Welcome to Francis Academic Press

Frontiers in Art Research, 2023, 5(1); doi: 10.25236/FAR.2023.050106.

In what ways can we have positive responses to evil characters in film?


Xinxin Wei

Corresponding Author:
Xinxin Wei

School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures, The University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, EH8 9JU, United Kingdom


This essay aims at investigating how evil characters could win the favour of audiences. The previous studies have focused mostly on deconstructing the audiences’ favour towards rough hero and antihero in an effort to find a balance in their personalities. They believe that the reason why people admire villains is because they can see the traits outweigh the drawbacks and make villains the good people essentially. Based on the debate between Eaton and Carroll, unlike the rough heroes and antiheros who are essentially morally good figures, evil characters are morally and legally unforgivable. However, through this essay’s research on Monsieur Verdoux (Charles Chaplin, 1947), I believe films could make the evil characters more acceptable and even approvable through the cinematographic techniques and emotional manipulations. This essay is tries to parse out and analyse a flexible formula which could guide the audiences have the positive responses towards evil characters.


Evil character, positive response, rough hero, antihero, Chaplin

Cite This Paper

Xinxin Wei. In what ways can we have positive responses to evil characters in film?. Frontiers in Art Research (2023) Vol. 5, Issue 1: 26-31. https://doi.org/10.25236/FAR.2023.050106.


[1] Neiman, S. (2002). Evil in Modern Thought, An Alternative History of Philosophy, Oxford & Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

[2] Eaton, A.W.  (2012). Robust Immoralism. The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, 70(3), 281–292.

[3] Schellekens, E. (2008). Aesthetics and Morality. London& New York, NY: Continuum.

[4] Kjeldgaard-Christiansen, J., Fiskaali, A., Høgh-Olesen, H., Johnson, J. A., Smith, M., & Clasen, M. (2021). Do dark personalities prefer dark characters? A personality psychological approach to positive engagement with fictional villainy. Poetics, 85, 101511.

[5] Sinnerbrink, R. (2016). Cinematic Ethics: Exploring Ethical Experience Through Film. London& New York, NY: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group.

[6] Bazin, A. (1971). The Myth of Monsieur Verdoux. In H. Gray (Ed.) What Is Cinema? Volume II (H. Gray, Trans.). Berkley, Los Angeles, CA& London: University of California Press. 

[7] Woolley, E. (2015). The Battle for Moral Supremacy in There Will Be Blood and Unforgiven. Film-Philosophy, 19(1), 190–207.

[8] Carroll, N. (2013). Rough Heroes: A Response to A.W. Eaton. The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, 71(4), 371–376.

[9] Bláhová, J. (2009). No Place for Peace-Mongers: Charles Chaplin, Monsieur Verdoux (1947) and Czechoslovak Communist Propaganda. Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television, 29(3), 321–342.

[10] Deleuze, G. (2013). Cinema. I, The Movement-Image (H. Tomlinson& B. Habberjam, Trans.).  London& New York, NY: Bloomsbury.