For some reason this seemed timely.
I've been reading a lot of hero/villain slash recently.
... partly because a truly unreasonable proportion of characters my age or older seem to be villains now. I'd say WTF but politically and demographically I can see why the more powerful opposing forces are frequently older. I'm just getting a bit weary of how outnumbered the good guy versions are, even though that's always the way on TV because you keep the heroes but need new villains with every story arc. There are always more villains.
But I always get hung up on that kind of pairing. It's nice when two heroes work everything out and head off to happily ever after, but all they generally need to work out is that they fancy each other, and maybe some self confidence issues. Two characters from across some great divide, two people whose basic approaches to life are somehow antithetical... work those two out and you've solved some corner of the grand scale puzzle. Thesis, antithesis, synthesis. Get two opponents into bed together and you have, in some small way, figured out how humanity can get along.
Possibly very briefly, but if the sex is just the first attraction and you have to really work on their happily ever after... well...
How do you work with someone you've been fighting? How do you get along with people who've been blocking your every plan? How can you find common ground with someone who simply doesn't believe humans work the way you think they do?
A story gets to decide how humans work. Do we need a Vandal Savage to make humanity great again? Is the only way to win to destroy all opposition and lead the chosen few up from the ashes? Can a hero learn from villains and yet still be a hero? All worked out in an hour or two, maybe a season or five, when it starts as words on a page.
But it's a bit higher stakes than that when you take it beyond the theoretical.
Buffy staked vampires and her enemies disappeared in a handful of dust. Yet there were always more enemies, because unrestrained hunger is kind of a perennial problem. So you end up wondering, what if you don't stake this one? What if you chain him up and feed him until he plays better with others? What does he really need out of life anyway? And it turns out he needs pretty much what anyone does, regular eats, work he can get his teeth into, and someone to care about. Love the enemy instead, and you end up with an ally powerful enough to save the world. Even after everything he's done. That just means he understands better those still in the darkness.
And what if it's always that way?
Make it a fight, and both sides get ground down by grief and losses, until whoever is left standing gets to be king of dust and ashes.
Keep reaching out though... yeah there'll be pain and grief and no small amount of backstabbing, but there's a chance instead to grow stronger together.
It might be very satisfying to punch your enemies until they stay down and then put them in little boxes underground, but there's always more where they came from, and all they need is one good day.
Better instead to go recruiting, even if at first it's a mixed alignment crew. The basic business of staying alive is what you're all here for. Even if they see you as a score, or a happy meal on legs, you've still got that much of a start.
And it's hard, reaching out even knowing you'll get slapped down. There's no single big boss fight to be won, that way. It's every day, and it's grinding, and there is no finish line.
But there can still be some visceral satisfactions. See also why I read slash.
And more drama should end in weddings.
So. There are villains. And as long as hate and greed and ignorance are around, there will always be villains. But. How to handle that has many possibilities.
And some of them are much more fun than others.