It seems a constant among some of the highest rated television programs and highest grossing movies that characters that are adored don't necessarily take the moral high ground. There is a fascination with dark, damaged characters that is confusing and interesting. Something in the primal instinct of our deep dark ids makes us love the "bad guys". And the entertainment industry loves to manipulate our affection for our attractive, dark characters.
Perhaps one of the most infamously faulted protagonists in television history is the lovable vigilante serial killer Dexter Morgan. Dexter finished its run in 2013, amongst a lot of backlash about that ending.
American Horror Story is known for its twisted subject matter, but one twisted character stands out among the rest. Evan Peters' portrayal of Tate Langdon in the first season of the anthology series is beloved by fans of the show, despite a laundry list of transgressions such as mass-murder.
There have been hordes of fangirls as well as endless volumes of fan-fiction dedicated to Tom Hiddleston's role as Loki in the Marvel franchise. Something about the back-stabbing, double-crossing god of mischief is absolute gold for the movie-going public.
The Hannibal fandom may be underground at the moment, after the cancellation of the cult hit, but that can do nothing to decrease the fans' fervor. With its beautifully dark cinematography, and electric performances from Hugh Dancy and Mads Mikkelsen, this show proved that fans will love a character no matter how damaged he is, or what his...tastes are.
Benedict Cumberbatch has made a bit of a niche for himself as he has repeatedly taken on calculating, cold, and flawed characters. His portrayal of Khan in Star Trek: Into Darkness showed just how fully Cumberbatch can commit to darker roles.
"Benedork Cucumberman" is most easily recognized for his interpretation of Sherlock Holmes in BBC's Sherlock. It's so iconic, that he has to make this list twice. Sherlock may not be a villainous character, but he is certainly dark, cold, and incredibly annoying to those around him. And, of course, he is a high-functioning sociopath.
Another vigilante, Marvel's Daredevil may have his own moral code, but it doesn't erase the fact that he is operating outside the law. But who could resist the charming, blind lawyer with a heart of gold?
The success of the "merc with a mouth" is based entirely around how dark and twisted he is. But with Deadpool's constant wit and high-octane action, he drew an impressive box office return for an R-rated superhero movie, which was previously considered a risk before its massive success.
Going back to the good ol' days at Nickelodeon, Avatar the Last Airbender consistently created complex, faulted characters. However, one of the most popular characters from the series was Prince Zuko, who underwent drastic transitions along a dark path.
Another beloved cartoon baddie is Shego from Disney's Kim Possible. From her witty mouth, to her epic fight sequences, she was the villain that millions of children loved to hate.
Marvel boasts a lot of faulted characters. But arguably the most lovable, victimized "bad guy" in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is James (Bucky) Barnes. The internet had a field day with adoring memes after his appearances in Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Captain America: Civil War.
The Hound's backstory and character arc on HBO's Game of Thrones has been complex and constantly entertaining. He has a distinctly threatening presence, and he certainly has a self-serving mindset. But there are times when he is quite heroic, and just plain lovable.
There is a wide valley between the definitions of "good" and "bad". And within that valley, it seems that the entertainment industry makes great use of some truly compelling characters.