My son is a villain lover at heart. He may like the hero well enough. He sometimes even roots for the hero to win in the story, but when we talk about it later, or he chooses a character for pretend, or he wants to buy an action figure, he’s almost always all about the villain.
I’m a bit of a villain lover, so I get it, and I love this about him, but I usually don’t go quite as far as he does.
Seriously, who wants to be Bean from Fantastic Mr. Fox?
In my current work-in-progress, the villain energizes me. She is fantastically trashy and fabulously effed up and I’m working really hard to try and show she ended up this way even though she truly believed she was headed toward a different sort of life. She’s living with hard lessons and mistakes and bad choices, so, we’ll see how it turns out. For now, she is full of trouble and promise and I’m grateful she’s waiting for me when I go to my pages.
All of this has me thinking much about stand-out villains. Below, I’ve listed a few of my favorites, along with a brief intro, and the honest, off-the-cuff reason why I put them on this list. Over time, maybe I’ll expand on these. I’m interested to see if, after giving it some more thought, my list or reasons change.
Deloris Umbridge in Harry Potter 5,6 & 7 by J.K. Rowling
Umbridge, the passive-aggressive, pink and cat loving sociopath who climbed the ranks of the Ministry and eventually comes to have control over Hogwarts, where she systematically implements the Ministry’s agenda, as well as her own racism, through the school. All in a high-pitched, snippy sort of cruelty that is bone chilling and believable in the story context. She agitated me every time she was on the page, and sometimes even when she was just mentioned.
Lord Shen in Kung Fu Panda II by Dreamworks
He’s a white peacock. Just think about that for a minute. A male, white peacock. His entire back story / psychological accounting is in EVERY scene without ever having to speak a word about it. (Disclaimer: arguments abound as to whether he is technically albino or leucistic. Regardless, the point is he’s markedly different from his royal parents and from the accepted standard of beauty that defines strength and power in his species).
The Bag Man in Geek Love by Katherine Dunn
I cringed every time this character came on the page. What rubbed me raw about him was his insistence on action, his assurance that he should act and intervene and demand things because of whatever he believed and/or wanted at the time. When he was around, there was tension because you knew (or worried) he was going to act, and you knew it was going to be bad. This is amplified by his repulsive physical condition. The wet-wheezing-bag-flap put an image in my brain I’ll never be able to un-see. Ever.
Legion Guidry in Jolie Blon’s Bounce by James Lee Burke
In Burke’s Louisiana setting, Guidry is a 70-something-year-old former plantation overseer who believes he still lives in the Old South. His name is from the demon Jesus casts out in the Bible, and throughout the story Guidry seems to have dark, supernatural powers. Burke sets up the background, the biblical reference and the enduring legend of this man’s particular cruelties, then lets the story and the characters’ actions play out on the page. He weaves the possibilities in so perfectly the reader can attribute the events and the characters’ behavior (Guidry and those who must deal with him) to story circumstance, but still feel like they brushed a little too close to a black-hearted demon on the street.
Mrs. Danvers in Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier
Mrs. Danvers is chilling by almost anyone’s standards. When I try to pinpoint why, I think it’s similar to the Bag Man in her propensity to take action. We see all through the story she is hurt, angry, suspicious, and willing to do something about it, so she’s always a threat, she always brings tension to the page. Her boldness increases gradually as the story progresses until you just can’t even imagine what she’ll do by the end.
I wonder what in my twisty brain and personality flaws made these the first to come to mind. 🙂 Perhaps I’ll try to hash that out in a later post.
Who are some of your favorite villains? Why? Do you despise or sort of admire them?
Image Credit: Albino Peacock https://flic.kr/p/cjqTS3 by pmeidinger license link https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/