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:
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