In his books, 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 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?
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.
"Sometimes you can recognize a villain by his actions and deeds. That's easy. What's harder is when you don't know the person at all. Maybe you've just met someone at a cocktail party—how can you tell if they intend to destroy your life? My advice is to subjectively judge them by their first name. For example, my name is Chuck. I couldn't be villainous if I tried; at best, I might be Richie Cunningham's forgotten older brother."
But other names are less affable....
Perhaps the granddaddy of all verboten names, Adolf was once a well-respected German name that meant "noble wolf." But the name is now synonymous with the horrific atrocities that Adolf Hitler inflicted upon millions of people during World War II that even variant spellings like Adolph and Dolph have become tainted by association.
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.