There’s something alluring about villains, and it’s probably because they do something that we never do: what they want. As brutal and horrible as the antagonist is, they are confident and seem to have control over their life. Indeed, many point out that killing is an act in which a person tries to have control over their own mortality. In a perverted way, carrying out horrors allows someone to seemingly undergo catharsis. The problem with villains, however, is that they aren’t doing what they want at all. They are so afraid of losing control that they abandon their morals. In the name of “I can do what I want!”, they are the child that eats too much ice cream it causes them to be sick; they are self-destructive in their desperate actions of self-preservation.
Everyone follows some set of rules or ideals. The idea of ‘non-conformists’ doesn’t make sense, because in order to be a non-conformist, you have to conform to the idea of non-conformism. Psychologists who study criminal behavior study it because even when humans think they’re acting with no pattern, they are. That’s why statistical analyses use computers and random number tables, because humans aren’t random. Villains may claim to be rebels, living outside of the rules, but they are only following their own set.
The real kicker of villains is that they are confident. In most stories, the hero goes through obstacles and grows to become the strongest of them all. They don’t start out the strongest, or else their character would fall flat. The antagonist, speaking very generally and with obvious exceptions, tends to stay static. Looking solely at villains and heroes in terms of confidence, the villain stays true to their code. That stability is what I believe makes people adore iconic characters such as Ursula and Jafar.
Yet! It would be silly to think we have to be evil in order to be confident people that stick to their code. Giving up your morals hurts. The feelings of guilt and regret rarely go away because it tells us where our limits are. Regret and guilt don’t feel good, but they help us become good. Don’t ignore the more quiet emotions, don’t become knotted up and weighed down by following your less than honorable intentions. Emotions that aren’t pleasurable are, by definition, uncomfortable and undesirable. However, they are important because make us who we are. You are always following a code, so listen to your conscience.