There is a long history behind humanity’s love of criminals. Sure, there’s plenty of ruthless villains out there to loathe and fear, and rightly so. Criminals in the real world are not who most folks want to associate with. But there’s always that romantic idea of but what if… in the back of our mind. What if he’s really a Robin Hood? Or a Dexter? Pirates were many things, many of them very contradictory, but they were still violent murderers and thieves with nary a Jack Sparrow among them. And then there’s the Sopranos and The Godfather. Nobody can argue that those stories weren’t entirely about criminals being celebrated, whether or not you think they were acting heroically
I think— and feel free to disagree, it’s totally my own thoughts on the subject— but at least a large part of it is the idea that justice and the law are often wildly different things. How many times have we heard on the news about some horrible criminal getting away with theft or rape or murder because of some legal technicality? Now, I don’t think any of us want to live in a world where anyone can just go after someone else for any perceived slight, but boy is it appealing to think that there’s some golden-hearted assassin or cat burglar out there willing to take out the worst trash humanity has to offer, laws be damned. Batman is a fine example. Or better yet, Deadpool.
But as for fiction? My mind springs right to Arsène Lupin and Danny Ocean. You may have heard of the former as the grandfather of Lupin the Third, but the Maurice Leblanc stories are worth a read. And, honestly, if you haven’t seen the Ocean’s Eleven remake for an entirely charming take on Danny Ocean and his merry band, where have you been? The appeal there is the wit and the caper, and the hook is that the criminals often end up having far stricter moral code than the police that chase them, and are often out to right some sort of wrong, or at the very least balance the scales.
And then there are the real-life heroes who broke laws that were entirely unjust and were labeled criminals in their own time. Rosa Parks springs immediately to mind as an example. Nelson Mandela, as well. They broke the law, and the world has been made better for it.
Personally, I’ve been really entertained recently by the adventures of a wildly successful international assassin. He quickly and brutally murders his way through some of humanity’s worst while trying, with various degrees of success, to retire to a nice house in the country.
It’s nice to imagine someone’s watching over us, even if they are ruthless, hardened criminals. Who’s your favorite not-so-good-guy?