I’d like to think I’m pretty pleased with my lot in life but there are days, when like anyone, I am distinctly dissatisfied. I often wonder what people daydream about when they are feeling listless, uncomfortable in their own skin –
I always think about how much I’d like to be a villain. Ideally, a super villain, but I’ll take a entry position to start. The kind of villain who can melt faces right off with her awesomeness. Villains, bad guys, nemesis’s, archenemies. These are the people who make good guys and heroes worth having – and they are almost always totally bad ass. I like to imagine I have a really impressive lair, equipped with an elevator and a giant fish tank. A ridiculously fast car and an entire wardrobe of menacing black outfits, and a maniacal laugh that makes toddlers pee themselves. How cool would that be?! I’d have a nemesis, of course, some startling goody-goody who I would thwart with ardor and intense devotion. Even if I always lost, I’d be a passionate villain.
While driving today I was pondering the whole…plan D (Plan A: phD, life in academia. Plan B: marry millionaire. Plan C: burlesque dancer. Plan D: villain.) and was thinking about some of my favorite fictional villains. Sure, I have favorite real life bad guys, but I actually think it’s more fun to talk about fictional ones, it allows me to be excited without being creepy or tasteless.
So to celebrate this, here is a quick run down of my favorite fictional villains, in no particular order:
1. Lord Voldemort (of Harry Potter fame) I love Lord Voldemort (or Voldie) because he’s so unrelentingly evil, he’s always got something utterly mind-bendingly wicked to get up to! And whenever it seemed like he could sink no lower, ta-da more evil. Also, it’s pretty unusual to know so much about a villain’s back story. With Voldie, we learn about his family, childhood, adulthood – it makes him a fully rounded character. I think he’s probably secretly pretty lovable.
2. The Joker (of Batman fame) Now, I have no real preference on who I prefer as The Joker (though I love Jack), because it’s the character I’m most interested in. I like that he’s eccentric and colorful – and that we don’t really know what motivates the character, anarchy, fame, money . He’s also extraordinary interesting on film because of the image of a pervert and scary clown being enacted on the audience.
Branagh as Iago
3. Iago (Othello) Iago is the best Shakespeare villain OF ALL TIME. Yes, other Shakespearean villains are interesting, but Iago is exactly the kind of scheming, self-serving worm I love. His ability to prey on the emotional vulnerabilities of people and weave whole realities for people to buy into really speaks to his power as a manipulator. A truly impressive manipulative monster. Also, it’s hard to forget the film version with Kenneth Branagh as a dangerously sexy, homoerotic Iago.
Ursula the Sea Witch
4. Ursula the Sea Witch (Disney’s The Little Mermaid) The Little Mermaid is my favorite Disney movie and I always felt like Ursula got a bum deal in it. She’s not a mermaid, she’s a fat purple lady with a big black octopus for bottom, awesome. I bet she felt really confident growing up in Triton’s kingdom of waifish, beautiful mergirls. Of course she’s evil, everyone’s probably been mean to her. And besides, she’s the only character with an once of common sense – she actually understands how life works – you want something, you got to pay the price. Also, I don’t think it’s Ursula’s fault Ariel was willing to give up her family and voice to catch a man, if anything Ursula pointed out what a dumb idea that was.
5. Leatherface (The Texas Chain Saw Massacre) The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is probably my favorite horror movie ever, and I think Leatherface is marvelous. Like many who have come after (Michael Myers and Jason Voorhees, most notably) Leatherface doesn’t talk. He’s usually really quiet, he makes unearthly, scary noises when he’s shot or hurt but mostly this terrifying, hulking, mute monster. Oh, and he chops people up while they’re still alive, wears a butcher’s apron (why is he worried about his clothes?) and uses his victim’s skin to craft a nifty mask to hide his terribly disfigured face , sometimes he even hacks ’em up and cooks them for his family – Leatherface is truly the horror world’s Martha Stuart.
Bela Lugosi as Count Dracula
6. Dracula – Not only is Dracula is greatest vampire of all time, he’s awesome at being bad. He has a lot of skills other vampires, since him, have not had. Dracula could: turn into a wolf, a bat, a beast, a mist, a bunch of rats, or bugs, wilt flowers, manipulate the weather, hypnotize people, had superhuman strength, speed, and libido and on top of this kicked ass, took names, no aging, and he was an aristocrat! So he didn’t have a reflection, or much love for daytime and he got staked BUT he’s lived on in our imaginations as one of the most important literary, film, media figures in history, evil or not, as well as being a sex symbol. Rock on Count!
7. Satan – Ever since Milton thought Satan would make a pretty neat bad guy he’s been popping up all over the place totally dominating the super villain scene. Any time Satan is present he immediately out-awesomes everyone else. Why? Because not only is he dizzyingly powerful but he takes time for the little things – how many times have we seen Satan pitching up to fight it out with the powers of good for one measly soul? Apparently, every soul counts which makes Satan a very attentive villain. He could just lord it up on his big ol’ throne in Pandemonium, but no, he’s on Earth right now busting his ass to damn your soul.
8. Saruman (of The Lord of the Rings fame) Now, a lot of people seem to think the Sauron is really the ‘it’ villain of this peice, but I have a lot more respect for Saruman. Firstly, during the material of the trilogy we mostly see Sauron pretending to be a giant CCTV over Mordor while Saruman is on the ground working. Breeding Uruk-hai, destroying forests, being wicked, burning and pillaging and most importantly (at least at first) deceiving other Istari, which I think we all know is no small feat. Secondly, Saruman is exactly the kind of character that people’s mistakenly think of as a side-kick, not so. He was doing his own evil without Sauron.
Hopkins as Dr. Lecter
9. Hannibal Lecter (The Silence of the Lambs, Red Dragon, Hannibal) Sometimes I don’t even know if Dr. Lecter is a villain, that’s just how much I love him. The intensely creepy cannibal psychologist of Thomas Harris’ books-turned-films is a character that truly gets under your skin. When I think of him, it’s usually of Sir Anthony Hopkins doling out equal measures of perversity and intellectualism. Dr. Lecter is a truly thinking villain, a strategist and manipulator.
10. Patrick Bateman (American Psycho) American Psycho is a book which probably never should have been made into a film, and it’s a film I probably should not have seen when I was 15. It was the first time I’d seen Christian Bale in a movie since Newsies. What a shock. Patrick Bateman is a highly successful, mentally deranged Wall Street executive with a penchant for violently abusing and killing prostitutes, bums and at one point in the book, a kitten. The character is brilliantly developed, moving rapidly from calm to frighteningly frenetic action. Brett Easton Ellis’ book features scenes which took even me aback and seeing the character on film is part revulsion and delight. I have a total crush on Patrick Bateman. Hmmm, chainsaws.