All my life I have rarely sympathized or understood the heroes. Shining paradigms of goodness in a vast world filled with less-than-worthy commoners have never captured my interest. There have been a few like The Little Mermaid (her search for ‘something more’ always inspired me), Maximus Decimus Meridius (his fortitude and loyalty to his family always struck a chord in my black, cold heart), Odysseus (his hyper intelligence coupled with his utter stupidity at times is such an oxymoron I cannot help but love him), Athena (the most awesome goddess in Ancient Greek Mythology), Gina Carano in “Haywire” (because she’s fucking Gina Carano), and Robin Hood/Maid Marian (their anti-hero/hero status always made my heart flutter) are just a few. “But why, Shabba Doo,” you ask, “why must you sympathize with the devils?!” Here’s why: good and evil exist in all of us and we have the power to do good and evil deeds. Villains went through the same heartbreaking moments as heroes have, but villains had that extra push. Villains are the extreme and often think they are the heroes when they are actually just fucked up crazy because they snapped.
Here are a few villains (recent and ancient: fact and fiction) that can explain this. There is no particular order, but we will start with the most recent developments.
Exhibit A: “Star Trek: Into Darkness” strikes fear and sexiness into the heart of all with Kahn.
This villain, complete with a compelling history and even tears (TEARS?! Yes! I’ll allow it!), really made me actually empathize with the villain. Was it true? Possibly. Did it tug at my cold, black heart? Certainly. The actor’s portrayal of Kahn, the way he moved in such a mechanically and deliberate way that retained a sense of humanity, was stunning. The way he delivered a compelling story line and his plan to eradicate all of his enemies in the same cold and calculating tone made me tremble in both reverence and fear. Kahn was strategic and operated with precision. What moved me the most was the speech about his “family” while being held upon Kirk’s ship. I was nearly in tears with him. Everyone knows the feeling of wanting to protect your family and if you’ve ever lost someone you have loved the thought of losing 72 of your nearest, dearest friends and family members is haunting. HAUNTING. One minute you’re having a laugh with your buddies and the next you’re being hunted and cryogenically frozen because you’re genetically beyond everyone else and pose a threat. He made me feel awful for being a lesser human being. I liked that.
Exhibit B: “Sherlock Holmes” introduces us to Irene Adler
Referred to by Sherlock as “The Woman”, she was the only person to have slipped by Sherlock. In other words, she defeated Sherlock at his own game simply due to the fact that she was an intelligent woman. During the era (late Victorian to Edwardian and so forth) women were viewed then just as the Greeks did thousands of years before them, which was “constitutionally retarded” to quote Aristotle. “Of course a woman could not possibly conceive of being EVIL,” Watson probably thought, “that takes morality, cunning, wit, and manipulation and women are just untamed horses meant to be bloody broken!” Not much has changed in the horrid area I live in.
Sherlock never saw the whole thing coming. Even Moriarty, seen as Sherlock’s “match”, cannot ultimately defeat Sherlock, but Irene did. In recent incarnations of the Sherlock franchise she has been played by beautiful women and in a very favorable light. In the series “Sherlock” she could knock anyone’s knickers off, sexually and uncomfortably arouses Sherlock to the point of near explosion, and manages to get one up on him in the end. In “Elementary” (SPOILER ALERT) she IS Moriarty. Moriarty is a pretty kick ass villain (even if he didn’t make the list, but neither is Commodus or several others), but paired with being Irene Adler? That’s some serious damage.
Exhibit C: “Hannibal” brought you by Hannibal Lecter
I never liked Hannibal Lecter in any form until I started watching this gruesome series. Hannibal FUCKS with everyone. Why is he so frightening? Hannibal is refined, sophisticated, and a professional in the field of psychiatry. Hannibal is supportive and caring. Hannibal could be your next door neighbor or your posh friend. Hannibal is a fucking serial killer who is calling all of the shots and nobody’s catching on to him. The best scenes are always the ones between he and his psychiatrist played by Gillian Anderson. The sexual frustration and tension makes the viewer also sexually frustrated and tense. The pair of them have such a great chemistry you almost want to see Anderson start murdering with him and then they can run off and have murderous cannibal babies. And live happily ever ever. My sister Skaggs has an article regarding a break down of Hannibal and why she loves him just click here or on the adorable picture of Hannibal above.
Exhibit D: “Luther” and that psycho redhead Alice
Alice. The formidable redhead of the series “Luther”. Alice quite literally murders her own parents, acts innocent, and gets away with it. Luther figures her out in the end, but that doesn’t stop Alice from obsessing and terrorizing Luther. In fact, Alice falls in love with Luther. And you know what? Luther even enjoys her company. Luther, the hero of the story, keeps Alice around, because he knows how useful she is. Alice knows how to stick the knife in your back, twist it about, pull it back out, and do it all with a smile before skipping away with the bloodied knife in her grasp probably singing a nursery rhyme. That’s Alice for you.
Exhibit E: “Watchmen” and the kind-of-not-so-heroic-kind-of-sort-of-definitely-villainous Ozymandias.
Ozymandias makes the most fantastically, aloof, and intelligent villain of them all. Ozy is pulling all of the strings and he is in cahoots with the only person who has the power to pull off a wildly, crazy, and heinous stunt: Dr. Manhattan. Ozymandias believes in one thing: Destroy the few to save the many. Ozymandias has the staring role of God in this 1980’s version of “Sodom and Gomorrah: Nearly 3,000 Years Later”. Ozymandias is calm and collected–he has mastered the art of villainy. One question remains: he’s so far removed from humanity and his thought process is so incredibly inhumane…is he even capable of being human anymore? The answer is: No. I can sympathize with his guilt, his attempt to aid humanity to rise above their primal instincts, and his want for a better world, but he went about it in the completely wrong way. Arrogant and (slightly) obnoxious at times, Ozymandias is truly a hero gone very, very wrong.
Exhibit F: “X-Men” Magneto
Magneto is the ultimate badass. Magneto has seen the worst of cruelties after going through the trials of a Nazi Death Camp, being a guinea pig to the Nazi’s crazed bullshit, dealing with the guilt of falling in love with a lesser human, and then losing his best friend because he just couldn’t come to terms with his own superiority to the human race. Magneto knows his power and he dislikes humans greatly. Even thought Magneto and Xavier tend to be philosophically at odds most of the time, Magneto always swoops in to save his ass from the horrid human problems. The only regret Magneto seems to really have are his twins, because apparently in a weak frame of mind he fell for some gypsy lady and ended up getting her pregnant. Now they just remind him of his “lost decade” and he kind of treats them terribly. Magneto remains one of my favorite villains, because he believes everything he does is to further his own kind and really just wants to ultimately destroy the human race.
Exhibit G: “The Little Mermaid” and it’s sea witch Ursula
You poor unfortunate souls! Ursula is the embodiment of the bitterness of a person being continually rejected. Ursula is sensual in her movement, she’s highly, exotically, and strangely attractive, and she’s beyond charming. Like an angler, Ursula dangles her feigned pity and understanding to lure her victims in and then gobble them up. Ursula has one reason for all of this: she basically wants to rule the “Unda-Da-Sea” world. I always felt that she and Triton had an ancient tryst back in the day and after he was like “Listen, babe, you’re kind of a commoner and I’m kind of arranged to be married so some princess so…I’m terminating our strange relationship now” Ursula went away quietly…but with a plan. “I’ll get you, Triton!” Ursula probably bellowed, shaking her fist. “You will rue the day you rejected this beautiful body, you poor unfortunate soul!” And then Ursula went and became a sea witch. And she nearly destroyed Atlantica. And in the end no one knew it was actually all because of Triton. The only problem is that Ursula goes INSANE with power. Absolutely insane. Positively insane. And that’s when things literally fall apart. Ursula gets hit by a boat and BAM she’s done for.
Exhibit H: Caligula
The scariest thing about Caligula? Caligula, or “little boots” as his name means, was real. Caligula was born during a fucked up time (Ancient Rome) in a really fucked up family (the Caesars). Caligula was brought to power and royally fucked up by his cousin Tiberius. Tiberius killed a good portion of Caligula’s family so the poor guy lived in constant fear of being murdered, raped, or worse at any moment while Tiberius was still alive. Tiberius even brought Caligula to a secret island where unspeakable things were done to the local boys and girls…and even Caligula. And when Caligula came to power he was an all right guy, in fact people loved him. Then, one night Caligula got shit-faced drunk and nearly died. People mourned Caligula as he lay on his assumed death-bed, but the bitch came back with a vengeance. One of Caligula’s advisers was grooming a young man to become emperor in Caligula’s absence. They were both brutally murdered. When Caligula was bedridden a man proclaimed he would sacrifice himself for Caligula’s life. When Little Boots woke up he demanded the commoner pay up immediately. Caligula has numerous affairs with his family, but most notable was his sister Drusilla. And legend has it in this twisted love-affair he killed her by cutting her open and going all Cronus on her ass by eating their unborn bay-bay. Legit. This guy was only stopped by a bunch of people getting together and collectively realizing that an inept emperor (like Claudius) is better than a psychopath. Then Caligula was brutally murdered and that inept asshole Claudius took over. The end.
Exhibit I: Morgan Le Fay
Morgan Le Fay. Or Morgane Le Faye or whatever, because her name is spelled a billion different ways like every other Arthurian character. Anyway, Morgan was pretty badass. Morgan is usually portrayed as a woman who knows she is fated to be evil, but she does nothing to go against her fate and instead plans to enjoy ever damn minute of it. Morgan will do anything to adhere to her destiny as a badass witch. Most characters push against the grain and decide that they aren’t going to suffer through what is fated to them (newsflash, they always end up making it worse, did nobody read Oedipus back then?), but Morgan cares little about being something other than who she is. Morgan will use her bastard inbred nephew/child (depending on the legend) just to stick it to her half-brother Arthur and that goody-two-shoes Merlin. In fact, Morgan kind of rubs it in everyone’s faces that she’s beyond awesome when she suddenly shows up to cart Arthur’s dead (not really dead, just…resting) body off to Avalon after the battle with his son (and nephew), Mordred. Now that’s a slap in the face to Arthur and Merlin and a big ‘fuck you’ to Guinevere, who ran off to be a damn nun. How on EARTH did the nunnery permit Guinevere to join? Oh well, Morgan’s awesome.
And that’s the end of my villain’s list for now. Some people who did not make this list because they may have proved redundant: Mystique from “X-Men”, Joker and Harley from “Batman”, Scar from “The Lion King”, Commodus from “Gladiator” and real-life Ancient Rome, and…there’s plenty more than I cannot think of at the moment. Oh well, this is the end of my post…I will leave you with my favorite Vice Detective, as usual. I’m a little sad that Calderone did not make the list, but he’s not as intrepid as the others.
PS: Be prepared for an update on the classic myth of Odysseus. Or maybe I’ll go all rogue and update Penthesilea or something cool.