Heroes vs Villains in Baby Name Land
Are villain names becoming more popular with today’s parents? It sure seems that way. The rise of Anakin (Darth Vader) and Kylo (Darth Vader’s murderous grandson) has shown that bad guys often capture the hearts of baby-namers.
Loki‘s rise was no doubt helped by his high-profile role in several recent Avengers movies. The name barely registered on the Social Security database 20 years ago.
But Thor was also in those films, so it’s puzzling as to why his star would be falling relative to his evil brother.
Loki isn’t the only Marvel villain to attract baby-naming parents. Eight boys were christened Thanos last year, sharing a moniker with a cosmic warlord bent on destruction. (I’m rooting for Dormammu to pop up in the charts next year.)
Of course, some hero names are still doing well. Khaleesi, inspired by the dragon-charming queen in Game of Thrones, cracked the Top 1000 in 2014 and now ranks ahead of such names as Louisa and Louise.
Two of the fastest-rising boys’ picks last year were Creed and Adonis, names inspired by the Rocky films. (The elder Creed began as a villain before becoming Rocky‘s friend in the third film; his son, Adonis Johnson Creed, was featured in the franchise’s most recent installment.) Rocky itself remains in the Top 1000, though it’s way down from its peaks in the 1950s and late-1970s. (Sylvester Stallone’s other major character name, Rambo, was given to 10 baby boys in the U.S. last year.)
Many baby namers, though, seem to prefer bad boys.
This wasn’t always the case: Literary villains of yore didn’t seem to resonate as much with parents.
In 1931, when Bela Lugosi terrified filmgoers with his portrayal of Dracula, the name itself didn’t tempt Americans. There are zero Draculas in the Social Security database during those years (or now).
Shakespeare baddies also haven’t fared well over the years. You won’t find many Iagos at your local kindergarten. The same goes for Macbeth (Duncan, the good king murdered by Macbeth, has performed far better as a baby name).
But these days, villains seem to be gaining the upper hand.
In the Star Wars realm, the good-vs. evil battle is especially bleak. The year after Star Wars: The Force Awakens came out in late 2015, 63 girls were named Rey (after that film’s heroine). But a staggering 238 boys were named Kylo (the film’s villain). That turned Kylo into the fastest-growing boys’ name of 2016.
I assume its recent surge is due in part to a demographic quirk. Americans who saw the Star Wars prequels when they were young (and, therefore, didn’t think they ruined the franchise) are now reaching childbearing age. Anakin was the hero of those films, at least until a dip in a lava pit turned him into the heavy-breathing Darth Vader.
Darth itself didn’t register on the Social Security database last year.
So in this struggle that may be a cause of optimism: Parents are at least choosing the name from the character’s good years, rather than his bad ones. Maybe we’re not turning to the dark side after all.
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on June 19th, 2017 at 1:02 am
I try not to be overly judgemental about baby name choices. I appreciate unusual choices. But the fact that 24 US babies were named Negan last year (the name’s first appearance on the SSA list) has me dumbfounded. I truly would like to know the stories behind what those parents were thinking.
on June 19th, 2017 at 4:18 am
Regarding Loki vs. Thor, I’ve only seen the first Thor movie, but I found Loki to be a far more interesting character than Thor.
My favorite characters often tend to be bad guys who turn good, bad guys who have a good reason for being bad, people who are thought of as the bad guy, but aren’t, etc.
on June 19th, 2017 at 8:03 am
Bad guys are often much more dynamic and resonate with the audience as much or more than the protagonist.
He’s not exactly a bad guy, but I used to really want to use the name Zuko. Perhaps for a pet someday, but it’s a little to out there for a human.
on June 19th, 2017 at 8:51 am
Marvel’s Loki is well documented to be surprisingly popular; at least as popular as Marvel’s Thor, if not more so, so its hardly surprising that there are more baby Lokis around that baby Thors. I believe both Loke and Tor (the Swedish versions of Loki and Thor) are used fairly commonly in Sweden, but Loke is much more popular. I assume that has very little to do with the Marvel films, but I could be wrong.
on June 19th, 2017 at 11:31 am
Vey well observed!
The topic is well caught.
Yes!! villain names are liked by the people but that doesn’t mean people disliking the heroes names.
It all vary from person to person.
For knowing more names please search through the website
on June 19th, 2017 at 12:01 pm
Part of the reason that Loki is more popular than Thor both on the SSA List and in current American popular is because Tom Hiddleston’s performance turned him into a fascinatingly complicated character. Before the first Thor film, Loki was a very flat character in the comics, from what I understand, but Hiddleston helped turn him into a tragic character of Shakespearean proportions–his Loki does bad things because of his strong sense of rejection (he wants to be loved, but ultimately doesn’t know how to accept the love of those around him). Another reason Loki has become so popular is because in Thor: The Dark World (the second Thor film), we see him imprisoned after his failed attack on New York, and then broken after his beloved adoptive mother dies (for which he partially blames himself, since he told the bad guys where to find his father, and his mother went to that room to fight them). Through the rest of that film, Loki grow from villain to antihero–he’ll never make the right choice, but people still want to root for him and wish for his redemption. Thor is a fun, funny, and sweet character, but as my mother says, he “nothing but virtue”. People might be choosing the name Loki for their sons because he’s a character who struggles–struggles with insecurity and rejection, with loss and self-blame, and all of people respond to and sympathize with that.
on June 19th, 2017 at 12:01 pm
on June 19th, 2017 at 1:45 pm
I completely agree with the above as to Thor vs. Loki, so to speak. I preferred Loki’s character, even though I do like Thor. I found Loki’s story and character much more interesting. I liked his intelligence, wit and charm, and in general I think villains have plenty of good traits, but make (what are considered) the wrong decisions. And I just like the sound of Loki more than Thor.
In England/Wales I was somewhat surprised to see Loki is in the top 500 (I didn’t expect him that high), whereas Thor hasn’t charted, but has been used sporadically over a longer time. I think the films have probably drawn more attention to Loki as a name and Norse god in general. For me at least, Thor and Odin were like Zeus, these big, imposing gods, that I just knew and don’t really remember from where. But then I found out there were more who didn’t have the same loud, macho image, and in this case I first ‘discovered’ Loki through the films, loved his character, and that’s stuck. If you strip away the bad stuff, I can personally much more imagine having a little Loki than a Thor.
on June 19th, 2017 at 5:38 pm
I don’t think it’s that puzzling that Loki is more popular than Thor. I think you have to look to who the actors are. Tom Hiddleston has more fan girls/die hard fans who name their child after one of their favourite characters than Chris Hemsworth does.
You can just look at social media to see the obsession that Loki has on women.
I’m not surprised that Loki is so popular, in other countries where Thor is a common name (like how Harry is here) Thor is going to be given to more children
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