I have a lot of favorite characters from books and movies and TV shows, but I'm rarely all that into the bad guys. People say that villains are the characters you "love to hate" but I never experienced that until the summer before college. That's when I encountered the first villain whose character writing I truly fell in love with. I now have two and half on my list of favorite villains.
Maybe I'm just picky. Seeing as all of them are from TV/movies, maybe I need a real face to put to the villain. Or maybe I'm right when I say that it's hard to write an exceptional villain. I've written eighteen novels myself, and here are the main antagonists: girl possessed by evil plant, power-hungry enchantress, father possessed by Incarnate Evil, power-hungry group of criminals, scientist possessed by his viral creation, middle school bullies, power-hungry rebels, boy possessed by I-don't-even-know, secret government agency with bad intentions, man driven insane by government experimentation, Incarnate Evil himself, demons, and various abstract concepts.
As you can see, I have some patterns. Most writers do, and it's hard to break from the cliches. I often shy away from writing human beings as being responsible for their own evil, for example, and the rest of the time it's all about power. But my favorite villains don't shy away from their bad guy label at all, and their interest in power is a bit different. One thing they have in common is a bit of insanity.
The Joker from The Dark Knight
I discovered the first of my favorite villains the summer after twelfth grade when I went on a superhero movie streak. Heath Ledger's portrayal of the Joker in The Dark Knight made that movie one of my favorite superhero films. I don't really know why the Joker spoke to me so much, but I fell in love, for the first time, with a villain. It's not the kind of love I have for other characters, but instead a sick kind of love where I'm just going, "That. Is. Brilliant." To this day, I smile when I think of Heath Ledger's Joker. Which is somewhat ironic, but anyway.
The Joker, for those of you who don't know, is basically Batman's archnemesis. His catchphrase is "Why so serious?" His symbol is the Joker card. He has nasty scars on the edges of his mouth that he brings out using clown makeup. Heath Ledger's portrayal has the Joker as, essentially, a madman, but the kind of madman who follows a careful pattern of almost architectural destruction, in order to "watch the world burn." He's brilliant and clever, and his plan, which leads to the ruination of many, is just as smart. He pretends to be too wild to have a full-out plan, but by the end of the movie, he very clearly has known what he was doing the entire time.
His main goal is to destroy humanity with a combination of terror tactics and brilliant psychology, bringing out the very worst in others. Those of you who have been around from the beginning of this blog may remember that I'm into psychology. So maybe that's why the Joker speaks to me. Whatever the case, my understanding of villains has not been the same since I saw this movie.
Jim Moriarty from Sherlock
It would be over a year before I found another villain who ranked with the Joker. Then, this last summer, I discovered the BBC. I made my way through modern Doctor Who, Merlin, some Classic Who, and then Sherlock. I fell in love with the show immediately, but soon, I found something I loved just as much: the main villain.
James "Jim" Moriarty is Sherlock Holmes' archnemesis. Like the Joker, Moriarty manipulates everyone using psychology--though this time, instead of being outright with terrorist tactics, he does it all behind the scenes. When he does show up, he's unpredictable, or "changeable," as he calls himself. His moods alter moment to moment; he can play anything and anyone, and he's hilarious and terrifying all at once. You never know what you're going to get with him, but he always knows what he's doing.
Loki from The Avengers
Loki is the "half" on my list of two and a half favorite villains because he is poised on the brink of greatness, in my opinion. I've followed his character arc from Thor to The Avengers to Thor: The Dark World, and I really truly do like him. But I have not yet fallen all the way in love. If everything goes as I hope it does, in his next movie appearance, he will break through into my strange little heart.
Loki, for those of you who do not know, is Thor's adopted brother and archnemesis. He is an alien Asgardian based off of the Norse god of mischief, which makes him an appropriate villain. He's also probably the god of fangirl, given how many girls are in love with Tom Hiddleston and Loki both, but that's another story. In his character arc, Loki has gone from being desperate, jealous, and misguided in his search for his father's love, to trying to conquer his "rightful" throne on Earth, to manipulating everyone by becoming an unsteady hero with his own interests at heart. Manipulation, for me, seems to be key. He is definitely coming closer and closer to my ideal for a villain: psychologically manipulative, off-kilter, and brilliant.
So there we are! My two and half favorite villains, which I think may reveal more about me than about what makes a good villain, but hey.
Who are your favorite villains and why?
Thanks for reading!
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