When Is It Okay to Root for the Villain?

Unless you never ever ever go on the Internet or have never heard of Tumblr or Twitter, you are probably aware that NBC's Hannibal has a rabid, devoted fandom, and rightly so. In terms of a series that is worth being added to the Lecter Canon, few could ask for more than the riveting duo of Mads Mikkelsen and Hugh Dancy ("Empath and Cannibal, we fight crime!" as I will always forever see them).

Since it's been revealed that Season 2 will be a "Silence of the Lambs" inversion, Season 3 a "Hannibal" inversion, Season 4 "Red Dragon," Season 5 actual "Silence of the Lambs" proper, Season 6 "Hannibal" proper, and then who-knows-what for Season 7, I've been full of thoughts and with no one to share.

Namely, my conundrum is this — how is it possible to root for Hannibal, when so many of us clearly, on some level, do?

Ask the question, "Are you rooting for Hannibal?" and few can say yes without eliciting major side-eye and anonymous intervention calls to therapists on their behalf. Hannibal is the villain. He is the villain of all villains. He is the most brilliant, cold-hearted, vile man ever to delight so much in his own villainy that the majority of us have ever seen on film.

So yes, SO MANY people are rooting for Will, and Jack Crawford, and Alana Bloom, but if you know anything about the source material, you know that this does not bode well. At all. And for all the mindfuckery that was Hannibal the book, (which, if you don't know, SPOILERS, AVERT YOUR EYES), the thing that makes it all so haunting is that Hannibal wins. The end of Hannibal was one of the most terrifying finales I've ever read, because of what he does to one of the strongest, most badass women in fiction. Hannibal wins. He always wins. That's what makes him so frightening.

And yet, is that why we are fascinated with him? (I hesitate to say that we love him, although many Fannibals clearly do, or else it's just Mads that they love; but I think Hannibal has his own happy fandom, period.)

Many of us love the villain. On a much more lighthearted level, Tom Hiddleston is making a career out of that fact. But "Hannibal"... "Hannibal" makes me wonder many things about myself, when I know what I know about this series, and I know where this is going, and how gorily it's going to get there, and the 65 levels of horrible it stops at along the way, and I'm still enjoying all of this, WHY. Maybe that's always been the point.

Maybe it's just the unsolvable puzzle, the impossibility of understanding the monster. Tied in, of course, with our secret satisfaction in seeing any character reveling so gleefully in his own murderous puns.

When Is It Okay to Root for the Villain?