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His popularity has steadily grown over the past decade, leading to him getting his own spinoff series. Backlash faced by fans of characters like Loki usually points out how morally wrong it is to be attracted to a self-serving, would-be tyrant. Fans, predominantly young girls or queer people, are frequently harassed online and called gross apologists when they find villains appealing. Loki works to rehabilitate him with a deep dive into his twisted psychology, which helps contextualize his actions and soften him, but the best parts of what made Loki attractive still remain.
Inmatinee idol sensation Rudolph Valentino became a cause of concern to white men and therefore, mainstream culture. The source of his sudden rocket into stardom was a film called The Sheikan adaptation of a bestselling novel. Valentino stars as the Arab character Ahmed, who kidnaps and aggressively attempts to seduce Diana, the central white female character. Eventually, his secret English heritage is revealed, and the characters run away together into the desert. It heavily suggests Ahmed forces himself on Diana until she falls for him. The resistance came from judgmental men who resented the appeal of a polished, suave foreigner.
He was a mysterious and forbidden figure who only existed to please women, whether they relished or resisted him. Villains have been presented and received similarly in the century since then. Rhett is an unstable and occasionally violent man, and the lingering sense of unpredictability and danger makes him exciting and attractive.
The fantasy of Rhett Butler was a safe way of exploring dangerous relationships, one where the notion of being romantically ravished was taken a little too far. And it all feels exactly like the culture war over The Sheik a hundred years ago. Charismatic, attractive actors make it harder to see villains as wholly evil, no matter what they do. Antiheroes like Clyde Barrow, brought to life by Hollywood playboy of the century Warren Beatty, taught audiences that egotism, violence, and self-hatred come in every type of package.
And audiences love watching their protagonists suffer. Characters enduring torture or other physical pain has always been a litmus test of masculinity in narratives, from noir movies to action blockbusters. In the last two decades or so, villains have been subjected to all sorts of personal pain as well. Crime movies in the s featured the rise and downfall of imagined or real-life gangsters who the audience could vicariously live through, with performances that exemplified how tough and remorseless the main characters are.
The hurt that villains experience are frequently sources of fodder for fanfiction, and the depths their emotions display are deed to appeal specifically to female and queer audiences. One of the biggest arguments against being thirsty for villains is the fear that the media is grooming and influencing young women to seek out abusive, harmful relationships in their real lives. But fandom — the place where these kinds of relationships are nurtured and elaborated on in art, fiction, and online collectives — is primarily a place to share enthusiasm and to be comfortably hyperbolic about wants and desires.
For many women, fandom functions as a safe space to discuss topics that are taboo or impermissible in other contexts.
Villains, especially, have a long history of appealing specifically to women and other underrepresented groups because of the ways they unrepentantly navigate tricky, loaded social and moral boundaries. But villains like Kirigan or Kylo Ren are hetrong, determined, and believe they have a great purpose to fulfill. As adversaries of Chosen One characters, they have the same fortitude and resourcefulness that makes them an even match for the heroes, and sometimes their only possible companion in loneliness and struggle. While turning over to the Dark Side might not be a great idea as a real life plan, it can be an irresistible avenue to explore in fiction.
The popularity of vampires in genre fiction feels like the ultimate expression of this fantasy: While folk tales about vampires run the gamut between human and beast, modern literature has latched on tightly to the concept of the seductive monster. But beginning with Bela Lugosi taking over the role of Dracula ina more suave, debonair, and less dehumanized predator emphasized the idea of seduction as a form of violence, and violence as a form of seduction. The true height of the villainous vampire as a sex object, though, came in the s and s.
Spike in particular had a devoted legion of fans who were invested in his development as an antihero and eventually a full-on tragic hero, but they loved him even at the beginning, when he was breaking necks and terrorizing high-schoolers. Creators at the time responded by suggesting that female fans were hormone-addled, delusional and gullible for thinking the character could be redeemed, going so far as suggesting their hopes for Spike was similar to sending love notes to serial killers in prison.
It would be bad to date a guy like this. The next generation of vampire fiction, like the Twilight series and its many followers, argued that vampires could potentially be good boyfriends and partners. But Buffy never shied away from the predatory, demonic threat under all the glamour.
Women — especially young women — are consistently derided and dismissed for the celebrities and figures they find attractive, and conversely, celebrities have been derided and dismissed if they tend to draw a young, female audience. From Frank Sinatra to The Beatles to One Direction to BTSyoung female fans have been targeted by pop-culture critics as the epicenter of some sort of national moral crisis, for what they love and how they love it. What goes ignored, however, is that these fans are often canaries in the coal mine for ificant, influential works of culture. The fandom surrounding films and villainous characters have a similar trajectory.
Fans of complex and morally ambiguous characters are often a of a classic work in the making.
Instead of the tired moral panic about the degradation of common decency, maybe the reaction should be one of appreciation or exploration. What makes this character so fascinating? But more importantly, Loki goes through an incredible amount of pain to get there. The alternative: Let people be thirsty for villains, and learn from them.
Filed under: Opinion. Reddit Pocket Flipboard. Villain-thirst backlash is a century old Photo: Paramount Pictures. Photo: MGM. Photo: TriStar Pictures. Photo: 20th Century Fox. Loading comments Share this story Twitter Facebook.Sexxy white man
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