What Does It Mean if My Son Loves the Bad Guys?

It’s so easy for little kids to become attached to characters from the shows and movies they watch. Just look at all the preschool Disney Princess Parties or the kids whose bedrooms are coated ceiling-to-floor with Pokémon posters. So when my 3-year-old son starts obsessing about a TV character, it shouldn’t really be cause for concern. But what if the characters he’s obsessing about are the villains?

My son’s top show of the moment is Cartoon Network’s The Super Hero Squad Show. But it’s not Iron Man or Captain America that has most captured his heart – it’s the megalomaniacal Dr. Doom. In fact, the main thing my son wants for Christmas – the one thing he will be most disappointed to not find under the tree on the 25th – is a Dr. Doom action figure (and they are not easy to find, by the way). He talks day after day about how he can’t wait to play with the wicked, steel-faced villain and make him “get the good guys.”

I’d think of it as a strange anomaly except for the fact that whenever he and his older sister play Star Wars, he always wants to be Darth Vader. Okay, at the age of three, he doesn’t understand that Darth Vader was the one true personification of evil for an entire generation, but when I ask me why he wants to play Vader, his response is: “He’s bad.”

Even when he watches something as innocuous as Dora the Explorer, he likes to point out that his favorite characters is Swiper the Fox – the closest thing that show has to a villain, the character who constantly steals everybody else’s stuff.

So, despite the fact that he is normally a wonderfully well-behaved little boy, I wondered whether or not this was some horrible omen of future bullying or trouble making. But then, after pondering the topic for a while, I realized that his adoration of over-the-top villains really isn’t so bad for 3-year-old. Because he understands that Darth Vader, Dr. Doom, and even Swiper, are bad guys – and that what they do is wrong. There’s no mistaking that fact. I’m much happier with that than with him idolizing a purported hero that breaks the rules – and we know there are plenty of those out there. Plus, I think his love for the bad guys may have a lot to do with how cool the villains always look. Vader and Doom both have pretty awesome masks.

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