There is a difference between hating a villain and hating the concept and/or portrayal of a villain. Everyone loves a well thought out and well portrayed bad guy. It’s a good thing to love to hate a villain. The villain is the bad guy and we’re supposed to root of the hero… but that doesn’t mean you can’t love a good villain. Loki, Lex Luther, and Moriarty are bad guys that I love.
A good villain experience keeps you intrigued, has you invested in the story, and makes you genuinely root for the hero. Loki in the Marvel movies has been doing a fine job at that. He’s funny, charismatic, and has an emotional depth. He’s not only a great concept, but he’s portrayed very well. Sometimes, a concept is so poor that no matter how good the actor is, it can’t be liked, and sometimes a good concept can be ruined by its portrayal. The concept of Loki could easily be poorly or annoyingly portrayed, but Tom Hiddleston does it right in my opinion.
Even Joffrey Baratheon (portrayed by Jack Gleeson) is a well done villain, because I really really hate that character and I am definitely rooting for him to die. I can’t wait to see that character killed off and every scene with him makes me anticipate it even more. It’s a good thing because it means that I’m eagerly watching the show.
However, hating a character doesn’t always mean it’s a good kind of hate. In Sherlock (the British TV series), I hate their Moriarty for the wrong reasons. I had to figure out a way to describe the difference between hating the character and it being bad, vs the way I hate other characters in the good way. After some thought, I describe it as hating the concept or portrayal of the character. Moriarty, in the series, has an annoying infliction and I dislike his portrayal. I don’t know if that’s the fault of the actor, the director, or the writers… but the point is that I didn’t enjoy it. The portrayal of the character grated on my nerves because of how annoying he was. This is not a good thing, because I found myself not watching the scenes or episodes with him in it. Otherwise, I love the show.
The same can be said of other characters, especially the Hero. Hating a character is okay and beneficial to the show/movie, as long as it’s for the right reasons. So, the next time you hear the words “I hate that character”, consider the tone and context to which those words are spoken. The difference between hating a villain and hating the portrayal/concept is the difference between a bad/mediocre tv/movie experience, and a great one. It’s the difference between a lack of interest or an eager fanatic.