Evil’s Lovely Faces

Heath Ledger as, The Joker

Imelda Staunton as, Professor Umbridge

Mike Myers as, Dr. Evil

Hayden Christensen as, the genesis of Darth Vader

Kathy Bates as, Nurse Annie Wilkes

Cruella de vil

Anthony Hopkins as, Hannibal Lecter

Are you sensing a theme? If not, I need to have you over for movie night.

You give me the name of your favorite book or movie, and I’ll give you the name of its villain. Every great film or novel has one. Maybe it’s not always a person; maybe it’s a tyrannical government, a particularly sinister shark, maybe it’s aliens looking to inhabit the planet and wipe out the human race, a virus, or perhaps dinosaurs hoping to re-stake their claim at the top of the food chain — it doesn’t matter so much what it is, but that it is evil. It must threaten all which is held dear and precious. The stakes rest on their shoulders. If all is not lost with a sordid victory, than “it” was never worth losing in the first place. My heart — it must sink, plummet to the depths of despair’s hole in the event of evil’s triumph.

In my opinion, the best villains are the ones you love to hate, or, the ones you can commiserate with — even better, characters you empathsize with. If they succeed in making you understand their plight, and maybe for even a few scenes tilt your loyalty, then they have done their job and done it well; they have made you care for them.

And those are my favorite villains.

Three examples off the top of my head are: The Phantom in, The Phantom of the Opera, Rebecca de Mornay in, The Hand that Rocks the Cradle, and Magneto in, X-Men.

With each of these characters I found myself vacillating between wanting the hero or heroine to serve them up a can of whoop-a$$, and shamefully rooting for them to “get away with it” already. I remained in inexorable torment because I was torn. Hasn’t The Phantom been through enough? I rail. Doesn’t he deserve the beautiful Christine Daae just as much as what’s his face with the pretty hair and luscious lips? I cry out. All right, so maybe he didn’t go about things with the most decorum and rational, but come on! The man’s been through a lot: a disfigured face, no loving parents to speak of, sold into service to become the object of mockery and scorn, not to mention the poor dear has likely  undertaken a vitamin D deficiency from a life spent underground. And then, alas, there she is, an angel, a rainbow among a world of perennial grays, a ray of sunshine amid intolerable bleak winters:

Christine. 

He nurtures her, coaches her, instills in the belief in herself, which, eventually leads to her usurping the grotesquely arrogant and gaudy Prima Donna herself, Carlotta. Even Christine admits to the integral role he’s played in her vocal development. She knows that, without him, never would she have been prepared to take on an aria built for a powerful soprano and transform the notes into a haunting caress. It is his love by which she soars into Raoul’s notice.

I can hear it, can you? Think of me, think of me fondly, when we’ve said goodbye . . . 

Well, I know what I’ll be watching this evening.

All this to say, murdering, imperious, megalomaniacal issues aside . . . throughout the film, I held tight to the assertion that Erik — that is his name — deserved to be with Christine just as much, if not more so, as the other dude.

When a writer has done his or her job, the reader/watcher’s allegiance is constantly in motion. We admit to defection, of not knowing just who or what we want to happen. Our heart says “No, the prince gets to be with the princess” but something irascible and outraged growls otherwise. And when this happens, the climax and the resolve, especially, are made all the more impactful.

So, without further ado, I would like you to meet my villain.

In real life she is the adorable and ridiculously talented Elle Fanning. In Awakening Foster Kelly she plays the mesmerizingly cruel Vanya Borisova. I hope you despise her. I hope you find your stomach churning when she walks on to the page. I hope you think to yourself, “What a horrid, repugnant, waste-of-space-terrible-nasty-vicious girl!” If not, then I did not do my job. But . . . as much as I hope you loathe Vanya, there are times that I hope you find yourself hating her less than you hate what’s made her so hateful. That’s a lot of hate, I know, but as I said before . . .

A story is not complete without a hero or heroine. Neither is it complete without its villain.

Happy weekend, everyone.

P.S. I’d love for you to come on by and meet Vanya: Awakening Foster Kelly: Vanya Borisova

 

27 thoughts on “Evil’s Lovely Faces

  1. Oh dear, I love/hate them all! My favorite villain? Kathy Bates as nurse Wilkes, although the movie pales in comparison to the novel – and the movie was pretty darned good! I haven’t seen Awakening Foster Kelly, and after your write-up, I’m almost afraid to click on the link!

    • She is SO good in that role! One of the only actresses that does good as well as she does evil. LOVE Kathy Bates!

      LOL — Elisa, Awakening Foster Kelly is the title of my book. However, I would not be opposed to one day the book being adapted into a film. ;-)

    • I agree with you one hundred percent about the fascination. The villain can sometimes make or break the book/film. If they’re not believable as a character, the entire plot is compromised. Then there are those villains that aren’t overtly evil, but their schemes are constantly screwing things up for everyone else. Dr. House in “House” is one that comes to mind. Incredibly fascinating character!

  2. Yes! I don’t know about you, but my favorite kind of villains are the ones who start out as villains but then as the show/book goes on you get a glimpse of their good side. And in some cases they become the villains that they are due to them becoming victims. It gets so unbelievably amazing when you are keeping track of the villain and you are having this mental tug of war about weather they are truly bad or not.

  3. I like my villains to have a strong sense of humor. Even though I hate them, I’m laughing because I can’t help it.

    The best portrayal of a villain that I’ve seen is Guy of Gisbourne in the BBC’s Robin Hood, played by actor Richard Armitage. Classic example of a bad guy who would have been a good guy if he’d just made different choices in life.

    • Ah, yes, those villains are very rare . . . I am trying to think of one such villain that fits your description and — perhaps lack of sleep is partially to blame — I cannot think of a single one. The show, film, book, of whatnot would have to be built to shoulder such a strong lead, I would imagine. Other than extremely well fleshed-out characters, nothing matters more to me than humor. If I spend days reading a novel or two hours watching a movie, I better have laughed at least once!

      I haven’t seen this — I’ll check it out, thanks.

      • You can find examples of Robin Hood on YouTube. Another good villain is Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. He has some witty one-liners and morphs from being a one-dimensional bad guy to a decent guy who acts as an ally to those he cares about.

  4. Yes, we love to boo the villain in the melodrama! And I think actors would often prefer playing the bad-guy/bad-girl. I must read more of Vanya. Glad to have you back…but these villains may give you nightmares! Have a great weekend.

    • I think you’re right, Jonel. In fact, as one who spent years in drama, I have often dreamed of playing a villain; for us in all — whether it be dormant or overactive — lies an evil with a penchant for the limelight.

      LOL — No . . . there are movies I simply WILL not watch, those that would most certainly — and have — given me awful nightmares. I wouldn’t have picked “those” villains. I am quite fond of those above. Well . . . maybe not Hannibal. *shudders* But Anthony Hopkins is a stud.

      You have a great weekend as well!

  5. Great tease!

    I’m feeling a political analogy in this post, but it’s just out of reach of my brain: Villains that you want to root for? Necessity of conflict between forces to make a good story, keep our interests? Nay.

    • Oooo, yes, Ella. I myself prefer the 2005 version with the Keira Knightley and the “other” Mr. Darcy, but yes, that is a fantastic example of villain misunderstood. Great example!

  6. Yes! Villains are the spice in every recipe, turning the most insipid dish into a flavorful culinary masterpiece. I can’t wait to get a little quite time to myself so I can pop over to AFK and re-read all the character descriptions and chapters you’ve posted to date.

    I hope this Sunday morning finds you bright eyed, bushy tailed and ready to take on the world!

    Blessings and love,

    Lori

    • So poetic, Lori, I love it!

      I hope you do ;-)

      The blurbs are very small, as I did not not to divulge too much information or give anything away, but I tried to pick scenes or dialogue that convey the character’s personality. The scene I chose for Vanya happens very early on, so she’s only not quite “warmed up” at this point. Muahahaha. LOL.

      Happy Sunday to you, sweet one,

      ~ Cara

  7. I love to hate a good villain! My fave is Agent Smith in the Matrix movies. That little girl gives me the creeps, BTW. The story I’m polishing off right now has a girl just like that harassing the main character. The little imp is hopping blogs now!

    • Agent Smith unnerved me — that cool, calm, collected disposition, a robotic sociopath; he definitely played that role well.

      LOL — Elle Fanning is actually an amazingly talented actress, and I’m not sure she has had a chance to play a villain yet. I keen to see her act out wickedness.

      Good luck with your story!

      ~ Cara

  8. I always loved the Kurgan from the original Highlander. Tortured by his father as a child, he grew up tough and cold, but developed a grim sense of humour.
    A good villan should always be larger in life than the protagonist – and for the most part they should be appear to be unbeatable – until the very end.

    • I don’t believe I saw that movie; I’ll have to see if I can find it on Netflix. Kurgan sounds like the kind of villain I would enjoy picking apart, silently rooting for him to come to the Good side.

      And yes, I agree completely. Predictable plots and characters are the bain of potentially great literature and films. I can’t think of anything (except perhaps overly bawdy humor and excessive vulgarity) I dislike more than when I can see the climax coming long before the second scene.

      Thanks for chiming in, Andrew!

      ~ Cara

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