“I read the story of Red Riding Hood today. I think the wolf was the most interesting character in it. Red Riding Hood was a stupid little thing so easily fooled.”
Do Villains Have More Fun?
Movie villains are often complex characters with all kinds of nuanced nooks and crannies to explore. At least the good ones are. If they are too cartoon-like, they may not hold much interest as a character and certainly won’t elicit much of the intense reaction that a good villain should. Often, they are more complicated than the hero, whose motivation is more black-and-white – stop the bad guy. On the occasions when the heroes aren’t so black-and-white, they sometimes wander a little into villainous territories themselves.
The movie villain can be a more interesting and important role. Without the villain, who would the hero vanquish? Or, as the late film critic Roger Ebert put it:
“Each film is only as good as its villain. Since the heroes and the gimmicks tend to repeat from film to film, only a great villain can transform a good try into a triumph.”
Personality Types, Heroes, and Villains
Does the villain role appeal to some personality types more than others? Are there some who would have fun with an opportunity to release their inner maniacal laugh? To explore this further, we asked our community to answer “yes” or “no” to the statement: “You would enjoy playing a villain in a movie.”
The primary personality traits that predict who would answer “yes” to our statement are Thinking, Intuitive, and Prospecting. Anyone familiar with our personality framework will see that the most obvious Role that corresponds with these traits is the Analyst Role – and all the types within it, but particularly, the Debater (ENTP) and the Logician (INTP).
Evil and the Intuitive Would-Be Actor
Why would Analysts be more likely than the other Roles to desire to play Darth Vader or Professor Moriarty in a film? Partly because of their core Intuitive trait. (This is also shared by the Role with the second-highest percentage of respondents answering “yes” to the research question: Diplomats.)
Intuitive personalities are likely to see many shades of gray when looking at the same villain. They are likely to see that there is much to understand about this character, if the part is well written. Maybe they’re evil because somewhere along their timeline, something good went bad.
Maybe there is a genuine conflict within the evildoers as they struggle with different impulses. Maybe the villains are sometimes more of a victim than their victims. (Think Gollum in The Lord of the Rings series. His addiction to the Ring put him squarely under its influence and made him one of the villains of the piece. Yet Frodo urged forgiveness for Gollum in the end, having experienced the power of the One Ring himself.)
Perhaps the villain is well-intentioned but simply misguided – or perhaps they’re not. Perhaps they are genetically predestined for evil and have an interesting lineage. Whatever the case, their stories are generally the more complex when compared to the hero. Such complexities are seductive to Intuitive personality types.
This would explain the responses of both Analysts and Diplomats. However, we find that Analyst personalities are more likely than Diplomats to say they would like to play villains. The difference is, as it always is when comparing these Roles, between the Feeling and Thinking traits.
Analysts are probably not quite as moved as Diplomats by the human cost of the damage that a villain causes. There are those people who cringe at the sight of bad things happening on the screen. Others, sitting next to them, may take a more objective view. One relies on emotion, the other on logic. One sees pain and misery, and the other focuses on an interesting puzzle based on an adversarial relationship. It’s a different perspective.
Diplomats might also enjoy taking on a villainous role as an exploration of the human condition. These personalities like delving deeper into what it means to be human, and pretending to be evil may be an interesting way for them to do that.
Explorers, Sentinels, and the Bad Guys
Explorers with the Observant and Prospecting core personality traits came in third among Roles. Even so, more than half of Explorer respondents said they would enjoy playing a movie villain.
Personality types with the Observant trait are more concrete thinkers. Often, they focus more on what is in front of them. They are efficient in their ability to deal with what is rather than what might be – which might include a variety of different reasons why a villain is a villain. For them, it’s more likely that the good within a person is simply good, and evil is simply evil.
For Observant types, a villain is to be dealt with – not understood. Being vanquished is probably not the most interesting part to play if that’s all one sees in it.
While an Explorer may be bound by the Observant individual’s more concrete view of evil, the Prospecting personality trait balances this with a bit of rebellious spirit. As Explorers often find their own sometimes unsanctioned solutions in life, so do rogue masterminds on the big screen. What’s more rebellious than a Bond villain trying to take over the world? Because of this, playing the role of the dastardly scoundrel would likely be a kick for many Explorers.
Sentinels are the only group where less than half of them said they want to release their inner “Bwahahaha” in a film. Sentinel personality types often cling to set values and, therefore, are more likely than others to distinguish a clear divide between good and evil. The combination of Judging and Observant traits produces an orderly person who holds things together, rather than tearing them apart.
Most Sentinels would probably feel more comfortable in the hero’s role and find the villain’s role secondary and not as interesting. The heroes do the job, clean up the mess, and restore stability. What Sentinel, interested in acting, wouldn’t like to play that part in a movie?
Make-believe villains are harmless and usually essential to a good story line. If we look at the personality traits represented in our research, individuals who want to pretend to be the evildoers are probably not as concerned with ideas of good and evil as those who don’t want to play that part. They see the villain as an interesting alternative to the hero and, if the film is good, a worthy and wily opponent.
But whether it’s about the hero or the villain, stories are useful tools for exploring what resonates in the lives of different personality types. So, what kind of character would you like to play? Let us know in the comments below.