Bad boys, bad boys, whatcha gonna do…

 Another confession. I’m crushing on men who don’t exist. No, I’m not delusional. I have fictional crushes. It’s a thing. Google it. I watched Father Brown, the BBC series streaming on Netflix, last night while doing my taxes. (Filed ’em at 11:55 pm–all hail the Queen of the Last Minute.) By the time I hit send in the e-file program, I realized (read: admitted) I had a crush on Inspector Sullivan and Hercule Flambeau. An odd dichotomy to crush on–a by-the-book law enforcement officer and a ruthless master thief. But they have something in common. They’re both Father Brown’s antagonists. Inspector Sullivan reminds me of Inspector Javert. Not actually a villain, but a man so dedicated to law and order he’s sometimes blinded to the greater cause of justice. Flambeau, on the other hand, is an antagonist along the lines of Professor Moriarty. A criminal mastermind, he’s Father Brown’s true nemesis. What, aside from the skill of the casting director in choosing talented, attractive actors, makes antagonists on-screen (and in-print) crush-worthy? Or at least appealing? Unforgettable? What draws us to the Dexter’s, Jokers, Moriartys, Voldemorts, and, yes, even Lucifers of the fiction world? I doubt there’s a single answer. Each reader and viewer has their own thoughts about what makes a good bad guy. Someone told me they preferred villains who behaved badly because some past experience damaged them. No bad-just-because allowed. I like antagonists who either aren’t villains–the single-minded or overzealous or rigid cop who opposes the unorthodox sleuth but ultimately wants the same thing, to see justice prevail and order restored–or the bad guy who offers some hope, however tiny, of redemption, the villain whose dormant (but not absent) conscience flares up occasionally and spurs them to do the right thing. Some like antagonists who are so well-crafted and fully developed they generate a visceral reaction, even if the reaction is to the completeness of their evil. What do you think makes a bad guy oh-so-good? Do you go for the villain who feels remorse? The one you hope to  (vicariously) save? Or the one you love to hate?

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