Becoming The Villain

Though I'm too lazy to look up the data to support my claim, I'd wager that it's natural for people to desire to be seen as the Good Guy rather than the Bad Guy. Sure, maybe we enjoyed playing the Bad Guy role at the playground as we forcechoked our friends in our best Darth Vader impressions. Or maybe we watched the world burn as we played our own version of The Joker. But when it comes to real life, most of us want to be the Good Guy. The Hero. We want to be Luke Skywalker or Batman, at least until we get older and wiser and realize that the Caped Crusader might not be completely good himself.

If watching the first two seasons of Mindhunter has taught me anything, it's that everyone has the capacity to view himself as the Good Guy, especially if we think of our lives as stories.

Few of us enjoy the prospect of being a Villain, but I think most of us look at the Hero/Villain situation in a lens far too black and white. We don't have to be either/or. We can be both in different situations and contexts, and sometimes it's actually necessary to be a Villain.

Sometimes being the Villain to one party allows you to be the Hero to another. Christian Laettner knew this to be true. During his four years at Duke, the center-power forward was no stranger to getting under opponents' skin, often resulting in fisticuffs.

Two boxers Christian Laettner vs. Aminu Timberlake, March 28, 1992 – Photo credit:

If Laettner wasn't on your team, you had plenty of reason to hate him, because he'd most likely humbled your team if their paths ever crossed. But even Laettner's teammates had reason to hate him, as he was known to antagonize and bully them in his own way, which made him a momentary Villain. But Laettner again became their Hero after he'd helped them to elevate to their next level. The Cameron Crazies always saw Laettner as a Hero, as he led his team to four straight NCAA Final Four appearances, twice walking away with the NCAA championship.

Perhaps most of us cling to a no-Villain mentality because it's simply easier. The challenge in embracing our own Villain is that we are then burdened with the responsibility of determining whether we are being the Villain at the right time to the right people. Sometime it's obvious. For instance, who doesn't want to be seen as the Villain by his competition in the professional world? But what if you finally step up to that certain family member who consistently oversteps the boundaries you've asked him or her to respect on numerous occasions? When you do so, you run the risk of being branded a Villain. But should you really care if you're being your own Hero for once? After all, you can't really control whether someone else labels you the Bad Guy or the Villain. Sometimes the other person's rigid rules and opinions doom you to such a designation.

Maybe that's the point Luke Skywalker was trying to make when he was explaining to Rey why he'd given up on his Jedi ideology. (But who really knows with that mess of a movie).

I can understand why someone would seek never to be the Villain. It's not always a fun role to play. But sometimes by refusing to do so, we run the risk of becoming our own Villain as we put ourselves on the backburner. And there are few things worse than being your own Villain.