Instigator / Con

Villains are more important to most stories compared to heroes


The debate is finished. The distribution of the voting points and the winner are presented below.

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Contender / Pro

one billion years ago, in edeb8 when I was still 9spaceking, I had an unfinished debate with rational madman. [] If anyone is willing to take up the challenge once again, I will oblige.

villain, also antagonist: a character in a play, novel, or the like, who constitutes an important evil agency in the plot.

hero, also protagonist: a person noted for courageous acts or nobility of character, and is the principal character of the plot.

important: of much or great significance or consequence

Round 1
Villains are at most, just as important as heroes to a story. In general, protagonist presents the goal to be achieved, a more righteous person we can sympathize with. The antagonist presents problems to symbol the obstacles in our lives. But I, 9spaceking, have previously noted that many stories don't even feature a clear "villain", and more of a mere obstacle, such as man vs nature, or man vs oneself. It is difficult to say for sure if "cancer" disease can be considered a proper "villain" in those tragic love stories. The only consistent thing is a protagonist. Over the years, they have gotten more complex, and anti-heroes have formed, with complex flawed personality to help stress their weaknesses and their humanity. This arguably lessens the convincing nature of an antagonistic character, as the original character already needs to overcome their personal problems. As such, I conclude that most stories villains are no more important than the protagonist.
I'd like to note something interesting that my opponent has done in this debate; conflated antagonists with villains and vice versa with heroes~~protagonists. This sort of association is understandable as a norm but when we are saying 'most stories' it doesn't just mean that because in most stories the villains are among the antagonists and the heroes are among the protagonists, that 'most' can't include the minority while excluding based on something else. Furthermore, the 'reaching' involved with going to the lengths of describing stories where a disease for the main character is itself antagonistic is only proof that conflating antagonism with villainy is creating a strawman fallacy and/or red herring where Pro can come up with non-villainous, inanimate antagonistic elements in the story to then deny that they are villains when that wasn't the debate's title/resolution in the first place.

Villains are not simply antagonists but both are essential to storylines. In the genre of horror and horror-hybrid subgenres, for instance, the villains are often the protagonists while thriller-hybrid subgenres tend to mix it around quite a bit. Villains are the ones who bring misery and problems to a storyline that... Well, we assume a hero has to fix it, right?

This is where it gets really interesting and where I am going to go both into science and philosophy just a little bit to explain how my theory applies even to real life. Which came first, evil or good? This will offend many religious people but what I argue is that it is evil which is the active agent, 'good' is the passive one. To save my time and effort, I'll paste something here that quotes me both discussing evil vs good and darkness vs light:

The fundamental cause of good is that evil must be stopped. Think hard about this. In a situation where everyone is neutral, you can't be a good person because the others will repay you back anyway, negating how good you are. If everyone gives as good as they get and acts reasonable, noone and nothing needs to be good at all. What this then means is that the only genuinely active agents, morally, are the evil ones.

In a scenario where everyone is neutral and one evil person shows up, it then means that there is a victim or two and the others staying neutral hurts that person and causes that person to need to be evil in order to even things out again and have equal wealth and health to the others. Thus, the opportunity to be good to that victim and/or be evil to the evildoer only arises due to the initial active evil agent. You can only have good be viable due to the evil breaking away from the default of neutrality.

The lack of light can exist without any light at all. Nothingness, darkness, silence etc can exist entirely alone but everything, darkness, silence etc respectively can't exist without the former.

If you don't understand this, you don't understand how we draw the concept of there being light, sound or anything at all. The dark is the default, by default. Yes, it's a defaulted default. If you have a universe of all light, or constant orgasm, joy, excitement etc that becomes the mundane, ordinary default state (by default) that we seek to get 'better than' feel something 'different from' etc.

I am quoting myself so it's my own work/words.

Interestingly, I want to discuss the opposite: Imagine a story with a 'good guy/chick/genderfluid'. What exactly are you rooting for if there is nothing to be rooting against the success of? If there are no villains or forces of malignancy in a storyline, we begin to root for the villain by default and this concept of 'no good guy' has been explored in things like Breaking Bad and other series. Do you see what I just said? I said if there are no villains in the storyline, everyone is one to each other because agendas collide no matter what and after all, it's drama and entertainment otherwise why else are you reading/viewing/listening-to it?

Without the villains, the forces and agendas which clearly will succeed in absence of the heroes and/or antiheroes and which we resent succeeding in absence of them, the story never ends up capable of being all-good-guys, instead it instantly reverts to all-bad-guys of different flavours and this is because villainy is the default, not heroism.
Round 2
while no-villain stories can certainly seem on the surface to be pointless, the comedy and the bright side of life is often shown with these types of stories. For example, My Neighbor Totoro has no villain. Forrest Gump has no true villain (the war is hardly one, as the protagonist easily got out of it). The Sound of Music was filled with songs and happiness until the very end. This has become a growing counter-trend to the "no good guys" as well. You could argue that even Breaking Bad's main character was only forced and was more of "anti hero", because he partially did it due to his cancerous condition. The lack of bad guys allow you to focus on the peace and the funniness of this fictional universe without worrying about real life problems.

Countless critically acclaimed books are also about mundane lives set by people similar to us, without any true "villain". In a way, this is more realistic, as there is rarely one person or source of problem that is in your way. By providing with the bare minimum to satisfy life, it can be said that the hero is more important in stories than the villain. Remember, even in real life, we have countless "heroes" in newspapers' stories. Doctors who cure your disease. Disaster relief saviors, firefighters, I could go on. Villains require an actual presence and a person to be the villain. The villain/antagonist has never be claimed to be cancer, a fire, an earthquake, no. It has been death itself (Final Destination), but even that was a symbolic representation rather than truly a personality and traits that attribute to a "villain".

Our real life villains have only reaffirmed our heroes' incredible ideas. Hitler's infamous campaign on racism spread negativity and waged war. But this is no more important than Winston Churchill or our president at the time, the "heroes" that stood up in contrast. Even if Hitler was not there, other natural financial and political problems would still make their lives worth listening to (especially FDR's battle against Great Depression). 

Conclusion: "No villain" corresponds to our real life for the most part, and viewing criminals as "villains" is a bit too straightforward, as people have complex emotions and motivations. As such, portraying anti-heroes as protagonists defeats con's point, as Breaking Bad precisely displayed this, a "hero" who challenged conventional ideas and was still badass and admirable in his own way. "No hero" stories are becoming more and more rare, and less crucial than "no villain stories".
I see absolutely no evidence that 'no villains' relates to real life more than 'no heroes'. In real life, there are plenty of villains but I don't see the superheroes taking them down in some epic manner all that much.

Con is already conceding significant points of contention. First of all, Con tries to flip something back on me: 
while no-villain stories can certainly seem on the surface to be pointless, the comedy and the bright side of life is often shown with these types of stories.
Pro, R2

However, I said that villains being removed from stories are only possible when everyone is a villain of some kind because in this way you have structure the story such that you root for whoever you happen to least would like to see thriving as the story progresses. The point backfires entirely on Con, since I do not have a clue what kind of story he is referring to where the villains are removed and it is lighthearted, instead these stories are vague and mentally torturous as everyone is a villain of their own kind, or else the story would be so dull that it would be like literally writing about one's actual day in a non-fictional manner. In fact, even when writing about one's real life, you will often find that (auto)biographies are told with a lot of narrative to them and structured with many villains and/or antagonists along the way (yes, in this case the villains are the antagonists unless it's a biography of a serial killer or tyrant).

This leads me nicely on to bring up Hitler and other such figures in real life, since Con seems to be completely trying to move the goalposts of the debate to be about real life narratives rather than the majority of fictional ones (which is the stated scope of the debate). Hitler was a hero to many at the time, the way he pulled this facade off was by pointing his finger and saying 'look at those villains over there', this technique is not quintessential to him, Genghis Khan and plenty of others did it in ancient times of conquering.

A key part of Nazi ideology was to define the enemy and those who posed a threat to the so-called “Aryan” race. Nazi propaganda was essential in promoting the myth of the “national community” and identifying who should be excluded. Jews were considered the main enemy.

  • A number of groups were targeted as enemies or outsiders. They included Jews, Roma (Gypsies), homosexuals, and political dissidents. Also targeted were Germans viewed as genetically inferior and harmful to “national health,” such as people with mental illness and intellectual or physical disabilities.

  • The use of  propaganda and laws to define the enemy as a cohesive group was a key factor in achieving the goals of the Nazi regime.

  • These campaigns incited hatred or cultivated indifference to it. They were particularly effective in creating an atmosphere tolerant of violence against Jews.

The entire reason that a villain like Hitler was able to appear like a hero was because he abused the fact that villains are more important to narratives than heroes and his opponents struggled to point the finger back at him until it was too late.

I leave my opponent with a reminder that this is about which of the two is more important to storylines, not which of the two we root for or focus on more. You see, even though we focus more on the hero in a conscious manner, it is the subsconscious 'rooting against' the villain that is so essential to pull off successful narratives. Since Con wished to fuse real life with fiction, let's explore reality TV narratives a little bit:

For better or worse, the legends of this genre are the worst. The walls of the reality TV hall of fame are decked with the likes of Heidi and Spencer “Speidi” Pratt, Farrah Abraham, Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino, Omarosa Manigault Newman and Scott Disick. In the Atlanta series of Love & Hip Hop, Joseline Hernandez proved that you can get away with a hell of a lot if you are funny. Many forget that Tiffany “New York” Pollard, now reality TV royalty, started her career as the self-declared “head bitch in charge” on Flavor of Love. Despite her bad behaviour, she was the only contestant to get a spin-off show.

Every reality TV show needs a villain. And these days, pretty much anyone can become one—thanks to the power of editing! It’s hard to believe that anyone goes on national television with the intention of becoming the ‘most hated person’ in the country for a month or two, in exchange for 15 minutes of fame.
No, these people are going on reality shows for either money or love. If you make it past the arduous audition process, firstly: congratulations. But once you’ve signed on a show, you’ve put yourself—and the way Australia views you—in the hands of producers who want to create the most entertaining (and high-rating) show they can.
Round 3
pro merely thinks that acting in a stereotypical manner can gain the trust, but he contradicts his case by noting that even the villains tries to be heroes. A blog notes what reality TV/business villains are:

What are Villain traits and how are they characterized in business?
  • Narcissism, arrogance and hubris.
  • Dishonesty and untrustworthiness.
  • Selfishness.
  • Aggression.
  • Sleazy, pushy & salesy persona.
  • Win/Lose mentality.
  • Lies, rumours and deceitfulness.
  • Talk at you.
  • Don’t listen.
  • Unethical.
  • Lack empathy.
The list goes on. It reminds me of an old saying. Get me once – fool you. Get me twice – fool me.
They may have sporadic results in business having duped people on a transaction. But they won’t enjoy sustainable success over the journey as they run out of people to burn.
Now let’s look at how the Reality TV Villain archetype could be repurposed to win in business.
  • Villains are big on strategy so utilize strategic edge.
  • Being highly intelligent, combine intellect with a killer strategy.
  • Use polished meeting skills.
  • Self-belief (real or manufactured) is huge.
  • Pivot charm and charisma to build relationships through trust not enmity.
  • Unleash work ethic and drive to outlast competition.
  • Street savviness is advantageous.
  • Utilise strong negotiation skills as a key weapon.
In fact, it is better to portray yourself as more heroic so that the audience will sympathize and understand your cause. That is precisely how Hitler managed to garner all the attention. If he portrayed himself as a villain, appealing to everyone's greed, and ruthlessness against the Jews, he would have lost a lot of allies (especially the Jews who believed in his actual ideas). As the villains, only the minority of people, also villains, would join you. But as a hero, you get everyone's help and everyone's attention. The very fact that they want you to win goes to show that heroes are more important in stories than villain. Pro argues that no-villain stories are boring, but the comedy, the fun nature of people themselves, the whimsical nature of Totoro or Forrest Gump both allow them to become masterpieces. The villain was not necessary because other problems were put into place, and the audience had to wander through a mysterious new world to discover what was happening. The best "villains" are arguably just anti-heroes, misguided, as Pro notes in Breaking Bad or other complex series.
It would have been absolutely impossible for Hitler to portray himself as a hero if he didn't have an intended target group and/or individual to paint as the villain.

The reverse is entirely untrue and this is not a debate about which it is better to appear as, it's a debate about which is more important to a storyline of the majority of fictoinal tales.

I am extremely confused what Con is trying to achieve here and want to here and now reiterate that I don't believe there are stories that lack villains which are lighthearted or remotely fun to read, I am encouraging Con to bring up a single one.
Round 4
I’m running out of time, so. Conclusions: Good stories without villain: Totoro, Forrest Gump. Good villains are heroes in their own way. Even though good complex heroes have villainous traits, their stand and victories (as most times protagonist wins) allows our sympathy and understanding of them. Without Hitler the “hero”, his movement would still be impossible. At best villains are equally important as heroes.
This debate has taken many twists and turns pretty much entirely down to Con trying to move the goalposts repeatedly.

This is a debate about whether in the majority of stories (context implies we are discussing fictional works), villains or heroes have more sway and are more essential to pull it off.

I gave several contentions that went entirely unaddressed, not even slightly hinted at in Con's rebuttals. These are predomninantly found in my first 2 Rounds of debate. Con opts to change the debate throughout, first to whether villains or heroes are better to root for in real life situations and later to which is better to appear as. Then in the final Round, Con moves it to 'they are equally important because while everything Pro says is true, Hitler had to be the hero in the eyes of his supporters to pull what he did off'.

Primarily, this is irrelevant as by fixating on Nazis and the rise of Hitler, Con has completely failed to prove that the majority of stories need a villain more, since Hitler's rise could be in the minority as an extreme outlier. Secondarily, this entire debate has had its scope and goalposts of each contention been pulled left and right by Con to avoid admitting how much I am correct on. 

In Round 1, I explain how naturally villains and evil are the default active agents in any storyline and that heroes are the characters designed to respond to them and of course to typically stop them, though in thrillers and horror stories the heroes can often fail. This goes entirely unaddressed by Con throughout, instead he tries to change the scope of the debate in the ways aforementioned in this Round by me. I even use reality TV and professional analysis of how villains are necessary even when storylines are applied to less fictional scenarios that mix in reality with them, to which Con tries to change the debate to which is better to appear as and suddenly fixates the entire debate on Nazis and Hitler as some kind of tangent that he intended to successfully win the debate on as a lone contention. 

I address this throughout and don't know what more to say.

Thanks for reading.