Good villains are underrated.
Maybe it’s a bad boy complex, or perhaps a little preoccupation with the darker side of humanity, but so many of my favourite characters in pop culture have been villains, or at the very least, walked the precarious line between good and evil.
From the booming voice of Jeremy Irons as Scar in The Lion King, to my current favourite TV bad guy, Kilgrave in Marvel’s Jessica Jones, the characters that have fascinated and captivated me more than most are the hell raisers.
Is it because these characters (animal form and mind control abilities aside) are so much closer to the reality of the human condition than their heroic counterparts? One is really just a guy who is wildly jealous of his brothers life and stature in the family, the other is a man used to getting his own way every time, and can’t get over his awful childhood, all of which are very real things that many people experience every day. The only difference is most of them don’t wander quite so far into psychopath territory (although, some of them do).
I mentioned Scar from the Lion King, because he’s one of the first villains I remember really enjoying watching. Obviously he killed Mufasa, and anyone of my generation can probably attest to that being the moment you found out movies can make you cry too, but it didn’t take away from how I much I enjoyed his over exaggerated ‘temple rubbing’, whilst saying ‘I’m surrounded by idiots’ (a sentiment I would come to understand even further as an adult). Epic sarcasm points to Scar.
I’m in the process of having one of my favourite movie characters tattooed on my leg, being Alex DeLarge from A Clockwork Orange, but I think I’ll save that story for a separate post when the piece is finished. Alex is a complex character, but definitely is not the hero of that story (or maybe he is? Again, a discussion for another time).
Some of the best villains have come to us via comic book-land. The Marvel universe also delivered everyone’s favourite God of Mischief and generally more interesting and complex than any of the Avenger’s characters, Loki. Tom Hiddleston’s portrayal of bitter and twisted trickster is probably the only thing that made me come back for a second film in the Thor series. I mean, Chris Hemsworth is, well, Chris Hemsworth, I’m not blind, but the relatability and depth of character doesn’t really exist in Thor.
Orange is the New Black is another Netflix series I am eagerly awaiting the return of this year, and as can be evidenced by a cosplay effort last year, I think that Alex Vause is where it’s at. She isn’t a traditional villain in the sense that Vee was, but she is responsible for the situation we find our (irritating) protagonist Piper in.
I’m sure I can’t be alone in my love of characters from the dark side, but as a proud consumer/collector of merchandise of my favourite things, it does make the hunt for representations of our favourite characters a little more difficult (but OH so satisfying when we do come across a gem!). I was very excited to pick up a plush Scar at Walt Disney World a couple of years ago, and Funko have a delightfully comprehensive range in their Pop Vinyl series.
I have a long list of darker characters that have stayed with me for whatever reason – honourable mentions to yet another Marvel villain Ultron (The Avengers: Age of Ultron), J.J Hunsecker (The Sweet Smell of Success), Keyser Soze (The Usual Suspects) and The Governor (The Walking Dead) , but I’d love to hear about your unlikely heroes and compare notes on the villains that push our buttons.