There are no such things as bad guys…well, except for Hannibal and Pennywise and…

Note: This topic comes up in the What Kills Me book club section on my blog; so I wanted to chat a bit about it:

I love villains. Villains make or break stories for me. (For example, Heath Ledger and Jack Nicholson’s The Joker elevated their respective Batman films. By contrast, Ryan Reynold’s film, Green Lantern, was ruined because the villain looked like a swirling mass of world-eating poop.)

I like to wonder what baddies were like when they were young. Before they murdered, or ate human flesh. You know, when they were adorable babies. How did they get so twisted?

We cast real people as villains too. One day, someone is a family man. A successful member of society. Then the next, they are a “monster.” When I was the crime reporter at my paper, I wrote about some terrible crimes. The public was so horrified by what some of these human beings had done that the accused were immediately deemed “evil.”

And maybe some of the criminals were evil. Unfeeling. Cruel. But maybe it’s easier for us to brand them as demons, as “unlike us,” because we don’t understand it and we are afraid of it in our midst.

I like to think that the characters in What Kills Me are neither good nor bad. It’s just that sometimes people or monsters find themselves on opposing sides. Aside from Paolo, who is so obviously psycho, the Empress is only trying to protect her people (which unfortunately means killing Zee) and her loyal General is only doing his duty.

The Empress has been around forever, ensuring the successful existence of her nation. Sure, she’s a dictator. She has absolute control. But she believes that she maintains order and life. If some random girl came along, fell into my sacred well, and threatened to kill everyone and everything I hold dear, yeah, I would choose me and mine.

What do you think? Name a villain that you really empathize with.

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