Sympathy for the Villain

By Kathleen Jones, The Quirky Novelist. Please sign up for free updates at ‪ 

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Ever since I was a child, I’ve sympathized with the villains in stories.

It all began during my earliest years, when I sided with the “villainous” cats in those all-too-common cat and mouse cartoons that used to run on Saturday morning TV. Even though Tom or Katnip had been trying to catch—and presumably, eat—the mouse, he didn’t seem to deserve the cruel and brutal torture that was supposed to be “funny”, but never was.

As I grew older, I found myself feeling sorry for villains in novels, movies, and TV shows. All too often, I became angry when a male character was humiliated in public or a woman was jilted by her fiancé for a more beautiful woman or someone’s job or career was destroyed when a more “deserving” person snatched it away from them.

Whenever I talked about my sympathy for these “villains,” most people thought I was crazy. After all, the villain had done something to deserve his or her fate! And I was supposed to cheer for the hero!

But I wasn’t crazy; I had very good reasons to cheer for the villains. 

In most of these stories, the villains are losers. They’re underdogs who never had any realistic chance of winning. And they’re almost always outclassed in some way by the heroes—the winners—who have some unfair advantage over them, be it looks, some special talent, or even good, old-fashioned “virtue.” Heroes are nothing like real, flawed people with shortcomings, who usually don’t have outstanding looks or talents. And real people don’t always win.

In other words, real people are more like the villains than the heroes in stories. Unlike heroes, real people know how painful it is to lose. We’re often outclassed in some way by those who have some unfair advantage. That’s why I—and perhaps other people—sympathize with villains, not with heroes.

And also like us, all of those fictional villains probably have a good side and deserve their fair share of happiness! Why can’t their creators—novelists, scriptwriters, animators—find someone to love the villains or give them a shot at a promising career . . . or even let those cartoon cats catch those stupid mice, just for once?

Visit Kathleen Jones, The Quirky Novelist, online at or on Twitter at and sign up for free updates at ‪  Kathleen’s first novel, Love Is the Punch Line, a midlife romance set in the world of stand-up comedy, is available NOW, in trade paperback and ebook from ( and Indigo Books and Music ( Visit the Love Is the Punch Line Media Room at

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