I'd say that this is definitely not subjective, yeah.
This trope is (or should be) when the writers
are clearly trying to make a villain sympathetic in death. It's something that's present in the work. People might sometimes argue about it (by saying eg. the writer didn't manage to make them sympathetic, or disagreeing over what the writer was going for), but I think that's true of almost any trope, and more often than not it's going to be pretty clear — when you get a sudden explanation of the villain's Freudian Excuse
right before their death, or a shot of their wife or children, or a detailed flashback to their backstory, it's not really subjective to say that this trope is in play.
It might be worth splitting off an audience reaction version of this trope, but overall I think this trope (as a thing that happens) is more about when writers try
to evoke a specific reaction, rather than the reaction itself. A writer trying to evoke a reaction isn't subjective (no more than Scary Black Man
is rendered subjective just because some people might not find him scary or might argue over whether the writer really intended to make them scary.)
I don't think "viewers suddenly find a villain sympathetic because he died, without anything in the show trying to make you feel that way" (the subjective thing that could be spun off from this) is a very common thing at all, so I'm not sure it needs a trope.
(Whereas, say, Alas, Poor Scrappy
is subjective because it relates to an audience reaction that isn't part of the work itself.)
edited 5th Aug '12 2:06:57 AM by Aquillion