Sometimes villains get redemption arcs (Severus Snape, Jaime Lannister), that make us forget their evil acts. Sometimes, they turn to the side of good (Sandor Clegane, Loki) and make us view them in a different light. And of course, there are villains who continue to forever remain evil (Dolores Umbridge, Arturo).
But, there’s one more kind – characters we hated growing up, simply because they stood in the path of our favourite characters, or because, we just didn’t see their point of view. But, in hindsight, these characters weren’t all that bad actually – just misunderstood and/or misrepresented:
1. Janice in F.R.I.E.N.D.S
Honestly, Janice was actually a nice girlfriend, to not just Chandler, but even Ross. The writers painted her as an annoying person, when in reality, she actually tried to be friends with Chandler’s friends, tried understanding Ross, and gave Chandler a second, third, and even a fourth chance, not to mention, a mixed tape!
2. Emily in F.R.I.E.N.D.S
Wow, the creators of F.R.I.E.N.D.S really dealt a shitty hand to the girlfriends! When you think about it, Emily’s husband said his ex-girlfriend’s name on his wedding day, and then, almost boarded a flight for his honeymoon, with the same ex-girlfriend. We saw the story from Ross’ point of view and thought Emily was being too harsh. In reality, she was still trying to work through her insecurities, because she loved Ross. Almost similar to Rachel’s 18-pages-long letter.
3. Squidward in SpongeBob Squarepants
Growing up, everyone thought Squidward was mean and dispirited. In hindsight, he was trying to make the best of a life he didn’t want, while dealing with an over-hyper colleague. As millennials trying to juggle a job and healthy social life, dealing with emotional and social issues, and attempting to keep ourselves fed on something other than junk food, we all get Squidward now.
4. Draco Malfoy in the Harry Potter series
Honestly, Draco was just a kid caught in a situation he was certainly not equipped to handle. His prejudice against Muggle-borns was something his family drilled in him, and not everyone can be like Sirius and break free from family pressure – especially when the greatest Dark Lord of all times threatens your family, and punishes your loved ones. Despite it all, Draco is unable to kill Dumbledore or admit to Bellatrix that her prisoners were Harry and Hermione.
5. The Baroness (Elsa Elberfeld) in Sound of Music
As naive kids, we obviously sided with the prankster Von Trapp children in the movie, and consequently, with their fun-loving governess Maria. The Baroness, who appeared to be in the way of Maria and Captain’s love story, was easily a villain. However, if you think about it, she was just a woman in love, who, on realizing her love wasn’t returned, did not turn evil but rather, graciously moved on.
6. Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones
Okay, hear me out on this one. Yes, obviously, Cersei blew up a whole kingdom and sentenced her own brother to die. But, if you look at her life, you’d realize, she wasn’t dealt an easy hand. She fought a ghost for her husband’s affection, and decided to deal with it the only way she knew. In fact, most of her actions, before she became the ‘mad queen’ were borne out of affection for her children. Nothing excuses her actions, of course, but over the course of 8 seasons, and in comparison with other villains who were just plain evil, you tend to see her side, even if you don’t agree with her decisions.
7. Erik, The Phantom in The Phantom of the Opera
Okay, admittedly the kidnapping and the stalking for revenge are not the easiest things to ignore. But condemned to a life in the shadows, his actions were not those of a man who had assimilated in the society, but rather of a man victimized by an unkind society – one that was quick to brand him as evil, just because of his appearance.
8. Erik Killmonger in Black Panther
I think everyone will admit that Erik wasn’t as much a villain, as he was a man with an opposing, less popular view. Much like how, at the very core of all of Magneto’s actions, was a desire to save mutants, Erik too was looking out for his people, even if at the cost of humanity. Was he right? No. But, understandable? Totally.
9. Edie Britt in Desperate Housewives
Every woman in Wisteria Lane was fighting a different battle, but while our lead characters found each other to lean on, Edie was ostracized. Growing up, we believed it was because she was manipulative, but in reality, she was simply a woman who wasn’t shy about chasing her dreams, being open about her desires, and fighting for what she wants. Not exactly a villain now, is she?
10. Ramesh Gupta in Made in Heaven
You began the series by hating Ramesh Gupta for being a hypocritical creep and ended the series by unwittingly sympathizing with him for being forced to hide his true identity, because of a conservative society. He wasn’t right in his actions and he did add to Karan’s trauma. But, ultimately, you understand that his actions, reprehensible as they were, were still a result of his forced closeted existence.
11. Gollum in the LOTR series
It’s actually unfair to even brand Gollum as a villain when he, more than anyone else in this list, is a true victim of his circumstances. Driven to unbearable greed for what he believes his sole possession, Gollum wasn’t someone you hated, but rather someone you pitied. If Dobby was a victim of ancient magic in the Harry Potter series, then so was Gollum.
12. Atma Singh from Newton
Newton is, without a doubt, one of the most profound films made in recent years. It’s easy to side with Newton’s almost utopian viewpoint because his unwavering conviction lends him an exigent vulnerability. Which automatically paints Atma Singh, who represents the broken system and values practicality over honesty, as the villain. However, Atma Singh is no more a villain than the general audience. Because, Newton isn’t about good vs. evil, but rather, about cynicism vs. idealism.
13. The Wicked Witch of the West in the Wizard of Oz
Honestly, when you think about this story, Dorothy stole the shoes that the Witch believed belonged to her. Not to mention, she also killed her sister. Yes, Dorothy did it unknowingly. But, the Witch did have a reason to be upset, and while we may not agree with the actions she took, the reason why she was prompted to take those actions is understandable.
14. Skyler White in Breaking Bad
Okay, considering how we’re all rooting for Walter White, it’s easy to hate on Skyler, especially since she cheated on him. But technically, White was never a hero, but rather, an anti-hero. And dealing with a husband who is cooking meth in secret, and leaving you forever suspicious of his actions, can take a toll on any sane person. Ultimately, we look at Skyler’s actions, including the fact that she’s never satisfied, from Walter’s perspective. But she too was a victim of lost dreams and an unhealthy marriage.
Is there a character you’d add to this list? Let us know who, and why, in the comments section below.