“Childhood is when you idolize Captain Righteous. Adulthood is when you realize Dr. Orphan-Bomber makes more sense.”

– the most insufferable internet memes

In general, I actually appreciate the trend in stories of the past decade or so where there’s more of an effort made to give villains sympathetic goals and actual ideologies behind their actions. What annoys me, however, is when stories just have the villain give lip service to some legitimate societal grievance like climate change or extreme inequality to create a patina of complexity in their motives right before their actions revert back to the shallow villainous schemes of yesteryear.

Conveniently, our punchy hero can both express sympathy for the cause (“You’re right, our society isn’t properly addressing climate change!”) while still treating the well-intentioned extremist as the greater evil that must be stopped (“But raising an army of man-eating trees to murder all the humans is not the answer!”). Then, by the end of the story, we can return to the status quo of reality where these legitimate issues haven’t actually been addressed (or somehow got resolved through the very act of stopping the villain) and there’s not really any time left before the adrenaline of the climax runs out and you’re left thinking “wait, but how does the actual problem get solved then?”

– James