A hero must strive if he is to outwit a mastermind or outfight a rival. Their contest is personal and its outcome decisive. Their final battle is to be savored and is expected to be melodramatic.
Lowly goons are sacrificial pawns: the cannon-fodder of villainy. They live and die for nefarious agendas hardly in their best interest. Unloved by their bosses and a nuisance to heroes they are a pathetic lot. It is righteously amusing and grimly satisfying to witness them being casually eliminated.
The foot soldiers of villainy are droll but can be threatening or even sexy. Lowly and anonymous they are as insignificant as bystanders. As the underlings of masterminds they are just as sinister. Like heroes they fight but unlike heroes they are hopelessly outmatched. When female they are damsels in distress but as victims of the heroes who would otherwise rescue them.
I love fiction's expendable antagonists. I favor them because they are characters unlike any other. They are the clowns of villainy we can take seriously... whenever it suits us.