Villainous Hero

With an increasingly polarized world comes the dangerous tendency to impulsively bucket people through the binary lens of the hero and villain archetype. Truly determining whether a person or their ideas actually promote the net good requires a nuanced study of perspectives and second order effects. However when we hastily attribute either a ‘good’ or ‘evil’ label, we use support of popular opinion as a mental shortcut for presuming good and consequently assume malintent from anyone with an opposing view. The rigidity of this system risks the silencing of essential contrarian thought — someone with a fresh take on solving complex issues might be demonized and disregarded for their heterodoxy. I’ve recently been thinking of a model to include those who promote the contrarian good in these scenarios — the villainous hero.

Traditionally, the hero is defined by his preservation of the status quo — he works to bring peace and promote the net good (return society “back to normal”) and is deemed a “hero” by public opinion. In contrast, the villain is defined by his rejection of the status quo — he is devoted to the pursuit of some maniacal society-altering plan whose intentions might not necessarily be for the net good. The villain represents deviation from the norm and so tends to be unpopular — he is therefore forced to forfeit social approval and be driven by ego or faith in vision. What I suggest is that there exists another dimension to this dichotomy that offers much-needed nuance. The villainous hero is he who is perceived by the public to be bad but whose intentions are inherently good at heart. He is fundamentally misunderstood by the masses and despite overwhelming disapproval he remains committed to the cause he firmly believes is good.

Megamind Director Tom McGrath Interview - DreamWorks Megamind 3D Movie

The true hero isn't the most heroic hero it's the villainous hero. Similarly, the true villain isn't the most villainous villain it's actually the heroic villain. If that didn’t make sense, bear with me. The true hero is concerned with real progress and real progress often involves doing things that don’t fit the bounds of the current status quo. The heroic hero whose identity is wrapped in being perceived as a hero is less likely to do anything that might diminish their reputation or risk them losing social approval. In contrast, the villainous hero is indifferent to the attitudes of the public and isn’t afraid to be perceived as a villain to pursue what is ultimately the net good. For instance, a heroic hero in order to support an important cause (and protect their “hero” status) might publicly donate large sums to non-profit orgs with fancy marketing engaging in empty “awareness” gestures. A villainous hero might disregard any such attempt to signal virtue and instead work relentlessly against public vilification to address a root problem.

Taking the converse, true villains are always careful to never openly reveal their villainy. In order to shroud themselves from suspicion the heroic villain will pose as an upstanding, model citizen and concern themselves with social causes enough that the average person would scoff at the thought of their villainous intentions (“International Money Man of Mystery”, *cough* Bill Gates lol jk…or not?). The point of introducing this idea is not to say that everyone neatly falls into either bucket here, but to suggest that it might be worth to lend more due consideration to every “radical” entrepreneur with an unorthodox plan and cultivate a healthy skepticism towards every media darling promising to be the answer to all our woes.


What I’ve been consuming recently

In With The Out Crowd

Come For The Network, Pay For The Tool

Idea Laundering in Academia

Alinea Cookbook

Making of Limited Edition Air Dior


Personal update

been busy working heads down this month

also been learning to skateboard - i got a decent ollie going which is cool

in case anyones wondering i look alot like this guy now lol

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