by Madeline Iva
Who here sees a movie and winds up fantasizing later on about the hot villain? Raising my hand. WHY is my question. Why aren’t we fantasizing about the hot hero? (I mean, maybe we are. Sometimes.) Last week I talked about the hot villain being redeemed all the way into becoming an anti-hero. Here is another post about how we are bitten by the compulsion to use a hot villain as fantasy fodder.
How many Harry Potter fans found Snape a bit more interesting than all the other characters? Raising hand again. Of course, Malfoy fan fic is popular all across this great land. (Bonus points for those who add a queer element.) But cold snobbiness is not so obviously a turn on–so what is?
THE VILLAIN AS ROMANTIC CHALLENGE:
Some women are hunters.
I loathe shopping, but I believe that some women shop as a form of hunting. They hunt down a bargain, they trap their sale item, and display their trophy at home. Myself, I love capturing a shy person at a party. If I can get a shy guy or woman to crack open and talk about themselves, then I am so happy lapping at all that hidden goodness within. Here’s my theory: if you are more comfortable at a party when you have something to do vs. just hanging out, I’m guessing you like to hunt a potential mate who presents some kind of challenge.
On the other hand, we need to respect the fact that some women like hunting men as an attention game for the sheer sport of it, whether they’re also looking for sex, romance, or a husband. The idea of women hunting after men often used to have a really negative connotation. But let’s face it, women really are socially very powerful. For instance, there’s a Georgette Heyer book called AN INFAMOUS ARMY in which the heroine ‘Babs’ is in a mood, so she decides draw a man clear across the room to her with just one look. She’s that kind of vixen. Later on, she’s almost undone when she finally lands a guy she actually likes, because the vixen thing only works well when you don’t care, and by that point she cares a lot more than she wants to.
I decided to try a Babs-ian moment at one point in my life. People were dancing and I was having some kind of crazy hormonal surge that left me feeling ridiculously full of confidence. I spotted this guy on the other side of the dance floor–a blonde–and just BAM! Gave him one look. It worked. I watched with a bit of amused disbelief as he came across the crowded dance floor. He turned out to be mega-cool and by the end of the night we had a thing going on. (He dumped me a few months later.) On the other end of the spectrum, luring my Sweetie into a relationship was a much more subtle and drawn out process. In those moments where I would entice him to yet another fun social event where we could bond, I was like a different person. Kinda hunter-y, though that’s not how I’d put it at the time. But definitely confident, goal-oriented, and–um–compelling. Of course, I was an insecure mess the rest of the time, obsessed and anxious, desperate and yet still hoping.
My point is: the heart you have to conquer is the heart you’ve earned. And when it comes to villains, they’re just not easy to conquer. Maybe they’re selfish, or mis-trusting. Your above-average intellectual villain wouldn’t fall for you just because of your looks. He’s probably more discriminating.
THE VILLAIN WHO HAS A HEART–though it’s “small and tiny, and he can’t remember the last time he used it.”
Your ideal hot villain cares for only one or two people–if that. So in the fantasy, the villain who only has the capacity to love in the low single digits–loves you. You get to be within that circle of protection. You get to be one of the chosen few.
Even better–villains are often virgins of the heart when it comes to romantic feels. He’s having new feelings he’s never had before, and this makes your encounter all the more scrumptious.
The fantasy about the villain is he can be so awful to others, but stops being simply awful to you. He just can’t. He may even be frustrated and unhappy that he can’t. Being unable to act like an utter sh** the way he does to everyone else becomes proof that whether he wants to or not, he’s got the feels for you, and he’s got it bad.
THE VILLAIN AS COLD, ISOLATED MAN:
Fassy as Magnito in the Xmen franchise might as well be singing “Allllll by mysellllf”. He’s an iceberg and you want to thaw him out.
THE VILLAIN YOU PRACTICE YOUR SUPER-POWERS UPON, AKA THE PLOT OF EVERY DARK ROMANCE EVER WRITTEN:
I love a Villain who does some bad stuff but also some good stuff and shows real anti-hero potential. In Dark Romance the villain/hero does a lot of bad stuff–even to the heroine. Yet the heroine holds out a kind of hope:
- if we can bond,
- if I can show him I trust him,
- if become one of the very few HE TRUSTS
…then I’ll be safe via some combo of my looks/personality/vulnerability/wits/social powers, and gift of persuasion…
…and therefore I survive and therefore I WIN.
Yeah—call this Stockholm Syndrome–sure, go ahead.
But Stockholm syndrome had a negative connotation of a kind of victim-hood, whereas what I’m talking about is slaying your skulking hottie villain with love-bonding.
This is less about being a victim and more about working raw survival skills when you’re at a complete disadvantage using only your powers of attraction and persuasion – which can feel like a sort of triumph and conquest. It’s like killing someone with one tiny piece of string.
SO WHY ARE WE LIKE THIS?
Why are we attracted to men with limited or negative qualities? Why aren’t we just wired to dive onto that sunny, friendly, honest good guy and not let go? Welp. I think it has something to do with The Warrior Gene problem.
THE WARRIOR GENE
There actually is a genetic variant that some humans (men) have which they call the warrior gene. With this genetic variant you can get empathy, but it’s rather limited. For instance, you can have soldiers who are efficient killing machines in battle, but still display love and caring for their family and children. This gene shows a middle ground between ‘normal’ people who really don’t like to hurt others, and sociopaths who have a hard time caring for anyone but themselves.
Okay, so here’s my whack theory: I hypothesize that there’s a counterpart to the Warrior Guy gene.
THE WARRIOR MATE GENE
Let’s call it the Warrior Mate gene. The Warrior Mate gene (if it exists) would be a genetic variant that makes women highly attracted to Warrior Guys–even if Warrior Guy is sometimes a dick. I mean, in terms of evolution, Warrior Guy is the perfect mate waaaaaay back in the day, right? He won’t attack and abuse the children or you, but–and this is key–he will protect the family against ruthless, violent attacks. His lack of emotions in the moment of battle will give him an edge and he will be competent and unhesitating when it comes to killing. Of course you’d be wired to look for this guy and to be attracted to him and draw him in close.
Further whack theory: this is why we women have evolved to process relationships to a much greater degree than men. (There’s science to back this up.) We need to sort through all the good and the bad when it comes to guys–sifting fine nuances in behavior–because sometimes the bad can work in our favor. I mean, look, if the Huns are on our doorstep we can’t go fight them all if we’ve got three knee-biters to look after. Right?
Do you revel in a good villain? Let me know in the comments section below. Speaking of reveling:
We’re only two weeks away from our big event at RT. Join LadySmut bloggers at the RT Booklovers Convention May 3-7, especially at our super special reader event – Never Have You Ever, Ever, Ever. Win crowns, fetish toys, books and more! Goodybags to first 100 people in line! Wednesday, May 3 at 1:30.
Madeline Iva writes fantasy and paranormal romance. Her fantasy romance, WICKED APPRENTICE, featuring a magic geek heroine, is available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and through iTunes. Sign up for Madeline Iva news & give aways.