A form of Misaimed Fandom, when a fandom takes a controversial or downright villainous character and downplays his/her flaws, often turning him/her into an object of desire and/or a victim in the process. This can cause conflicts if the writers are not willing to retool the character to fit this demand.
In fanfiction, they are frequently the love object of the local Mary Sue, who uses the power of love to redeem the character. "I can fix him" is a commonly expressed sentiment among fans of Dracos in Leather Pants. In extreme cases, the affection these characters receive from fans can lead them to forget that they're actually still supposed to be villains. Or, on the flip side, even the worst crossings of the Moral Event Horizon can be rationalized, while any insult from the hero towards the villain is cast as deplorably mean. The writer's attempt to make the villain more "sympathetic" will likely cause them to remove everything that made the character so cool/well liked in the first place.
Common reasons for this include the character being wicked in a classy or cool way. A physically attractive villain is much more likely to be subject to this trope than a physically ugly one; Beauty Equals Goodness, after all, and shallow as it may be, it seems that, for some fans, this is the case even when the character's beauty only extends to their appearance. All Girls Want Bad Boys may be a factor with male villains getting a female fandom that views them through this lens. A badass villain will naturally be preferred by many of these over meeker heroic characters at times, as well.
Some villain archetypes, such as the Smug Snake (because of their off-puttingly arrogant personality), female villains (because it's mostly Fangirls who invoke this trope), and the Complete Monster (because of the severity of their evil deeds and absence of redeemability) are rarely susceptible to this, but it can still happen.
Jerkass Dissonance usually plays a part in this trope; it is much easier for people to forgive and overlook the negative qualities and stress the Freudian Excuses that form a sympathetic back-story for fictional characters than it is to do the same for people in real life, because the actions of the fictional character have no real-world effect.
Expect also for fans to make excuses for the character not getting any comeuppance for their sins, and, for bonus points, gloat if one of their hated and/or villainized characters gets the short stick instead, especially if the latter is the victim of the former. Double with Ensemble Dark Horse if it was a minor vilain who gets this treatment. If the character is a leader of any sort, expect their fans to declare that The Extremist Was Right.
As always, though, Tropes Are Tools. Sometimes fans who see the character as unfairly villainized due to Values Dissonance (such as the Scary Black Man or Depraved Homosexual) turn them good as a sort of reclamation of power. Sometimes the fanon has proper justification from an in-story context, such as a what-if or a heavy AU. Sometimes the villain is more likable than the heroes, and even if they aren't good people per se, they're easy to root for. And sometimes, the character is simply much more interesting or offers more storytelling potential when interpreted as sympathetic, while their flatly evil original counterpart was just bland. The classic example is Shylock in The Merchant of Venice, where a sympathetic Anti-Villain coping with prejudice and demanding what he is rightfully owed in a society determined to wrong him is seen as a much weightier role than a stereotypical Greedy Jew being thwarted by straight-jawed good guys. In some cases, this can even become Ascended Fanon, with the creator taking notice of the character's popularity and redeeming them or developing them further. Nonetheless, of course, Sturgeon's Law applies frequently.
Named for a term in the Harry Potter fandom, for the most sympathetic Fan Fic portrayals of Draco Malfoy, who, in Canon, is a petty, smug, elitist Spoiled Brat. (The term originated in Hurt/Comfort Fics, where Draco was the comforter and Ron was the abuser, usually with Hermione being the victim. Not coincidentally, the Inverted Trope Ron the Death Eater also originated from such fics.)
- Affably Evil: Because despite their villainous intentions, they have a reasonably pleasant or nice personality.
- Aloof Big Brother: Although they may be cold towards their younger siblings, they may be justified in doing so.
- Anti-Villain: If the "anti" part is emphasized more than the "villain".
- Awesome Ego: May have a big ego and maybe narcissistic but have a cool personality at the same time.
- Bastard Boyfriend, Bastard Girlfriend, and Bespectacled Bastard Boyfriend by design, since these types are supposed to induce Perverse Sexual Lust.
- Beauty Is Bad: Might be a villain but they are just so darn attractive and appealing.
- Bishōnen villains: Male villains can be forgiven if they are pretty.
- Creepy Awesome characters (if evil)
- Cry for the Devil: If the fans feel so sorry for them that they forget that they're still supposed to be evil.
- Damn, It Feels Good to Be a Gangster!: Because being a crime boss is glamorous.
- Dark and Troubled Past: Because it totally justifies any of their villainous actions.
- Dark Messiah: If the fans agree with their messianic philosophies.
- Designated Villain: The audience is meant to see a certain character as scum, but due to either bad writing or the hero being worse it can be difficult to register.
- Even Evil Has Loved Ones: If they are nice to the people they love, fans forgive them for their evil acts towards everyone else.
- Everybody Loves Zeus: Because the Top God has to be a good guy, never mind anything else.
- Evil All Along/FaceHeel Turn: If the fans continue to insist that they are a good guy.
- Evil Is Cool: They may be wicked, but they pull it off so well.
- Evil Is Hammy: If the "hammy" part is viewed as "good acting" or Narm Charm.
- Evil Is Sexy: Fans are too busy fantasizing about them to hate them.
- Evil vs. Evil: If the opposition goes far enough into Eviler Than Thou, fans may forget that the first party is actually still evil too.
- Evil Virtues: Being a bad guy doesn't always mean that a character has no redeeming qualities, after all.
- Females Are More Innocent: If the fans agree that a woman, no matter what she does, can't be evil at heart.
- Freudian Excuse: When fans tend to ignore the fact that the excuse doesn't really justify the character's actions and shift the blame to another character for the individual's actions.
- Friendly Enemy: If he is evil.
- Harmless Villain: If they are harmless in an endearing way.
- Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain: Because they are just that bad at being bad.
- Jerkass Woobie, if the "Woobie" part is used to automatically excuse the 'Jerkass' part no matter how out of proportion (or unrelated) the one is to the other.
- Knight Templar, if the fans agree with them.
- Alternately, characters or factions dedicated to opposing or destroying the Draco are often seen by fans as this trope even if they've got plenty of good reasons for wanting to do so.
- Laughably Evil, if funny enough.
- Magnificent Bastard: Depending on whether you place too much emphasis on the Magnificent part over the Bastard.
- No, Mr. Bond, I Expect You to Dine: Because obviously inviting the hero to dinner, even if it's against their will, means you actually like and care about them.
- Offstage Villainy: The Show, Don't Tell rule of storytelling counts for a lot and spending more time talking about a villain's wicked deeds than showing them can mess with a reader's perceptions.
- Progressively Prettier: Fans love the Bishōnen Line.
- Punch-Clock Villain: The character is in many respects a normal person that just happens to be on the side of the villains. It can make a character come across as either more sympathetic or less so depending on the viewer's point of view (if it's the former, then you have this trope).
- Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: When this trope crops up in a work, the invoker of Even Evil Has Standards will often get this treatment. Or, disturbingly, a handful of fans may feel that "rape is love."
- Rooting for the Empire: If fans know they're evil but want them to win anyway.
- Self-Fanservice often accompanies this trope.
- Sissy Villain: Villains of this stripe can be attractive to some people.
- Too Funny to Be Evil: They make you laugh, make you cry and...What? They've actually made people die?
- Troubled, but Cute or Broken Bird if they are evil.
- Ugly Cute if evil.
- Unintentionally Sympathetic: For the instances of this trope that have a bit more justification.
- Used to Be a Sweet Kid: All things truly wicked start with an innocence, after all, and fans of a leather pantsed character can end up clinging to a character's sweet kid phase (whether it's canon or merely something possible but at no point confirmed) because of the inherent tragedy of it all.
- Villain Has a Point: The evil character is right about one thing, leading to cries of "___ did nothing wrong!"
- Villainous Valor: If fans start Rooting for the Empire.
- Villain with Good Publicity: If the fans agree that the villain deserves their good public image.
- Well-Intentioned Extremist: If the fans agree with their extremist views; this generally means that they will categorize the character under The Extremist Was Right as well.
- White Hair, Black Heart: Not all white-haired characters are evil, of course, but many evil characters that are targets of this trope have white hair and are often seen as attractive (for instance, Trope Codifier Sepiroth).
- Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Like Jerkass Woobie, when the "Woobie" is used to ignore the "Destroyer of Worlds" part.
- If the audience seems to have a fairly good reason for preferring the bad guy over the good guy, you may have Unintentionally Sympathetic (and/or Unintentionally Unsympathetic in the possible case of the hero they're against).
- When the audience embraces or admires a villain more because of his or her chutzpah, badassery, and/or Break the Haughty potential than out of actual admiration, and are still perfectly fine with them receiving their ultimate defeat in the end, then it's Love to Hate.
- Rooting for the Empire is doing this while acknowledging that the villains are evil.
- Jerk Sue is when a character is perfect and can do no wrong from the story's perspective, but is actually a horrible person when viewed more objectively.
- An Unpopular Popular Character is a character who everybody among the main cast thinks is a complete jerk, complete loser, or both, but fans can't get enough of; applies to any type of character, not necessarily a villain. (Unlike a Draco in Leather Pants, this is often the writer's intent.)
- For the fan villainization of one or more of the original protagonists, see Ron the Death Eater.
- When a character in an adaptation of another work is given a heroic upgrade, it's Adaptational Heroism.
- When done to a historical character, it's Historical Hero Upgrade.
- Loveable Rogue and Byronic Hero, characters you're supposed to admire even if they do nothing remotely admirable, maybe the inverse of this trope. Magnificent Bastard often applies to both tropes, but this is a lot less certain for Draco in Leather Pants - they may be a character only a mother can love.
- When this trope happens in the series itself, you're probably dealing with a Monster Fangirl.
- Anime and Manga
- Comic Books
- Film Animated
- Film Live-Action
- Live-Action TV
- Professional Wrestling
- Video Games
- Visual Novels
- Web Original
- Western Animation
- Other Media