For a very long time, I have thought about the glorification of villains and the negative connotation that comes with it. Being a screenwriter, I can vouch for the process of writing a story’s antagonist seeming very interesting, and it appears the audience also finds the antagonist more watchable than other characters. But a question that I think about is, if filmmakers are trying to condemn the antagonist’s actions then why is the audience constantly trying to justify them?
A conventionally attractive actor is hired to play a character who has done irredeemable deeds and the audience suddenly loses its sense of morality. It isn’t written anywhere that a lawbreaker can’t be charming – in fact, Ted Bundy’s alluring looks helped him commit his crimes. These characters’ wrongdoings are so horrible though, that loathing ought to come as a given but since they have pretty faces, they get a pass. For example, Damon Salvatore, a Vampire Diaries character, has many defenders for his predatory acts. He is merely a fictional character; however, the absurdity begins when the same principles are applied to real-life criminals.
Have you noticed that a lot of the time, humans have difficulty separating fiction and reality? “Based on true story” fictions are never hundred percent true because for the storytellers, real happenings are just not thrilling enough. Audiences are served with a glamorised version of offenders – this may be done by adding a gripping background score or inserting close-up shots of how incredible a person looks with blood dripping from their body. This leads people to drop their attention from the wrongdoings and focus solely on the antagonist’s looks, consequently becoming enthralled . Some of examples of this phenomenon are people dressing up as Ted Bundy or buying Jeffery Dahmer’s glasses. In situations like this, it is very easy to think of them as just characters from shows but the truth of the matter is that they are very real and so are their victims.
Shows like YOU have done a sublime job at presenting the antagonist in a bad light and influencing the viewers to condemn him too. One may say that it is the production team’s fault if glamorisation takes place, but let’s take some blame as an audience as well. Last year, a young man, Cameron Herrin, was heavily defended on TikTok for his behaviour against a woman and her child who passed away because of his reckless driving; countless edits of how handsome he was were circulated. Such behaviour may currently be limited to only a small group of people, but it doesn’t take time for it to spread wider, especially on the internet.
This is the time for us to question where the responsibility lies, because we certainly cannot police art at all times. These stories can be told, perhaps, with more sensitivity to the reality of the occurences.