being exactly who he is: a soulless vampire that survives by killing people. He enjoys that and embraces it with an ease I’m sure many of us envy when it comes to our own, non-murdering selves. Who wouldn’t want to be as self assured and confident as him?
But . . . ! It’s the other facets to Spike that make him likeable, then fanciable, then respected, then loved. His relationship to Drusilla for starters. He genuinely cares for that girl and when she dumps him (ha, for a slime demon or something?) it really tears him up. Visibly. Then, when he returns and runs into the Initiative, the chip in his head turns him into something new altogether. A mean, mean man utterly incapable of doing the things he loves most: killing and maiming. Does it get him down? Initially. Then he finds a loophole that he exploits the all-mighty hell out of and returns (ish) to the Spike we’re growing to love. Even his relationship to the Slayer is growing. Then . . . ooooh, boy, when he realises he’s in love with her? Despite every bone in his body that says he should hate her, that he should kill her, he takes a literal face-pounding to save both Buffy and her sister from Glory, the insane god searching for the pair of them so she can return home.
I’ve not reached much further than that but . . . come on, guys . . . it’s this character’s journey, his transition that makes him so wonderful. And let’s not forget the flashbacks. Learning what he was like as a human, as a young vampire. How he began his vampire life is all great foundation for understanding and most importantly relating to the vampire we see in Sunnydale.
Who hasn’t thrown a bit of a wobbly when one of their favourite pastimes was taken away? Who hasn’t been so desperately in love with someone that they would tear apart the earth to help her? Who hasn’t enjoyed a little innocent (well, in his case maybe not so innocent) teasing of a family member (remember, Angel sired Drusilla, so he counts as family here)? Who hasn’t fallen in love with someone who barely even noticed them? And then watched that person swan off with someone else? Who hasn’t seen a loved one die?
Spike experiences all of those things and I’m sure there’s more to come. Whedon hasn’t disappointed me yet. But this is just a tiny fraction of what it is that makes Spike so special.
He isn’t a character, he has character. And personality. He has weaknesses and strengths and real life issues that we all can relate to in some form or another. This is what makes him so wonderful to watch.
And, I promise you, it’s possible to do a study like this on any literary or movie villain out there. Good ones, anyway:
- Scar, from the Lion King
- Magneto from (any) X-Men movie
- Arvin Sloane from Alias
- Hans (dick head!) from Frozen
- Gollum/Smeagle from The Lord of the Rings
- Captain Hook from Peter Pan
- Bill Sikes from Oliver Twist
- Dracula from Dracula
Hell, I could go on! But I won’t. If you need more, check out this list. In fact, I bet a couple of these guys feature on that list too.
They’re bad . . . so, so bad . . . but you love them. And if you don’t, at the very least, you understand them.