Is it OK to like the baddies?

From Maleficent, Tom in Tom and Jerry, Captain Hook, and even Peter Pan (in the original book) right through to the dark and twisted fictional characters like Dexter and Christian Grey we seem to revel in a bit of 'baddie love'.

Is it OK to love a baddie? Do we always have to be rooting for the good guy and must the white hats always triumph for a story to be 'right'? Do we need happy endings?

For a long while I've felt that children's fairy tales are designed to be dark and scary and I've blogged about specific stories before. Fairy tales help children to manage difficult situations in the relative safety of a book (don't tel Bastion in the Never Ending Story of course, he may disagree about the safety aspect). Children deal with the loss of parents (almost all fairy stories pit lone children against monsters - you can't blame Disney for this one), fear of survival, they learn about rules and the consequences of keeping or breaking them, the same with promises. Children see huge and evil things defeated and while they can have nightmares about monsters in the dark they can also learn of the selflessness of love and the strength of truth.

Does adult fiction follow a similar vein? Are we able to look into the dark and deal with it rather than live its horror if we read dark and terrifying books. Having read a few dark stories I often emerge feeling glad I'm not trapped there in the pages of the novel. But sometimes I might admire the 'baddie'; sometimes it feels good to see someone stretch outside of the confines of the rules and do what we might all like to do...but daren't.

Have you watched Fargo and wanted someone dead? Have you cheered a villain? Am I unusual or is this extra step one that helps us deal with the mundane and the ordinary. Does empathy with a bad guy sometimes help us to stay good? Could it be that James Bond, sneering, rich, and deadly, can help us live gentler lives purely because in our minds we can cheer for him, just for a second, before popping the veg on to boil and waiting for the children to wash their hands for tea.

What do you think?

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