Wednesday, December 5, 2012


Welcome back to Write Wednesday!  Today I'm going to be talking about one of my favorite subjects in the entire universe, and I'm really not exaggerating.  We're talking about VILLAINS.

If you know me, you know I'm a sucker for a misunderstood anti-hero/villain.  I can really hate purely evil villains, but I love a story where the evil character is evil because of REASONS.  So...

Today I thought I'd show you some awesome villains from books and films (all good stories) and talk about what makes them so good -- and so creepy, evil, hate-invoking, amazing, heart-wrenching, whatever.

I think I need this because I'm struggling with a villain in my current WIP.

Since this blog is mainly about stories told through the medium of written words, I'll go with our literary villains first.

1. Delores Umbridge from the Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling

I know I said I really love a character who is evil because of REASONS but Umbridge really is the most detestable, despicable, deplorable villain in the known universe, despite this lack.  My reasons?  She feels she is doing the RIGHT thing.  Villains are so dangerous because they (usually) are doing something they really believe in, for the "greater good" or whatever other silly reason they've concocted to pacify their consciences.  Umbridge wants ORDER and she will do anything (literally) to get it -- including TORTURING CHILDREN.  She even talks herself around it until she's completely comfortable with breaking laws.

Her drive and passion for ORDER upset the entire school (and probably wizarding world, come to think of it) and her love of "cute" pink things and kittens only intensifies my  hatred because something so innocent as the color pink (young love, ballet, blush, etc.) and kittens (soft, loveable, etc.) belie Delores' battering ram personality and her real, vicious enjoyment of other peoples' pain.

(Severus Snape, one of my favorite characters on the earth, does not count as a villain, but rather an antihero, which is why I excluded him from this list.  Also, Voldemort is scary and everything but I've never wanted to kill anyone more than I have Umbridge, so that's why she's replacing him as best villain in the Potter Series)

2. Count Olaf from A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket

Seriously.  This (completely incompetent, but his incompetence is only noticed by children) villain is one of my favorites for his sheer bravado brand of cartoony evil (think Dr. Doofenshmirtz from the awesome cartoon Phineas & Ferb).  He firmly believes HE is the hero of his own story (as every great villain does) and will do absolutely anything (ridiculous or not) to achieve his goals.  His costumes and disguises are the worst, he can't bluff to save his life and somehow, he still gets away with murder -- at least where adults are concerned.  I love to hate him.  A true deliciously evil villain.

3.  Jeb from the Maximum Ride Series

Here's where we get to a villain with REASONS.  Jeb is *trying* to do the right thing, in a twisted, save-the-world complex sort of way.  He creates these beings with wings (flying children -- awesome) and raises them together like a flock.  Only problem?  He's actually evil.  He's got the I-am-a-scientist-therefore-I-know-better-than-most-of-the-population complex, he's trying to do what he thinks is right (which is actually terribly WRONG -- the kids see that) and meanwhile tries to remain on good terms with the children.  It's heartbreaking, really.  He has to see the eventual crumbling of his family and even though he tries his hardest, he just isn't good enough...he's evil.

Those are probably my top three from this year.  Who are your favorite love-to-hate villains in literature?

And now, for the film part.

These villains are more of the villains-with-REASONS type that I was talking about earlier, and these particular films do a fantastic job of showing you WHY they are this way.  I think that's one thing about the books I read that I wish was done better.  I want more villain back story (but that's hard to do well unless your MC is a villain...GASP).

1. Joker from The Dark Knight by Christopher Nolan

Might be my all-time favorite villain.  Umbridge is my favorite literary villain (in terms of being the greatest), but Joker takes the cake for one reason: his anarchic tendencies terrify me.  He is literally crazy.  Psychotic.  A Sociopath.  Pure evil, unadulterated by anything.  His only dream is to live in the chaos of humanity, and you just can't get any scarier than that.

His made-up stories about how he got his scars and his ability to unnerve everyone make me suspect he had a wretched parent.  Maybe Umbridge?

2.  Loki from The Avengers by Joss Whedon

Ok...I adore Loki.  I get where he's coming from.  We all do.  All of us understand what it feels like to not be enough.  We live with that fear, and Loki embodies it.  What if we aren't what our parents wanted?  What if we fail?  Those seeds of fear grew as Loki did and took root, causing him to lash out at his father (who he admired), his brother (who loves him) and the whole Avengers team (who kicked his butt).  But Coulson's right -- Loki doesn't have the conviction that most villains do, and that's why he ultimately fails.  He doesn't really want to be the bad guy.  That's what's so heartbreaking about Loki.

(I have high hopes for this storyline in Avengers 2, since Joss is still at the helm.  I'm extremely interested in a Spike-type character arc for Loki -- yay flawed anti-hero given redemption storylines!)

3.  Silva from Skyfall by Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and John Logan

I just saw Skyfall in theaters last week is my favorite Bond movie (husband and I are currently loading up our Netflix with Bond films so that we can talk about it more accurately, although most critics seem to agree that it is one of the better, if not the best of the Bond films).  Partially, I admit, because of the villain.

Silva, at first, is someone you don't understand.  Why's he so hellbent on cyberterror?  Why is he terrorizing M?  And how bad could a cyber villain actually BE?

Um, REALLY BAD.  Actually, horrifying.  Slimy.  Uncomfortable.  And then horrifyingly sympathetic when you realize the reason behind his madness.

He's a hurting human being and he's lashing out like a child.  He got left behind.  And he's back to seek revenge on the person who left him.  It's a powerful villain role and one that will be stuck in my mind for a while.

The emotional resonance is there.  You FEEL for him.  But he's so undeniably creepy that it makes you uncomfortable.  Would YOU behave like him if it happened to you?

No matter how blown out of proportion he assumes his relationship is (with the person he hates so much), no matter how uncomfortable he enjoys making Bond feel, and no matter how careless he is with human life (he uses a girl for target practice to see if Bond will break), there's a beating, grieving heart inside him and it's absolutely painful to realize just how far out of humanity he's been driven.

 I guess I'd sum up the best villains as:

1. Those who have a purpose to which they are seriously wedded -- they will do ANYTHING to achieve their goal
2. Those who are like they are for a REASON
3.  Those who know the hero intimately (and can make us squirm when they tempt the hero with the hero's own goal)

Who is your favorite cinematic villain?  Why?

Other favorites of mine:

Dr. Horrible from Dr. Horrible's Sing Along Blog by Joss Whedon

Alpha from Dollhouse by Joss Whedon (and other various villains from that show)
Dexter from the show Dexter developed by J. Manos, Jr.

See you on Friday for First Lines!

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