This topic has been staring at me from my yellow legal pad list all week. FAVORITE ANTAGONIST. UGH. I’ve probably gone through 20 different characters trying to figure out who to write about. Not even kidding.
You see, I am a villain sympathizer. I always have been. Maybe it’s the black sheep in me, but growing up, the villain songs were always my favorite in every Disney movie. I mean, come on. They are the most interesting people. You’ve got Ursula, Maleficent (I can’t WAIT for that movie, btw), Gaston, Governor Ratcliffe (weirdly, a personal favorite of mine, not sure why I love his fat ass so much), and, of course, the most villainous of all villains–SCAR.
They all just seem so broken and misunderstood. And I know people hate that. There are huge discussions on Tumblr from the Villain Haters of why we shouldn’t make up backstories for villains and make them loveable. But, for those who are equally broken and scarred, or the outcasts, or just the shy and misunderstood, we relate to those villains. They are–in their plotting and planning–strong where we can’t be. They are going to stand over the blonde and beautiful and be the king of everything. And then, when their plans don’t happen exactly how they expected…we understand that too.
So when it came time to pick a favorite antagonist…I couldn’t. I went through so many people and I just couldn’t make them bad enough. Snape…no…he’s good in the end, right? Draco…ugh…he’s not good enough to be called a villain, just a whiny little bitch (here comes the Slytherin hate). I even had this really deep monologue with myself about Dorian’s picture soul…but no, that’s just way too complicated and reaching.
I thought about Joffery. God do I hate Joffery. But I don’t think he really halts a pure mission. Which is the good and bad thing about Game of Thrones. It is so far from normal story archetypes. Oh George RR Martin…you are a cruel and marvelous master.
No no no, this is just not working. I could not find anyone who truly fit the profile of Antagonist. Surely I’m missing someone here. Someone who fully opposes the hero, and is a true obstacle to the end goal of the story.
And then it hit me. There is only one person who I know to be hated more than Joffery in recent literature. Only one person more cruel, creepier, and chill inducing.
Madam Undersecretary Profressor Dolores Jane Umbridge.
*Shudder* God that woman terrified me. She seemed to be everywhere at once, and blocked every mission Harry and his friends attempted. And the pink. And the CATS. I can’t even write about her without shivering.
JK Rowling used Umbridge as a vehicle to deliver a sociopath into Hogwarts. With a eerie smile planted on her pink facade, she sucked the life out of the school, while bringing on harsher and harsher punishments. And then, to make everything worse, she rose to power in the Ministry of Magic, doing the same thing there…on adults.
Even I, a diehard villain sympathizer, could never love Umbridge. Good lord, this woman terrifies the hell out of me. I may have nightmares tonight just from thinking about her so much today.
What villain truly scares you?
Your choice is very very creepy indeed. I also like Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Stephen King’s Annie Wilkes, and although I know he’s not a “novel-villain,” Darth Sidious.
Origin stories fall short by trying to play villains as misunderstood good people gone bad. Some are just downright evil, cruel, selfish, nasty people. I’m in favor of writing the origin stories, but they shouldn’t always try to make us understand these misguided, poor unfortunate souls who are broken and make their choices out of necessity or grief-rage. It’s OK to hate evil, really.
I get genuinely angry when I read Umbridge chapters. I shake and get furious, that’s how much I can’t stand her. She affects me in ways that so many antagonists don’t.
I’m a bit of an antagonist sympathizer, but I’m not rooting for them in the end (if that makes sense.) I still want them to lose the battle, but how can I not respect them? They wield power absolutely and they take what they want; it’s a powerful image that sticks with me every time.
If I had to pick a favorite, I’d probably go with Darth Vader from the original Star Wars trilogy. The prequels actually made it harder for me to respect him, because the story was so badly done. He became whiney. I also like Scar and Loki. Bellatrix is a pretty good one too.
I actually dislike when people want villains who are “evil for the sake of evil.” It makes the bad guy sound so pathetic. I don’t believe it’s a necessity for a villain to always have a big backstory or a tragic reason to be bad, though it does help make them more intriguing, but they should have a goal or motive for them. It can be a personal selfish one. “Evil for the sake of evil” is like “I’m bored, let me go commit crimes because I can’t figure out how to do anything else in this life.”
I’m a villain lover too. They usually tend to be one of the more interesting characters, and sometimes more realistic or even more relatable. The Disney villains are what started my liking for them, but others lead me to start thinking more in depth about antagonists, and the rest is history. They more often than not will end up being a favorite of whatever series.
The scariest I can think off the top of my head right now is Frollo from Disney’s Hunchback of Notre Dame.
Although I don’t like Umbridge, I’m very glad that Rowling created her character (and it helps that Imelda Staunton portrayed her perfectly in the films). She’s more or less universally hated, yet there are so many people that have the same beliefs as her and behave the same way as her (racists, queerphobes, misogynists, bigots, white supremacists, any of those one with a position of power to abuse/hide behind, or even someone who’s mantra is “My way or else”). So when you compare her to those other people, that not only puts it into context how intense and awful the behavior/actions/person is, but they see it like the biggest insult in the world (then throw a temper tantrum like her proving said point) because she is considered such an awful person.
Thanks for this! I always forget about Frollo. Man that guy was creepy…
And yes, yes, yes, on the Umbridge front. I think it’s why everyone has such a huge reaction to her. No matter what side of the coin you are on–almost everyone has an issue on which they feel her persecution.