When we see violent characters who kill for primarily political reasons, they are often anti-heroes at best, outright villains at worst. The idea of the full circle revolution – of the secret dictator hiding in the throat of every rebel leader, waiting to leap out and betray the non-ideological hero – is utterly pervasive. It appears in videogames, where good old-fashioned all-American heroes like Jim Raynor of Starcraft or Booker DeWitt of Bioshock Infinite are betrayed by villainous revolutionaries Arcturus Mengsk and Daisy Fitzroy (and after all they’ve done for them!). It is common in films, from supervillains like Magneto and Killmonger, liberationists written as would-be conquerors, to the rebels of The Hunger Games, who vote to continue the games as soon as they’re in power, except with the children of the dethroned elite rather than the children of the poor. The same reversal is mentioned in A Song of Ice and Fire, where rebel slaves, once liberated, enslave their former masters; in the TV version, an evil fundamentalist visits the kind of cruelty on the King’s Landing nobility that they visited on others. In all these examples we see an echo of the primal fear of every oppressive class, the nightmare at the heart of modern white supremacy: what if someone did to us what we’ve done to them? Liberation is re-imagined as the world turned not so much upside-down but mirrored.

Alister MacQuarrie on depoliticized rebellion.