Maleficent. Lord Voldemort. Osama bin Laden. Hitler. Kronos. Lex Luther. Ultron.
What to they all have in common? Villainy.
They’re the bad guys, right? The evil doers. The black hats. The antagonists. But what makes these guys villains? And do they know that they’re the villains?
The psychology of bad guys is among the most complex studies of today. Most of us cannot even imagine torturing, or even killing someone, for personal benefit. But villains, on the other hand, are free of the regular rules of morality, so much so, that to us, many of these villains seem unbelievable, or can in no way exist in real life. What made Hitler so hellbent on destroying the Jews? Was it his upbringing that molded his views, or was it in his blood? It always comes down to two things, when we talk about the sources of a villain’s villainy. Nature, or nurture.
Nature, as in, it was pre-programmed into their genes, to want to take over the world, or to have the sudden urge to commit mass genocide. And nurture, as in, the way they were treated as a child, or what they were taught, growing up. In actuality, both factors can make huge differences in a person’s life, but the factor which plays a larger role is still unclear. The debate surrounding this topic is popularly known as Nature vs Nurture.
Many scenarios have been presented, where a villain was placed in a completely different situation, and his personality either changed due to the circumstances, or retained his evil nature, because people never change. We’ll probably never know which theory is right, but for now, we can have fun guessing. For example, a comic book was created, called ‘Red Son’, where Superman landed in Communist Russia, and becomes a Communist war hero. It makes for an interesting read, even if it does not explore the villain persona.
Both sides have equal pros and cons, but I find myself leaning towards Pro-Nurture. I believe that if a person is treated with respect, and is taught the right morals and ethics required in society, he or she will not try to take over the world. We can prevent bad guys from even existing, just by being nice to everyone. Why do we have terrorists in the world? Probably because the people who brought them up imparted some very warped values. Villains don’t know that they are villains because all they do know is what was taught to them. There is the odd psychopath, who is evil just for the heck of it, but those cases are very few in number. Most ‘terrible human beings’ are just misunderstood, confused people who just want to get their point across.
Villain mindsets can usually trace their origins all the way back to their childhoods, just like phobias and other mental disorders. It could be some sort of traumatizing issue with a bully that made that world leader so anti-Mexican. Or it could have been that murder scene from a popular movie, that made Osama bin Laden so terror-causing. My point is, don’t judge them as people, unless you really know them. Know them, like, inside out [Pixar Reference, 10 points]. They usually don’t even know what’s going on in their own heads. Maybe Saddam Hussein cried himself to bed every night, when the effect of what he had done caught up with him at the end of the day. We’ll probably never know, but there is some good, no matter how little, in everyone. We just need to make sure we know our good parts from our bad.
This brings me to another question (yes, another one). Are you really as morally right and straight arrowed as you think you are? Were you brought up with the right values? Because everyone makes mistakes, and you might not have taken everything you learnt in the right way. Problem is, it’s getting late. You had better fix those narcissistic, sociopathic ways of thinking soon. Sometimes, even I have to admit, we are not always right. We might not have been brought up the right way, either by accident or through misguided thoughts, but we can always choose our legacies. Not all of us are lucky enough to be remembered the way heroes are, but we can change ourselves enough not to be remembered as villains. We don’t have to be the sadist souls who require serious psychological treatment. Most bad guys are remorseless and have terrible table manners because they never really thought about changing their ethics. Well I’m telling you now: check yourself. You don’t want to end up being the next Mussolini, right? So make sure you treat people like people. As Dr. Seuss once said, a person’s a person, no matter how small. It’s usually the undermined who become the underminers [Pixar Reference, 20 points. I am on a roll].
Or I could be very wrong, and there are a select few individuals who are destined to attempt world domination. Either way, be a good person. You won’t regret it.