There’s a particular drift in the TV shows and films where villains are the new heroes, obsession is the new love and abuse is the new sex.

It all started with fairy tales, which, comprised of a princess, a prince charming and, of course, a supervillain. Growing up, we became fascinated with the princess, in our teenage, we started obsessing over the prince charming, little did we know that as we would grow older, we’d begin to romanticise supervillains. The millennials’ obsession with sexualising psychopaths is on the rise, and we might have an idea who’s to blame.

All this is attributed to the media’s need for popularity as we know these are the narratives that reward them with earnings. After all, a show or a movie cannot survive without a fan base. However, there’s a particular drift in the TV shows and films where villains are the new heroes, obsession is the new love and abuse is the new sex.

Often, a certain infatuation with the dark side of a person resides in individuals, and more often than not, it’s a villain. So the question is; What makes a villain’s allure so strong? Television and films have all portrayed the villains and the bad guys as the charming characters that are usually more aggressive. Is protection through aggression really necessary?

Ergo, another question that arises; is the need to be dominated so strong that it overshadows the negative traits and deeds of such characters? Most women like a man who exudes confidence, gives them a sense of security and makes them feel safe. Aggression and hostility also comes hand in hand with all the aforementioned qualities which are often ignored. 

Glamourising the ‘bad boy’ has been common in a lot of stories and films because these are the plots that sell. However, now, the ‘bad boy’ role has been upgraded to sociopaths, serial killers and psychopaths. All of these characters are mainly bad people who do bad deeds, but one kind gesture or falling in love suddenly turns them into the hero of the story and leaves the audience swooning over them. These ‘evil’ characters are mostly males and are molded in such a way that they are shown to be smart and usually invoke some sympathy, hinting at the redundant stereotype where a woman must bring out the best in a man.

So what are the traits that these alluring characters have common that draw the viewers in. First, they are all handsome and fairly attractive with a charismatic personality. Second, they have an abusive backstory which tries to justify their cruel thought process and urges the audience to sympathise with them. And third, they are made out to be the ‘misfits’ of the society so the audience can relate to them at some point because ‘weird is the new cool’.

The film Joker (2019) portrays the villain as the product of the cruel society. The main character Arthur aka Joker is bullied by people because of his laughing problem. He kills his mother after he finds out that she was delusional and his life was basically a lie. In the end he is seen embracing his craziness in the iconic stair scene. The movie got hit because the audience was able to sympathise with Joker for what he became, thanks to his “tragic past”.

Similarly, a TV show titled YOU is based on an attractive villain; the main character Joe Goldberg becomes obsessed with a girl; Beck. He stalks her through social media to pursue her and ends up killing everyone around her on his way, eventually killing Beck herself. The show gained a massive following since it started streaming on Netflix with over 15,000 posts on Twitter. Its success can be accredited to how smoothly the character, Joe, captures the audiences’ attention and leaves them deeply fascinated by himself that it becomes effortless to disregard all of the horrible things he’s done. This trend is not only being followed in the West but, the East as well. Bollywood film; Kabir Singh glorifies an abusive and obsessively toxic relationship as a love story. Another example of romanticising an abusive relationship is the film Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy.

A 2019 biographical film on Ted Bundy; the infamous serial killer, also portrays the villain as an attractive man. It was not a surprise that Hollywood was producing a movie about someone so evil, and was even less surprising to see that Zac Efron played the murderer.

These villains are portrayed by handsome/attractive actors because they help with the publicity and increase box office numbers. The reason for such inclination is that the audiences’ reaction to the character would be primarily based on how they look, rather than how they act.

The need to highlight these fragile topics is justified as it may cause awareness among the people but the decision to glamourise and sexualise characters like Joe Goldberg and Dr Hannibal Lecter may do more harm to the society than good. Consequently, the depiction of evil in this manner could be problematic because individuals tend to follow what they observe. Young viewers put a considerable amount of importance to what they see on the screen. They have access to these kinds of films and are able to apply the ideas demonstrated in films to their own lives.

Writing about such topics is a great responsibility and comes with significant consequences. The scripts that glorify malevolence should be carefully examined and thought through. A writer should be able to sit back and ponder over the effect their work might have on society. Producers of such content must be held accountable for the audiences’ reaction as this emphasis on attractive villains may result negatively. On the other hand, the audience should be able to extract positive lessons from such narratives and consider them solely as means of entertainment.

Commercialising and romanticising psychopaths may benefit the film industry, but it may also affect society in an adverse manner. These kinds of narratives commercialise malevolence, normalise foul behaviour and idealise abusive relationships. Conclusively, it really depends on us how we contribute to society.

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