Villain Is Right

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Trope · Genre
See Also: Stanning
Tropes · Slash Tropes · Tropes by Fandom
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When a story's designated villain can be interpreted as having a justified, morally sound reasoning behind opposing the hero, a vocal section of fans may declare that the fictional villain is right.

In some stories, a villainous protagonist has an evil goal that is opposed by a heroic antagonist; in such a case, the story is depicting the antagonist as right, which is different than fans interpreting a villain as right in defiance of what the narrative asserts.

Meta and discussion

Many fans criticize the portrayal of villains having valid grievances and criticisms of the status quo, only to have their ideals apparently invalidated by heinous crimes that aren't inherently related to those ideals.

Have you ever noticed a show or movie or comic where the villain is someone who’s challenging the existing power structure or something and it’s like “oh maybe they have a point?” but then the villain does something incredibly morally abhorrent like kill their own troops or something and the story is like “they let their lust for revenge take over” and so now it’s okay for the hero to oppose them and, in the process, uphold the preexisting flawed system?

I call it “pulling an MCU Villain” #forreal I see this so much #its so insideous #its basically a strawman that gets you to support the hero even if in isolation their ideology is wrong or harmful #mcu marvel [...] #the avatar comics did it in the southern water tribe story #if you're lucky the hero will realize the villain had a point and change it The Right Way #because they have the privilege of being king or hero or whatever[1]

legend of korra is such a bizarre show because throughout the series, korra is an ardent defendant of the status quo - as the avatar, korra is always protecting the existing power structure from those who wish to change it. but while most forms of media that have a hero who enforces the status quo would also celebrate said status quo, lok doesn’t. amon’s anti-bending revolution is bad and scary but non-benders are shown to be suppressed and jailed for gathering outside of curfew which is also bad. the red lotus is bad and scary but the leaders they speak out against and attack (korra withstanding) are incompetent at best and oppressive at worst. kuvira is bad and scary but wu is just a pompous idiot kid who shouldn’t be leading a nation. the status quo is lok is just marginally better than its challengers and korra dislikes all the people whose power she’s protecting. the devil you know is better than one you don’t, i guess? when the system gets reformed, korra is never an active part of reform. the switch from the council to a presidential system happen off-screen between seasons one and two. zaheer takes down the earth queen. wu is the one who decides to abolish the monarchy. the show takes a strictly anti-revolutionary stance even though the power structure of the world textually requires political upheaval since it’s shown to not be working. but any good political change that happens in the show happens without korra’s involvement! as avatar, she’s the one whose supposed to be bringing balance but i guess for korra to challenge the existing power structures would be too radical? i don’t know what i’m saying with this post – it’s just baffling how the show sets up people in power to be incompetent or evil and then just doesn’t have korra do anything about it. bad writing, bad politics, it’s just not good.[2]

On the other hand, some fans assert that recognizing sympathetic villains as still villainous is valuable as a moral lesson, as "the road to Hell is often paved with good intentions" and "he who fights monsters should take care not to become one" and all that, and stanning can distort perceptions.

Villain apologism

Villain apologism is excusing a villain's definitely evil deeds and motivations based on extenuating circumstances, such as a tragic backstory. This usually comes with a heaping of woobification. Villain apologism may come with declaring that the villain is right, and both may promote stanning, but not always.

Fictional villains labelled as right by a notable fan following

Further reading