This topic goes hand-in-hand with the idea that villains understand friendship. Again, it’s assumed that villains cannot love, that all villains are all totally incapable of love, because they are evil.
Evil, as a concept, is definitely the opposite of everything that love, as a concept, means. If someone is evil, they will embody evil to at least some degree. Because we think of black-and-white opposites the way we think of oil and water, we think that one person cannot possibly mix the two. Even if one person could be gray, could hold pure water Love and sticky oil Evil, no matter how hard you shook the person the two elements would still separate.
Love and evil don’t work this way for a few reasons. As I mentioned in our friendship post, mortals are weird and combine traits that don’t seem like they should be possible to be combined. However, love is also weird. It’s beautiful, and powerful, but it’s also like some glorious weed in that it will grow in any nook or cranny that it can manage. Love finds a way – that phrase came about because it can be found in the most desolate of places.
What place is more desolate than in the soul of an evil being?
There’s just one simple key to love: selflessness. Altruism. Putting something else before yourself. You can argue that there’s more to love and that’s fine, but it’s this key element that clashes so badly with evil, as one key element of evil is selfishness.
If your villain ever cares about something or someone so much that they would put that person’s needs before his own, your villain loves them. And unless your villain is a robot or something entirely lacking a soul – a primordial evil kind of thing – your villain can care about something that much.
Your villain MAY try to guard himself against this. Maybe your villain tempers how much he cares about the thing. Maybe your villain kills anyone that has wormed so deeply into his black heart. Maybe your villain is in denial.
But maybe your villain works side-by-side with someone of their sexual preference who cares about him, who clicks with him just enough that he finds himself caring about her safety, her happiness, willing to give up small things for her and aw snap. Maybe your villain has a child – children are amazing because you don’t even realize how much you’re growing to love them until just one particular moment, when it’s already too late. Staying up late with a screaming child that I just want to not, picking her up and realizing how much I adore her, I can attest that the love for a child can hit you when you least expect it.
The important thing to remember is that your villain is a person. Your villain probably thinks they are doing the right thing. Your villain may admit faults but probably doesn’t think of themselves as evil. That makes your villain someone who’s just on the wrong side and therefore there is absolutely no reason your villain can’t fall in love. There may be personal reasons specific to an individual, but as a concept, there is no reason.
Remember too that there are all kinds of love. I hate how in English, there’s really only one word for love because that’s so limiting. Sure you can say infatuation or adoration or fondness look up other given synonyms but I feel all the words provided don’t really…express the same thing. I mean, we use “infatuation” to indicate something that’s not love but for an immature person could be mistaken for love since they don’t know what love is. Yes, talkin’ ’bout you, teenagers. Though honestly I think this applies to a lot of adults too. In any case, English at best expresses degrees of love, not types. Other languages express types of love.
Consider. There are friends, buddies you like, and then there are friends, people you love, people you would die for. If a friend asks you a favor, something that puts you way out of your way, something that requires you to make a sacrifice for them, you don’t do it unless you love them. There’s love for a pet. Love for a romantic partner and love for a child are different. Can you love someone of your sexual preference in a way that’s different from our normal conception of friendship but not romantically? I think you can. There are many types of love, and to deny all of them to a villain merely because he’s evil is to deny a villain humanity of the tiniest shred. Some villains have no humanity. But to always make your villain so evil – first, remember that making a complete monster that’s interesting is hard. Second, part of the reason it’s hard is because it’s usually not even appropriate to do so. Third, if you want your character to be rounded out, three-dimensional, developed – a person, not a character – you have to have dynamic elements. And that means opposites. That means mixing oil and water in the way that only mortals can.
You can always warp the love. Consider the psychopath. His obsession with his captive could be the closest thing to love he can muster. A willingness to put his victim first in a way that is nothing but creepy to the rest of us is a show of love for him. That’s terrifying and easily argued not to be love – I would argue it’s not – but for him, for his warped existence, it’s the best he’s got and in a way, it also still counts. But when we consider this warped “in a normal person it would be love but now it’s not because you twisted it” kind of love, I think we assume that if any villain can muster selflessness, it’s going to always be like that. I think that this warped thing should be fairly rare because you have to be a certain kind of twisted individual to experience and express it.
Villains are people too; they should be able to experience and express pure love, even if it’s for their eldritch abomination or right-hand man or the captured princess they just let go without ransom. Make your villains dynamic – mix oil and water.