Part one of my Lovable Villains series can be found here:
Lovable Villains - part oneWhat makes these villains likeable is not their sad sob story, not their tragic childhood, nor their fatal flaw. They keep audiences captivated because they do have positive traits. And this is how you make any character likeable -- by giving them positive traits.
One scale is the Good vs Evil scale. Villains are necessarily evil. On this scale, they lie closer to Evil than they do to Good. And all protagonists (the ones we are supposed to root for, no matter how morally grey they are) lie closer to Good on this scale than all the villains in the story. This is how we tell heroes and villains apart.
Not to say that you can't write stories about evil characters. Each character is the hero of his own story. In the mind of a villain, reality is distorted, and good actions are perceived as being bad. A writer can do the same in their novel. As long as a morally good character's actions are perceived as evil by most of the characters in the story, their actions are evil. Perce
In this second part I will elaborate on what makes villains lovable with a set of examples from multiple fiction genres. Starting with Agent Smith
from the Matrix
Agent Smith is a computer program, created by the machines to maintain the status quo of the fictional reality they made to enslave humans. Smith is sufficiently dehumanized to make him unrelatable to the audience, and (as his goals are diametrically opposed to the goals of the protagonists) he is a functional villain, serves a clear purpose in the story, and generates much conflict. Since he stands for the oppression of humankind, the audience automatically dislikes him, and perceives him as being 'evil'. He doesn't hesitate to use violence, is ruthless in his pursuits, and places no value in human life.
The dark concealing glasses Smith wears convey a powerful message too. As eyes are generally viewed as 'windows to the soul'
, the fact that we do not get to see Smith's eyes make him more distant from us, less relatable, more robotic and soulless. His unemotional matter-of-fact manner of speech, and sharp efficient linear body movements, also make him look like more of a machine and less of a human. These visual cues help us identify him as the villain in the human struggle against the machines.
But Smith isn't the only villain in The Matrix series. In fact, he is only a henchman, working for the much more powerful entity that appears in the third film in the series. So why is this underling so much more memorable? What qualities have the story writers bestowed upon him, that make us love him despite how 'evil' he is?
The qualities Smith possesses.
Smith's speech demonstrates a large vocabulary, that marks a certain linguistic Intelligence. He speaks with Confidence and Eloquence. Some of his remarks are rather Sarcastic. His monologues are both informed (Intelligent) and entertaining to watch (Humorous), which is why they are so often quoted. Smith is also incredibly Determined and Thick Skinned, absolutely nothing can stop him from achieving his goals. He is also good at what he does (Efficient) : the man can dodge bullets, take over other people's bodies, clone himself, even manipulate the laws of the universe at will. Smith only resorts to violence if he has to. Whenever he needs something, his first action is to try strike a deal, to bribe his enemy into getting what he wants (which is both Diplomatic and Clever). These skills help him in his evil plan to destroy the heroes, and make him so ferocious and scary. And he does all of that while dressed in a snappy suit (Well Dressed), with Tidy gelled up hair.
So, we like him because aside from being evil, he's also