Today I thought I'd talk about my favorite villains. See, I have a lot of favorite characters from books and movies and TV shows, but with a few exceptions, they're all good guys. It's relatively easy to write one of those, but when it comes to villains, it's hard to write an exceptional character.
Or maybe it's just me. People always 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 I truly fell in love with as a character. I now have two and half on the list. Two and a half villains that I genuinely consider brilliant characters.
Maybe I'm too picky. Seeing as all of them are from TV/movies, maybe I need a real face to love a villain. Or maybe I'm onto something. I once read an article about the standard kinds of villains out there, and I have to agree that so many of them are overdone. I could easily exemplify this with my own antagonists.
I've written eighteen novels. The main antagonists in these books are girl possessed by evil plant, father possessed by Incarnate Evil, power-hungry female, scientist possessed by his own creation, power-hungry group of dudes, power-hungry rebels, pride and prejudice, fear itself, boy possessed by I-don't-even-know, man driven insane by torture, secret government agency with bad intentions, secret government agency with good intentions, living being of Incarnate Evil, demons, and prejudice.
As you can see, I have some patterns. My tendency when I was younger was to have people be possessed, because I didn't like human beings being responsible for their evil. I don't have that problem so much anymore. But of all the villains I've written, there's only one I'm truly proud of, and that's the "man driven insane by torture." Maybe that actually reveals my preference when it comes to favorite villains. They really do have something in common: a bit of insanity.
Heath Ledger's "The Joker" from The Dark Knight
I discovered the first of my favorite villains the summer after twelfth grade, because I went on a superhero movie streak.
I had watched very few superhero movies before that summer, but the day of high school graduation, the local movie theater played free movies really late at night for the graduates, part of Senior Appreciation Night. I don't remember all the options, only that the only one that at all appealed to me was The Avengers. So I went to watch it. Obviously, as I had not seen any of the other movies, it didn't make a huge lot of sense to me, but it did intrigue me. So I decided, that summer, to watch all the recent superhero movies to see what was up. Turns out I really like superhero movies, but for this post, the important thing is that I discovered The Joker.
Heath Ledger's portrayal of the Joker in The Dark Knight, to be specific. He's what made that movie one of my favorite superhero films. I don't really know the Joker spoke to me so much, but I fell in love, for the first time, with a villain. Not the kind of love you have for other characters, but a sick kind of love where you're 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 a supervillain, basically Batman's archnemesis. His catchphrase is "Why so serious?" His symbol is the Joker card from your typical card deck. 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 brilliant. 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.
Essentially, his main goal is to destroy humanity with a combination of terror tactics and brilliant psychology, bringing out the very worst in others and thus destroying them. Basically, psychology! Those of you who have been around from the beginning of this blog may remember that I'm into that. So maybe that's why he speaks to me. The Joker knows how to use it, and he does so very well, with a care for detail and a brilliance belied by the image he presents to the world. Whatever the case, I fell for the Joker, and my conception of villains has not been the same since.
Andrew Scott's "Jim Moriarty" from Sherlock
It would be over a year before I found another villain who ranked with the Joker. The summer after my first year of college, I discovered the BBC. I made my way through modern Doctor Who within a couple of months, watched all of Merlin, some Classic Who, and then I turned my eyes to 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, in every adaptation, and in this one, he stood out so much that I fell right into villainous love. Like the Joker, Moriarty manipulates everyone using psychology--though this time, instead of being outright and using terror 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.
Tom Hiddleston's "Loki" from The Avengers
Loki is the "half" on my list of two and a half favorite villains, because he is poised on the very brink of greatness. I have followed his character arc from Thor to The Avengers and finally into Thor: The Dark World and I really truly do like him. But I have not yet fallen all the way in love. We are on the brink. If everything goes as I hope it does, in his next movie appearance, he will break through into greatness and into my strange little heart.
Loki, for those of you who do not know, is Asgardian superhero Thor's archnemesis, his adopted brother gone evil. He is 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, seeking only for the love of his father, to seeking his "rightful" throne by taking over Earth, to manipulating everyone by becoming an unsteady hero with his own interests at heart. Manipulation, for me it appears, is key. He is coming, closer and closer, towards my ideal for a psychologically manipulative, off-kilter, brilliant character.
So there we are! My two and half favorite villains, and my best approximation of why they are my favorites. I think this may reveal more about me than about what makes a good villain, but a nice try anyway, hey?
Who are your favorite villains and why?
Thanks for reading, and come back next time for four things to do after you write a novel.
Images via hdwallpapersfactory.com, linzhouweb.com, bakerstreet.wikia.com, and Ester Carvalho on Pinterest.
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