Every villain is a hero in his or her own mind. Every mean, vile or malicious act has a justification to it in their thought process that gives them a scapegoat allowing them to figuratively get away with murder. Bullies don't see themselves in that light. They think they are doing others a favor. It's easy for them to let themselves off the hook when they don't need or have accountability. Yet at the same time, they all continually have redeemable qualities. Villains like Jafar from Once Upon A Time In Wonderland, Sue Sylvester from Glee, Pennsatucky from Orange Is The New Black, and Regina from Once Upon A Time have their motives, but are their actions justified in thinking they are the real heroes?
Jafar (Naveen Andrews) certainly has come to show Alice (Sophie Lowe), her love Cyrus (Peter Gadiot), and viewers of the Once Upon A Time In Wonderland that he has a cruelty that literally knows no boundaries. He kidnapped Cyrus and his own father locked them both away in a cloaked mountain. He has blackmailed the White Rabbit (John Lithgow) and turned The Knave (Michael Socha) to stone. Jafar does all of this because he sees himself as his own hero seeking revenge for the way he was treated in the past by his father. As a young boy on his mother's deathbed he learns the Sultan is really his father. He seeks love, attention and a life with the Sultan only for him to be made a house servant and not treated like a son, cast aside for the Sultan's other son who is the heir. In Jafar's eyes he is trying to one day be the son that the Sultan loves and accepts. Redemption has fuelled him and to an outsider in their eyes he is a villain. As a product of his upbringing he sees himself as a hero.
Sue Sylvester (Jane Lynch) from Glee has been a thorn in the side of the Glee Club for five seasons now. Throughout the first few seasons she did everything in her power possible to crush them and thwart their ambitions. Sue, as coach of the Cheerios, has to fight with the Glee Club for the school's limited funding. Eventually viewers come to learn that Sue has a human side to her, instead of the constant barricade and fortress of solitude she showcases. Her walls come from the want to be loved and the ridicule her mentally handicapped sister Robin was put through during her days in school. Fans come to empathize with her and realize that Sue pushes people away for reasons we all can relate to and allows her to be humanized. Sue has become a contradiction and an enigma due to her defense mechanisms. She is evil, loving, cruel, closed off, caring, and hurt all in one oxymoron. But at the end of the day, she still has a heart.
Pennsatucky (Taryn Manning) from Orange Is The New Black is a product of where she comes from and her upbringing. She is a drug-addicted woman who believes that homosexuality is wrong and that white is right. So when she is challenged by both Alex (Laura Prepon) and Piper (Taylor Schilling) for trying to force her religious beliefs on others and keep those she deems unclean down, Pennsatucky becomes vengeful. The whole reason she is in Litchfield is because a woman at the abortion clinic Pennsatucky went to made a snarky comment about how many abortions she had and Pennsatucky shot the woman. But is she really a villain, or is she playing a part? Once the pro-life advocates found out about her they basically made her their spokesperson and paid for her defense. Is Pennsatucky smart and playing villainous as a role, or is she a true believer acting from a place she deems just. Are her acts of violence really in the name of Jesus, or just keeping up a facade?
Regina (Lana Parrilla) in Once Upon A Time is a heroine and villain all in one wicked combination. So much of what she does seems to come off as if she is being benevolent or acting as a team player, when really her underlying end game is self serving so she can keep her son Henry all to herself. She does whatever it takes to keep Henry from his birth mother, Emma (Jennifer Morrison), so Emma cannot break Regina's curse. Regina's counterpart, Queen Regina, blames Snow White (Ginnifer Goodwin) for a tragic event that happened years ago and is constantly seeking vengeance. She has made it her life's mission to destroy Snow's, and everyone else's, fairytale happy ending. Much of Regina's disdain comes from her own mother, Cora (Barbara Hershey), who put the cogs in motion making Regina the wicked woman she has turned out to be. Regina doesn't see herself as villainous, she sees herself as living the life that has been placed before her, a path she was never able to choose for herself. The perfect quote, which encompasses this hero vs. villain theme, comes from Regina herself. As a response to Mary Margaret she says, "Have you ever considered that, perhaps, maybe, I am good? I was always the Queen, it was you who added "Evil" to my name."
These three manipulative and convincing characters have sought motivation from feeling like a victim. Whether it is through religion, family, race, credo or background, all of these individuals sought redemption from feeling as if they were the heroes. What ties them all together is that their justifications come from a place of hurt and anger, but also feeling that way from being wronged themselves. They all also have redeemable qualities, which propel them in their quest for redemption. It's the ties that bind us that ultimately can prove to be our undoing, or our saving grace. It's all in the eye of the beholder and what path we choose to pursue from our circumstances. What doesn't kill us makes us stronger.