“I’m sorry that you had to make me the villain of your story, in order to stay in the light and keep the onlooker in the dark. I’m sorry, so very sorry… for you. I have no desire to clear my name in your book of fiction. Paint me however you need to paint me, so the guilt doesn’t feel so heavy. I am light as a feather.”

~ Stephanie Bennett-Henry.

Today’s post will be a little different as I explore a new concept in, effectively, a stream of thought. So strap in!

“This is my villain year.” I heard this statement circulating around a lot on social media as we entered 2022. 2020 was the time of slowing down. Many people were compelled into a slow lifestyle and enjoyed it so much, they maintained it. Afterward, in 2021, we saw more people romanticize their life. Cottage core, faery core, vintage styles, and the princess aesthetic flourished. Now, 2022 has taken a darker turn so it seems, as many have asserted this as their “villain year.”

But what does that even mean?

When you search “villain year,” you’ll find comic series come up, particularly those of DC comics. But I wasn’t looking for a comic on this point of intrigue. I wanted to know what exactly was meant by “year of the villain.”

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I heard many interpretations on social media. Some were deeming this their villain year just to don a darker aesthetic. Some to focus solely on self-care. Others to stop caring about what people thought or said about them and do things for themselves.

The reasons were personal and varied, but there appeared to be some similarity of going against the grind and expectations and leaving public opinion behind. So how would a “villain year” be characterized?

The turn of a decade shapes the following years and the years in singularity have their own character. The start of 2020, what was believed to be a second shot of the roaring 20s in this new millennia, shocked the world and literally brought it to a standstill. This is where I want to start with my examination of the year of the villain, a villain origin story if you will.

A villain usually has a turning point or breaking point that makes them change course and puts them on the villain’s path. Traditionally, the villain has a singular focus and warped perspective. They are unbothered and don’t fear being misunderstood. They do what they must and want.

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They are by no means a hero. Their goals are self-gratifying, and they always believe they will win. Their actions are not for social service, but for personal service. It’s the greater good of a people, entity, or institution achieved through unethical, dishonest, or immoral means. In short, the villain is twisted.

Considering this, this raises alarm at how many people agree, this is the “year of the villain.” Surely, no one is planning world domination because shipping was delayed, and they couldn’t go out. What is meant then?  

The climax for our 20’s villains, I believe, can unequivocally be the pandemic and its aftermath. The world hit pause and became introspective—but the majority didn’t learn. There was a desire to go back to “normal.” Few changed for the better. Many clung to old beliefs and habits. Progress got the short stick.

And this leaves us with villains discontent with the current state of the world and personal positions.

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These so-called “villains” are spurred by their inner thoughts or incited by societies’ regression, because things don’t just go back to normal. They can’t. Normal wasn’t great anyway. A quest then ensues to find a better way of living. One that negates the past and yearns for transformation. A change of position and circumstance. In this, there’s a sliver of hope.

There is a great cause in wanting to change one’s circumstance, improve one’s quality of life, or progress the world for the better. This is why, perhaps, the “year of the villain” follows the “year of romanticization.” They are the antithesis of each other. Making life beautiful around you versus breaking down the world around you. Rainbows against a storm.

Now, the lines blur between romanticization and villainy. Society has romanticized the villain so that the villain now is accepted to have two outcomes: failure or redemption. Other times, the villain is not even a villain at all.

I love a good twist on a villain story as the next. The villain is an intriguing character, especially when formed well. With an adjustment in perspective and redemption, is the villain still a villain? That is another conversation for another day, though.

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Taking a step away from literary, I believe the answer to “what is the year of the villain?” is as simple as the “year of doing for me.” Doing what I like without regard for others, contradictions, and misunderstanding. People will focus on what makes them happy without considering cost or expenses. The individual before the village. And we already see this today.

It’s a year of selfish indulgence in hope of improving one’s quality of life and happiness. The question is will it? Don’t get me wrong, doing something for yourself is not inherently wrong. It’s good to say, “no,” set boundaries, and take care of yourself. However, labeling this as villainy tacks negative connotations onto positive life elements and activities. If you’re doing this, I don’t think that’s villainous.

Nevertheless, doing things for yourself at the detriment of others is not healthy. The villain who is not redeemed devolves. Once grand plans and ideals, become self-destructive and perilous habits.

In every story, the villain always is met by a hero. So, for all those who declare this year, their villain year, who or what will be the hero that defeats, challenges, or redeems you?

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I understand the draw of calling 2022 the “year of the villain.” Younger generations (my millennial self included) want to change society, break the norm, innovate, save, and progress. Every new generation wants to do something different from the previous. And there are times for radical change. Certainly, now calls for it.

I’m sure the intent is to not literally be a villain, a person despised for evil and unethical and immoral actions; but, rather, just not the hero. The dark antagonist that is opposed to what is portrayed in the mainstream and accepted with reproach in modern society.

As I said previously, I love a good villain, but we can have “villain years” without being villains. We can still elevate ourselves, improve our conditions, and change environments around us without being the villain by moving ego aside and remembering that virtues and principles still overcome and have value. You can take back control, find new meaning, and rebel against society; let’s call it something else though.

This is my understanding and speculation as the 20s continue to unfold, and it may be nonsensical. I could ponder on this topic for a while. I wonder if any of these notions will be proved true at the end of the decade. We can only wait and see what the rest of the decade holds.

Let me know your thoughts on the “year of the villain” and if there are any particular points that you would like to see examined more!

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