Who is the Most Sympathetic Villain Ever?

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A few days ago, Monsoon and I were discussing the ending of Psycho II. I held the opinion that the film was great up until the ending while Monsoon argued that the ending was great. *SPOILERS* I said that I was routing for Norman to not end up psycho again. This led to Monsoon wondering if Norman Bates was the most sympathetic villain.

However, for the sake of discussion, let’s broaden the question and ask: who is the most sympathetic villain ever to grace the screen?

I’m going to stick with Norman Bates. If we look at Anthony Perkins’ performance in Psycho and Psycho II, we can piece together a troubled childhood and some obvious emotional abuse that Norman must have received from his mother. He is constantly trying to make her happy, and keep her under control, but eventually she comes to the surface and explodes into a jealous rage over any girl that even slightly attracts Norman.

Bates Motel fleshes out Norman’s childhood in greater detail. Freddie Highmore gives an amazing performance as Norman Bates opposite Vera Farmiga’s Norma Bates. In the show, we see first hand how manipulative Norma is in getting Norman to do exactly what she wants. She’s worse than a helicopter mom. She is constantly hiding his illness from everyone because she doesn’t want to lose him. Norma thinks only of herself and uses Norman as a tool to make sure she gets what she wants depriving Norman of a normal childhood.

It is hard not to sympathize with Norman Bates after watching Bates Motel and Psycho II. It is clear that Norman desperately wants to get better, but that his mother(s) keep getting in his way of accomplishing that. It sounds similar to the Greek myth of Sisyphus who was condemned to an eternity of rolling a boulder uphill only to watch it roll back down again. Norman Bates is constantly trying to fix his problems and lead a normal life, only to watch his mother enter his life again and break him back down to where he began.

So what about you, folks? Which film or television villain do you think is the most sympathetic?

I’ll see you in the trenches.

Author: Marmaduke Karlston

"Wait a minute. Wait a minute Doc, uh, are you telling me you built a time machine... out of a DeLorean?"