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Anti-Villain
Vladimir was one of those old-time bad guys with honor and morals, which made him almost one of the good guys. None of us was a Saint.

The Anti-Villain is the opposite of an Anti-Hero - a villain with heroic goals, personality traits, and/or virtues. Their desired ends are mostly good, but their means of getting there are evil. Alternatively, their desired ends are evil, but they are far more ethical or moral than most villains and they thus use fairly benign means to achieve it, and can be rather heroic on occasion.

They often reach a kind of critical mass that makes them more good than normal villains but not quite heroes, blurring the line between hero and villain the same way an Anti-Hero does, but by coming from the opposite direction. Also, they seldom perform a full Heel-Face Turn, or if they do, they continue to struggle with their villainous impulses.

Anti-Villain is an attempt to humanize, to lighten up, a villain as opposed to an Anti-Hero, which has a tendency to darken the hero. Side by side, it can become very hard to tell them apart. The only reason some would even be considered evil at all is because they're the Designated Villain. Despite this humanizing characterization, they are rarely less dangerous; heroes won't know what to expect when their enemy shows caring and then attacks their reputation, without giving them an excuse to rationalize killing them.

Most of them are probably well aware that what they're doing is "evil", unlike the blinded Knight Templar, but strive to maintain a facade of good PR. They'll see it as a viable means to a (possibly) good end.

It's also possible to have a normal villain and turn them into an Anti-Villain over time by detailing their Start of Darkness, giving them a Cynicism Catalyst, a Morality Pet, kind episodes, or otherwise retconning them into submission. A Freudian Excuse may explain their actions, but almost never changes them into an Anti-Villain if there is nothing good about their present motivations.

Click here for the Sliding Scale of Anti-Villains.

Villain types particularly prone to Anti-Villain-dom (though each has its share of flat-out villains, too) include:

See also Villain Protagonist, Hero Antagonist, and Minion with an F in Evil, as well as No Place for Me There. Another way for the Anti-Villain to transcend conventional morality is to completely, utterly set aside limitations and achieve a moral fluidity that prevents himself from crossing the Moral Event Horizon, becoming The Unfettered. For a broad covering of what Anti-Villains can be, see the Sliding Scale of Anti-Villains. Compare Sympathy for the Devil and Satan Is Good. See also Evil Virtues.

Compare and contrast Nominal Hero, a character who is often essentially a villain working for the heroes because Even Evil Has Standards. Do not confuse Anti-Villains with members of the Anti-Villain League.


Examples:


Anti-HeroLit. Class TropesArchetypal Character
The Anti-NihilistIdealism TropesAs Long As There Is One Man
Anti-Role ModelVillainsArc Villain
Ensemble DarkhorseSliding Scale of Character AppreciationIneffectual Sympathetic Villain
Smug SuperSliding Scale of Antagonist VilenessFriendly Enemy
Anti-HeroIndex with a Heart of GoldThe Atoner
Nice HatOverdosed TropesKnight Templar

alternative title(s): Darrell Always Ends Up Ruling You From A Bloody Throne Of Skulls
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