How Villains are Created: a Look at the Batman Shooting

Brandon Ferdig seeks to understand how villains become that way, so we can all help move towards positive solutions.

I just got home from the movie theater. My mind is still swirling with the carnage and drama and idealism of Batman. Good movies truly do inspire me to be a greater, better person.

This movie, though, featured a doozy of a villain. And of course, this movie was also the backdrop for the tragedy in Aurora, Colorado. We see a variety of villains portrayed in film, but what makes a real-life one?

I think a life of crime or even a single, devious act committed by a man (save for the delusional episode or rare psychopath) is often a decision made by a person whose emotional condition is one of heightened anxiety and fear—too afraid and nervous to get what he really wants to out of life.

As a boy, the safe-cracker had dreams of being a physicist; the drug-dealer wanted to be a teacher; the addict wanted to be a physician. But after a life attempting to do what he thought he should—the degree, the job, the wife, etc.—and/or trying to do what he deeply desired, his fear got the better of him. Fear of raising his hand in class, of getting along with his co-workers, of trying to joke around with his boss, of being confident enough to talk to that girl.

Then when he did mutter a few words to her, she soundly rejected him; he put on a show of confidence during that job interview only to have his fear bleed through and pierce his body whenever his boss got after him; the fear begat scenarios that perpetuated more fear.


Repeated rejections put walls in front of his perceived possibilities and his tunnel vision sent him underground. He went to where he can hide and not be exposed from the final exams, and, and the corporate ladder. Off the radar and under the table, he sells drugs, he steals, he hustles. Or worse, his tunneled perception defines the world as a place of difficulty, dead ends, and all the assholes that cause it. Bitter, his sense of satisfaction, then, comes from harming others.  We now have ourselves a villain.

I know this is but one avenue of how an otherwise good man does bad. But I think it’s pretty common—if just because this is the story of a friend of mine who was recently caught with six pounds of pot in his car.

If this is the script, what can we draw from it?

In short, the world isn’t perfect. Emotional issues live on in many people and we live in a world yet short of the optimal conditions to prevent lives of crime and acts of terror.

In the wake of Aurora we seek a quick fix. Policy advocates tout less/more guns. Others get their fix with the blame game—the parents, the NRA. Finally other onlookers will focus on vengeance and wish and hope for this young man to pay.

But as much as Americans are uneasy about the following idea: that we have no immediate control over the bad choices of others; that’s a reality that needs to sink in. Because though policy and finger-pointing can and do aide, they’re often no more than band-aids at best and distractions and prolongers and even instigators at worst.

If we want to see fewer men go bad, the answer lies in doing our part to inch the world along to becoming a better place. A better world will see fewer troubled men go bad and more of them overcome to become good, because with resources and support they won’t fall for the mistaken idea that my friend did: that the world is a place out to get them. They’ll see that there are others like them to look up to and that it’s okay to seek help.

So tutor those kids, help out at the youth center, or become a Big Brother. It’s the largely unseen good acts of many that I believe do far more than anything else to prevent the next life of crime, the next crime of passion.

About Brandon Ferdig

Brandon Ferdig is writer from Minneapolis, MN. He shares his personal growth pieces, human interest stories, and commentary at his blog. He is currently writing a book titled New Plateaus in China, a compilation of travelogue, personal experience, human interest, and social observations from China. You can follow Brandon on Twitter @brandonferdig.


  1. poester99 says:

    Well written, you drill right to the root cause. Neither the leftist feminists (bigoted/sexist ones) or traditional hang em high conservatives will get it. The only thing I’m confused about is with the high levels of suffering magnified by cultural vindictiveness out there is why more young men don’t act out in the way. Knowing the truth of WHY can be used to reduce the chances of it happening again.

    Although also part of me thinks that societal vengeance should have a part here in order to make those with a sliver of reason or self-preservation think twice or three times before randomly killing innocents. The punishment should be based on guilt without a shadow of a doubt and should be brutal ancient world style.

  2. Nick Florest says:

    Excellent piece. We often blame the victim and the ‘on paper’ circumstances (laws, funding, public schools, video games, television, movies, etc.) but we never look at criminals as people in need of healing. While the intensity of therapy is dictated by the severity of the crime, we would do a lot better in times like these to focus more on building and building onto resources for the next contestant on “America’s Next Top Criminal”.

    Thank you for reminding us of the humanity that often gets left out of conversations about crime and criminal behavior.

  3. The real mentors of the world are the gang leaders who can teach men how to be effective gang leaders themselves.

    It’s an illusion to think the world is anything else but a bunch of dead ends.

    This is a world of exploit or be exploited.

    There is no sugar coating it.

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