I just watched the penultimate episode of Glee season one, and there was that very odd moment when Sue and Will almost kiss. Almost.
It got me to thinking about how quickly we fall for a villain when given just the slightest reason to do so. It’s a classic plot device of soap operas, right? New kid on the block causes all sorts of trouble for everyone else…until we find out about the pain behind their every action; the secret honour; the passionate, unrequited love, etc.
Why are we so quick to fall? Is is because we long for them to be redeemed, so that given the smallest chance we back them 200%? Because we don’t believe anyone’s that one-dimensional, and it’s basic human nature to want an answer to the question How did they get so bad? Because it seems like an impossible journey from irredeemably bad to empathetically good, and we want to watch the impossible unfold?
According to my tutor – and I think she’s right – what makes a character interesting to read is their vulnerability.
Vulnerability = humanness = intrigue = empathy = unpredictability.
When Will seduces Sue we see her in a moment of confusion and vulnerability.
She’s scared and lonely, but most of all in that moment we see how fragile she is, and how easy it’s going to be for Will to hurt her.
And right then every single awful thing we’ve hated her for doesn’t matter. Right then we see her and we want Will to not break her, though he can. (Erm, that’s what I saw, at least!)
But even though that final almost kiss had enough intrigue that I wanted them to go through with it, there was still part of me that thought – eeeep! Don’t do it, Will, that’s Sue!!
So can any villain be made attractive with the easy trick of vulnerability, or are there some who are just too, too gruesome?