Movies & Series

Sympathy for the villain: why we like Darth Vader and Voldemort


“Me, like a bad guy? Under no circumstance!” That’s how many of us would react if someone pointed out to us that we have similarities with Darth Vader, Lord Voldemort, Scar or the Joker. Cheek! We prefer to see ourselves as Luke Skywalker, Harry Potter, Lion King Mufasa or Batman. But, well, it could be time for an insight, namely the one here: Many of us resemble certain bad guys – exactly the ones that we find most fascinating in films or books.

That suggests at least one study that was just published in the journal “Psychological Science”. The researcher Rebecca J. Krause and her colleague Derek D. Rucker from Northwestern University in the USA wanted to answer this question: “Can evil be good?” Yes, it is, is the result – because obviously many people have sympathy to completely malicious characters from books or films. This is when these malicious characters are similar to themselves. Krause and Rucker put it this way: We are drawn to more evil versions of ourselves.

We don’t like to compare ourselves to bad guys

The key is: In real life, we shy away from this comparison with “bad” others because it would be a potential threat to our self-image. That’s why the two scientists decided not to use real malicious people in their study – rather film and literature villains. Because they don’t exist at all, they pose no particular threat to our self-image – and that of the test subjects.

The researchers got the data they needed in an unusual way: According to an article in “Psychology Today”, they obtained it from an app called Charactour, in which users can take a personality quiz and then get a result that tells them which fictional characters they are most like. More than 232,000 members were registered with the app at the time of the analysis.

Many bad guys are impressive leaders

You’re shaking your head and asking, “But what kind of characters should I like about Lord Voldemort or Darth Vader?” Well, there are a number of impressive properties. You can say a lot of negatives about the villains mentioned above, but they certainly have one quality: as managers, they’re pretty good. They motivate their followers to do everything for the team’s mission – just think of the Death Eaters who willingly endanger their own lives to bring Lord Voldemort back to power.

Most famous villains don’t even have to bother to be kind to their followers. On the contrary, they often insult their loyal employees. The nasty Scar from “The Lion King” tells a whole song about the stupidity of his hyena army: “I don’t think much of hyenas. They are vulgar, so outrageously vulgar. But taming them for my needs is so smart. Something like that comes only from me! ”He sings. Still, the hyenas do everything Scar tells them to. Who doesn’t secretly want this power?

It’s okay to explore your own dark side

Dart Vader, Lord Voldemort and Scar all have one thing in common: they firmly believe that they are the chosen ones, that they deserve to be the boss. At first glance, this may be arrogant and unappealing. But the study by Krause and Rucker shows that it impresses us as spectators too. In addition, the study authors assume that many people identify with fictional villains because they secretly believe that they themselves have their chief qualities.

Through their study, Rebecca J. Krause and Derek D. Rucker wanted to show that it’s okay to get to know your own dark side without feeling bad – after all, it was all about film and literature villains. In real life, you should still be a little more careful. Don’t be too blinded by the virtues of evil. Jedi Master Yoda already warned against this: “Anger. Fear. Aggressiveness. They are the dark side of the Force. They easily take possession of you. ”


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