In his books including Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs, Eating the Dinosaur, and Killing Yourself to Live, author and pop culture critic Chuck Klosterman has taken on topics as diverse as reality television, rock and roll, porn, the Unabomber, and Tom Cruise. His newest book, I Wear the Black Hat: Grappling with Villains (Real and Imagined), hones in on the question: Why are we drawn to—or repelled by—the bad guys? Klosterman’s survey of villainy ranges from Hitler to Walter White of Breaking Bad—with plenty of baddies in between. We asked Klosterman how he can tell if someone’s liable to be a villain, and his answer was simple: Start with their first name.
The Eight Most Villainous First Names:
This might seem like an obvious selection, but it’s actually underrated. Even the second and third-most villainous candidates—say, Eichmann and Rupp—are significantly beyond troubling.
I realize The Simpsons tried to shift this moniker from the category of “villain” into the category of “scamp,” but this is still the go-to name for cowboys who kill people indiscriminately.
The movie did not create this perception—it merely galvanized what we really knew: Young women named Heather are traditionally attractive and inevitably destructive. Everyone accepts this.
Even before anyone cared about cycling, dudes named Lance were society-crushers.
If a red-haired woman is named Naomi, hide in the basement. She is the postmodern “Jezebel.”
Science tells us that almost 82 percent of guys named “Derrick” are jerks. How can you argue with science?
Fear the Brenda.
History has taught us many things. One is that Attila was not a very good musical project for Billy Joel.
Chuck Klosterman is the New York Times bestselling author of eight books, including Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs, Eating the Dinosaur, Killing Yourself to Live, The Visible Man, and his latest, I Wear the Black Hat. His debut book, Fargo Rock City , was the winner of the ASCAP-Deems Taylor Award. He has written for GQ, Esquire, Spin, The Washington Post, The Guardian, The Believer and The Onion A.V. Club. He currently serves as “The Ethicist” for the New York Times Magazine and writes about sports and popular culture for ESPN.
This piece was updated on September 22, 2014.