(WARNING: This article contains minor Spoilers from The Walking Dead Comics)
The best villains see themselves as the heroes of their own story. That’s a widely accepted saying between audiences and writers. You would think Negan would break that rule — how could this sociopath see himself as a hero? He bashes heads in with a smile on his face and mentally tortures his victims.
How could someone like that not only justify his actions to himself but see them as heroic? He clearly does if you just acknowledge the name he gave his group. He calls them the Saviors and this isn’t an ironic statement — he believes in it. But for you to believe it as well we need to take a closer look at how he runs his base of operation, fittingly named (at least in his mind), the Sanctuary.
He Has A Moral Code
After everything the audience has witnessed in Season 7, it’s hard to imagine that Negan has some form of moral fiber or rules for himself, but he does — we heard about him marrying Dwight's wife. Something we haven’t gotten a look at is that Negan is fully into polygamy. Yes, you read that right, he has multiple wives.
Now, with someone like Negan, it wouldn’t be a far stretch to imagine he has sex slaves and rapes his wives. Surprisingly, Negan has a very strict “no rape” policy. You got a glimpse of it when he offered Dwight to have sex with one of his women:
“Pick whoever you want, as long as she says yes.”
He sees rape as the worst crime they could committee, to him it’s the lowest point of humanity and the point in which there is no going back from. The attempt alone is punished by death at his hands.
What also should be said is that while we saw that Dwight’s ex-wife clearly doesn’t like to sleep with Negan, she did say yes to his offer, and Negan allows any of his wives to return to their previous roles in the Sanctuary. He does take away the privileges they get as his wife, but it’s an option.
His entire harem is run on a quid pro quo basis. It surely isn’t romantic and is a lot more like prostitution, but you have to give it to him — in a world where many men sunk down to following their most primal instincts, Negan — for all his crimes — hasn’t gone that far.
He Believes In Law And Order
Negan made a lasting impact on many people, not just because he killed two beloved characters in a brutal way, but the way he smiled and the jokes during it — that’s what made people feel disgusted. He seemed to have so much fun while bashing the brain matter out of these people.
There is absolutely a part of him that enjoys hurting people, but he isn't interested in it without having a reason. Rick and his group killed dozens of Negan’s people and he punished them by killing one person and a second to make his stance absolutely clear. This decision is selfish, with Negan wanting them to work for him, but Negan does believe in mercy and he didn’t lie when saying he can be reasonable. He ignores the fact that these people have killed his men and women in their sleep for his benefit. It's better that Rick's group works for him in the long run than following his desire to kill them all, as they will pay for their crimes by working for him.
This persona he created is, in his eyes, what’s needed to make people follow his lead and restore a society with rules. He wants to save the world from itself and thinks his approach of force is the best way to accomplish this. In his eyes (and actually rightly so to a degree), Rick and his groups are the psychos who went on a rampage against his people. It’s a very cynical view that believes that humans need someone or something to fear to follow law and order, but it's the reason for his debut being in the storyline "Something To Fear."
The irony is that he is absolutely right, but not in the way he believes.
He Is The Savior, But Not In The Way He Thinks
After knowing all this, it's clear that Negan truly believes in the fact that he is a savior, he has a moral code and wants to bring law and order to the apocalypse, but you can look further into it and say that he is the savior, but not because he wants to rebuild civilization. Sometimes we need a huge threat to make us realize we’re all in this together, that we should work together towards a better tomorrow. If we talk about fiction or reality, a villain can bring people together.
Negan is that villain. He believes people need a monster to fear, something that forces them to be good and work together and he is right. The fear of him will unite them, but they won’t unite to work under him — they will unite to fight against him. His tyranny is what will bring them all together and will make them trust each other, all for the cause to get rid of him. It will bring order and unity back into the world (at least for a time), so his wish will come true, but he won’t be praised as the savior who made them work together. Instead, as the monster that showed them what they could (and should) never become.
What do you think is Negan's most redeeming characteristic?