Possibly the weirdest fandom to come out of the past three to four years is the Succession fandom. It’s a great, phenomenal show, but it doesn’t necessarily have all the ingredients that make a fandom…or at least, not the ingredients that made past fandoms. None of the characters are good; they’re all Bad People, with those two words capitalized for emphasis. There are pairings with plenty of chemistry, homoerotic or otherwise—you can’t make a Tomlette without cracking some Greggs—but it’s a show about the inner workings of a twisted corporation, admittedly told extremely stylishly.
It’s also an HBO show, and in a way, it reminds me of Game of Thrones: powerful, corrupt family tries to keep their hold on considerable power and influence, minus the dragons? I’m thinking the audience is probably pretty different, but I think what draws people in is the innate drive to see conflict between Bad People who do grave misdeeds.
Still, there’s a certain group in Succession fandom, or every fandom, who has to remind us that we’re not supposed to root for these bad people. Again, and again, and again. Which brings me to the title of this column, in particular the words “We don’t care.” If I could take out billboards across the country, or just ads on Twitter, I would put that in all caps, in that weird flame font. You know the one. I historically like antagonists on TV shows; they’re often more interesting than the heroes to me. They cause problems, they trouble the system; they’re rarely on the side of things progressing in a story in a way that the audience would like to see. I love that; a good segment of most audiences kind of hate that. There is a reason these characters are considered “villains”.
I’m not alone, though: there have been articles on sites like Penguin Teen of all places that advocate for villain lovers. A duo of academics from Northwestern University even published research that people are drawn to villains and antagonists because it reflects their darker selves.
We know characters like the Succession protagonists are bad people; if you come from the perspective that humanity as a whole is problematic and typically ill intention-driven, you might even sympathize with this band of corporate, extremely privileged characters. Maybe it’s not that we don’t care—although, personally, I don’t—it’s that we recognize that being bad, whether at times or all the time, is an innate part of humanity.
At the same time, there’s also a point to be made that these are fictional characters, and the core tenet of fiction is that none of it is really real. You can try to make your movie or TV show or novel realistic, but it will never be a perfect simulacrum of what actually happens on a day to day basis in the world. People can enjoy villains, and not need a constant reminder that these are bad people, because they’re not really people, even if we see aspects of themselves in us.