In The Great Divorce, The Weight of Glory and Surprised By Joy, C. S. Lewis explained the concept sehnsucht, this mysterious desire for something we-know-not-what, something beyond this world. As it pointed us towards heaven, he reasoned, it must be of God. He felt it rarely but sometimes before a great landscape or reading a book.

How can we work out what enjoyable pleasures might either be remade in Heaven or have an even more pleasurable version there(To follow Plato's idea of the Forms)? I adore the cybermen in Doctor Who: can they be considered a foretaste if we experience a feeling of sehnsucht via them? Do we ever know for sure what echoes eternity and what doesn't? Certainly it's hard to imagine the fulfilment of desires for fictional villains (though I would love this) alongside cherubs and angels! But what a shame if the only people who's loves are completed are the ones who enjoyed scenic walks, flowers etc. I would really like strong evidence or reason to back up what I believe to be true, here. Thanks.

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    @ThomasJennings I really like this question too. I've taken a shot at making it answerable, by returning it to Lewis' interpretation, rather than "any opinions." (You'll also notice, I added in some sources, and I call dibs on The Weight of Glory!) Commented Jun 12, 2013 at 13:57
  • @AffableGeek You made this a substantially harder (albeit more SE-friendly) question. One would almost need to be a Lewis scholar to answer it as opposed to arguing from general principles. Not that I would answer, but I upvoted pterandon's now-incompatible answer. (BTW, please strike "both" from the first sentence.)
    – user3331
    Commented Jun 12, 2013 at 22:36
  • How is loving a villain a "desire," evil or otherwise? That's what makes this a difficult question to answer for me. Loving and desiring are two different things.
    – Steve
    Commented Jun 13, 2013 at 1:16
  • @Steve- sorry, I should have clarified...I guess what I mean is, because we desire what we love, as (as a fiction reader and viewer, I also write and perform) I am drawn to and compelled by (without ever wishing to emulate their dastardly deeds) fictional bad guys and monsters, and such tales have a strong hold on my interest, does that fit in with the sort of thing CS Lewis thought one could have sehnsucht from? He said 'all the things that deeply posess you'...
    – Sehnsucht
    Commented Jun 13, 2013 at 9:21
  • So, especially in light of The Silver Nemesis in which the Cybermen really just are the Borg, their pursuit of 'upgrades' aka 'perfection' really is just another (albeit warped) version of [telos](en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Telos_(philosophy), per James Commented Jun 14, 2013 at 19:17

4 Answers 4


I'll take your question as, "Are there any Christian doctrines reinforced by the typical use of villains in literature and film?". Here are a few:

1) Demonstration of natural law that people who do bad things can end up with bad consequences.

2) Demonstration that "bad guys" can undergo repentance. Examples: Darth Vader, Gru from Despicable Me, Megamind, Sharon from Battlestar Galactica, Edmund in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Eustace in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.

3) A demonstration that getting what we want, in terms of earthly goods, may have horrible consequences and leave us spiritually unfulfilled. Consider the victory song Dr. Horrible sings, "Everything you Ever" in Dr. Horrble's Sing-A-Long Blog

4) A demonstration that our heroes too can be fallen. In many examples in literature, there are cases where the bad guy has more of a moral conscience than the good guys, or where a good guy who uses "bad guy" tactics hurts everyone. Examples: Admiral Cain from Battlestar Galactica, Johnny Snow wanting to fight Dr. Horrible in park where kids play in Dr. Horrble's Sing-A-Long Blog.

  • Along the lines of 1, villains sometimes apply justice to lesser "bad people" (like Babylon in relation to Judah [see, e.g., Habakkuk]). A love of justice is good.
    – user3331
    Commented Jun 12, 2013 at 12:49
  • Notice: The original question (which was closed) has changed significantly and re-opened. You may want to review your answer and edit in light of the revised question (or perhaps remove it entirely for the time being). (Flag this comment as obsolete so it gets deleted when you've done whatever you choose to do.)
    – Caleb
    Commented Jun 12, 2013 at 14:38
  • PLEASE send more answers guys! Much thanks!- You know what it's like when a seemingly daft question niggles away at you...
    – Sehnsucht
    Commented Jun 13, 2013 at 1:15
  • Erm...what's the voting system on the side of my question for? Also, when will my question no longer be allowed to 'keep going', is the best answer voted up by the community or summat?
    – Sehnsucht
    Commented Jun 14, 2013 at 12:31

Let me try to address your points specifically.

"there are no evil things to desire, only evil desires". I don't believe that view is compatible with most of Christianity. If you desire to kill a hundred million people for no reason, that is of itself an evil desire. Even if you were desiring it because some other person wants to see it happen (i.e. it's not a 'selfish' desire) it would still be evil. Not even a 'lesser good'.

"I love the Cybermen in 'Dr Who'". Do you really, or do you love watching stories about Cybermen? When you watch them do you want the Cybermen to win (and destroy all life in the universe)? If they really existed, would you consider helping them to achieve universal domination? If not, then I think all you are doing is enjoying the stories. That's not the same thing at all.

Now there are certainly people who really do enjoy and support evil (fictional) characters, and think it would be cool to actually do some evil things. This can happen with more nuanced 'bad guys' than the Cybermen (Dexter springs to mind). You also need to be careful with fictional supposed 'good guys' who have more moral ambiguity - James Bond might be an example. I'm sure you can come up with more.

  • I do genuinely love the cybermen. I don't want them to win, like I don't want crocodiles to eat people...but I like crocodiles. Cybermen are meant to be emotionless so maybe liking them isn't supporting sin per ce? I'm making escuses now, haha...but better to be honest! If one couldn't love either pretend bad guys or anti-heroes like Batman/Bond...WHO are we left with? To be honest, I can't name a single purely moral fictional character who isn't bland as dust (except Gandalf, The Doctor and Aslan. That's it!). Cheers!
    – Sehnsucht
    Commented Jun 13, 2013 at 17:00
  • Sorry- should have put @DJClayworth before the last comment.
    – Sehnsucht
    Commented Jun 13, 2013 at 18:49
  • @ThomasJennings Just FYI, when commenting on a question or answer, the author of the post is notified. In fact, I think the software strips an initial @ that is to the post's author.
    – user3331
    Commented Jun 13, 2013 at 19:52
  • Thanks Mr Clayton. Out of interest, what do you think to my question? I know it's a very complex (and-perhaps- still a subjective one!) none the less, please have a go! Not many people have attempted to answer (though I am grateful to those who have)...perhaps because of its complicated nature, and I doubt many will...The more who try, the merrier! Thanks
    – Sehnsucht
    Commented Jun 13, 2013 at 22:28

No one knows but it will be interesting to find out when we die. Sadly there is zilch evidence to suggest any direct answer and, despite trying a few different sources (man is it hard to find Christians to ask questions too!) No one seems to know for sure. Ah well, thanks all.


Yay! Found the answer!...In CS Lewis on the 'Kappa Element' he makes it pretty clear that he finds there is 'something else' to enjoy in particular hostile characters. Not merely their story telling use of providing danger and hence excitement, but commanding their own personal appeal unique to the elements they provide. For instance, jack the Giant slayer would appeal less to what sensations it now provides if you replaced the giants with, say, an ordinary thug or some other 'danger'. Villians are more than just for 'the thrill of life-endangerment'. Now, if CS Lewis can take this stance without shame or apology, I reckon he would have agreed wth me that, whilst not 'the thing' or holy in themselves, fictional monsters (like my faves, the cybermen) are (for some of us) pleasureable and, presumably, thereby can cause a sense of sehnsucht. Thanks all.

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