‘Villain’ might be one of the most overused terms in media: we analyse villains in fiction, we write about best villains in film and television, we rate villains in comic books. As a result, the term has become so vague that the only definition that remains is somewhat moralistic. A ‘villain’ is evil. Whatever that may mean. As we throw the concept around, we rarely wonder how evil exactly a character should be to be considered a ‘villain’. Also, in whose eyes should he be evil?
As a historian, I never use the term ‘villain’ because it comes with a certain ideological baggage. When I hear about ‘villains’ and ‘heroes’, I smell propaganda. If I need to describe the nemesis of the main character, I’ll use the term ‘antagonist’. Unfortunately (or, perhaps, not), most ‘antagonists’ easily come off as villainous, even though this trend is slowly fading away. As a…
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