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Life, Law & Libros

Discussion: Villains

12 comments
I saw "Maleficent" last weekend, Disney's new take on Sleeping Beauty featuring the evil fairy Maleficent as both villain and hero. I like fairy tale retellings, and I generally like seeing a previously flat character fleshed out- like when villains are given more depth and their motives explained in such a way as to make them more sympathetic. At the same time, it was strange to see "the Mistress of all Evil" turned into a tree-hugger who then became an angry, betrayed, hurt woman. What's the line? "Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned"? But yeah, from this:

Image source
to this:

Not that this is a new idea. We've been obsessed with antiheroes, sympathetic villains and criminals with an honor code forever. Han Solo, anyone? ;)

Back on point, I know it irked me in "Maleficent" that Stefan was reduced to greed and lust for power. Those might be his key motivations, but it's never that simple. Okay, it is, but we feel the same temptations, and we can never accept it as just greed and power. We always have reasons/excuses built up around it so we can convince ourselves we're doing something bad for a good purpose or for the right reasons.

I guess I'm asking how you guys feel about villains. About them being evil people or people who do evil things. About them being rewritten as good guys. Or maybe just certain villains that you loved to hate as a kid because they were such awesome bad guys! What makes a good villain for you?

If you need some inspiration to get the villainous thoughts going:
Anya @ On Starships & Dragonwings' Dark Lords
Mara @ Reading Hedgehog's Top 10 Excellent Villains
Nathan @ Fantasy Review Barn's Dark Lords

12 comments :

  1. Ah, villains. Probably the most complicated sort of character that one can write/read about. I think there are a lot of different types of villains, and they can all be good, depending on what story they are put into. But, generally, the sort of villain I end up really liking are the ones that admit to themselves that yes, they are evil; they are motivated by selfish means; they know they shouldn't do what they do, but they do it anyway because they don't care. Villains who are perfectly happy with being horrid. Who never lose their cool, who are always in control of a situation - or never let their opponents know if they aren't. I like intelligent villains. :)

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    1. I think that may be why all the old Disney villains were so fun. Almost all were unapologetically unrepentant about their actions. Maleficent (the original), Ursula, Scar, Gaston...so many great lines and songs!

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  2. I have actually grown tired of the 'give a villain a backstory' type of retellings because they all seem to go the same way, that of 'good intent.' It has gotten so if I see a characters with high ideals I almost KNOW they will turn bad.

    But there is no one way to do the villain for me, I enjoy those with depth and personality and I enjoy those that are pure evil; my only desire is that I understand their motivation and it fits.

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    1. It's true! Anyone who is convinced s/he is doing something important or (ultimately) good turns out to be evil. >.>

      I can't pick out a favorite type of villain either. Both kinds can work well for me, so long as they "make sense" within the story.

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  3. I think as I read more, and as the anti-hero becomes more popular in our culture, I am beginning to appreciate a good villain 'origin' story. I am kind of black and white; we all have a choice to do what is right even if we have been wronged. Wow...look at me getting all philosophical in a blog comment :)) But that is to say, that I do, and probably always will, appreciate an evil villain who gets their just desserts ;)

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    1. As long as we're being philosophical- ;) - do you think the increasing fascination with depicting villains as good and/or wronged people who do bad things, as opposed to people who make bad choices, is a reflection of changes in the morality/values of society at large?

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  4. Ok now see...I LOVE VILLAINS. With a deep dark passion and much fervor and all that jazz. But the villain can't just be evil for the sake of being evil. And if you look at Maleficent from Disney's Sleeping Beauty - wasn't she just evil for the sake of being evil? Where was her backstory. So I actually loved this reinterpretation. I liked getting her backstory. Its sort of how like they did WICKED those years ago. The best kind of villains are the ones that DO think they are in the right. that they are justified in the things they do because that lends more conviction to their actions and that what also makes the things they do that much more wrong and painful because they probably know deep down somewhere that what they are doing is selfish or probably not the best or right way to do them - or they could find another way.

    Anyhow. I loved how it was done. I do think they went a little heavy on her being wronged and Stefan being greedy and ambitious - they could have added more of his story in there like how alone and penniless he was as a child and her being his only friend or something. More poverty and abuse or something might have made us see more justification of why he did what HE DID.

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    1. You love villains? Now I think of it, I suppose that does explains why I ran across so many villain posts in my search for one to link up. ;)

      As I think about further, I'm not sure any character is evil "for the sake of being evil." There are almost always other motivations at play, even if we aren't privy to them. I guess the difference then is between those who feel justified in their evil actions because of past wrongs or future goals and those who adopt a sin-eater-like mentality (i.e., fully acknowledging the wrongness of their actions but moving forward with them nonetheless). I can take either kind, depending on whether it works in the story.

      Of course, it seems when retellings cast villains in the lead, someone else becomes the villain and, ironically, gets the short end of character development. Poor Stefan. Poor corrupt government officials of Oz. ;)

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  5. I think that the best kind of villain is one you can sympathize with and I always love seeing things from a villains point of view, I guess I like to believe that they don't want to be evil, that circumstance and bad things pushed them to be that way. It doesn't excuse them from killing and whatnot but when I read a book or watch a movie I love it when I'm conflicted, when I don't know whether to love a character because they were pushed to be the way they are or to hate them because either way you look at it they still do bad things. =)
    I love this topic, obviously! One book that really made me start feeling this way was Stronger by Micheal Carroll, it's set in a world of superheroes and it shows how this one villain never meant to be a villain and while it's a middle grade book it's just really good. Also Loki, need I say more?

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    1. Very interesting. I confess I tend to have a less Humanist view of people in general and villains in particular; and, depending on the villain, I tend to think choices/free will trumps environmental factors most of the time.

      I can't remember if I've heard of Stronger, but Loki! No, you needn't say more. I'm so glad I finally watched Thor: The Dark World! :D

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  6. HAN SOLO :D Honestly, I like seeing things from the villain's perspective. Take Midnight Thief by Livia Blackburne. James can be seen as a "villain" in that book, sort of. If you just read Midnight Thief, you'd only see that. But if you read Poison Dance, the prequel novella that case out before Midnight Thief, you'd see a different side of James. I read PD before MT, so I had no way of knowing that James would end up making questionable decisions. But because I read PD, I understood WHY he made those decisions, in MT. He seemed less villainous because I knew a little background.

    If that makes sense. Heh. Great post, Kel!

    Alyssa @ The Eater of Books!

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    1. Han Solo! I hope he's not fat in the new Star Wars movie. :(

      Hmm...now I'm wondering if I should have held off on reading Poison Dance. I ran into an issue with a "villain" in Scarlet and have tried not to read companion/prequel novellas before the novel since. But we'll see how it turns out. :)

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