—Sauron’s voice to Frodo Baggins through the Great Eye, when Frodo has the Ring on.
I’m not much for villains and rarely do I love them. I’m a ‘love the hero/heroine’ kind of girl. But we are not talking about the good guys today. This post is about villains we love to hate and after thinking long and hard I decided that Sauron was on top of my list.
“The Dark Lord Sauron forged in secret a master ring, to control all others. And into this ring he poured his cruelty, his malice, and his will to dominate all life. One Ring to rule them all.”
—Galadriel regarding Sauron and the forging of the One Ring.
Sauron, the Dark Lord of Mordor, was the boss-man and the quintessential role model for every role-playing game I’d ever played. He is the perfect model for the ultimate bad-ass. Even the most powerful warriors in Middle Earth, Captains of the West, elves and dwarves weren’t able to destroy his reign over their land for he had forged the One Ring to rule them all. This incredible will to dominate all things corrupted his heart and soul. There was nothing left to redeem within him, his soul shriveled, and so he had to be destroyed.
Every villain has an Achilles heel and Sauron’s was the very ring that gave him his power. And I love the dichotomy because that’s very human. So many times our gifts or talents are also our flaws. We learn to rely on them and sometimes take the easy way out instead of growing or learning from our mistakes. In the end, it took a very fragile and powerless hobbit and a corrupt Gollum to defeat the Dark Lord. The One Ring perished along with all the power Sauron had invested in it.
And like many villains, Sauron didn’t start out being evil. In the earliest of days, he was known as Mairon the Admirable. It was his fatal flaw of having to dominate and control that turned him to the dark side. He became corrupted by the Dark Lord Morgoth and took the name Sauron and the rest was history.
I have a villain in my White Tiger Tales series. He is similar to Sauron in that his power seems indestructible. Eidolon is a shape shifter that has lived for hundreds of years. Slowly he became corrupt by his intellectual powers and his need to dominate the will of others. He has it out for Antoine, the white tiger shifter, because he blames him for his family being cast out of the tribe. He wasn’t always corrupt but evil has a way of transforming a person into something ugly.
On Teen Wolf, the hit MTV series, there is no shortage of villains.
And that’s not even the end of the list!
Keira and I have to admit–we love them all. But the scariest villain on Teen Wolf by far is…Mrs. Victoria Argent!
Yes, indeed, the mother of the hero’s main love interest, Allison Argent, is one terrifying mofo. There’s just something about Mama Argent that sends cold chills down your spine so that you never want it to stop. Oh, God, she’s so scary and so dang enjoyable!
Keira and I are just gonna let these gifs speak for themselves.
Because MTV is awesome, you can watch both seasons of Teen Wolf streaming for free on their site. Season 1 and 2 have 12 episodes each, but they’ve been cleared for a third season with 24 episodes. Color us thrilled! We can’t wait to see what villains they’ll bring us to love next!
And, uh, this has nothing to do with Mama Argent or villains, but this man is on Teen Wolf with his shirt off all the time, and if that’s not a reason to watch, we don’t know what is!
Leta Blake and Keira Andrews write fairy tale inspired m/m erotica and romantica with Ellora’s Cave. Check out Earthly Desires, the first book in the series, available for purchase at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Ellora’s Cave.
“In the old days villains had moustaches and kicked the dog. Audiences are smarter today. They don’t want their villain to be thrown at them with green limelight on his face. They want an ordinary human being with failings.”
Well, Al, you’re far more successful in your field than I am in mine, but I will say in rebuttal…
Yes, yes, sometimes the ordinary person can be truly, scarily villainous. Think of the controlling, obsessed mother who claims to want only the best for their child while systematically destroying the object of their affections. The spurned lover who thinks he’s within his rights to stalk his ex, or the seemingly nice, quiet man who can’t talk about his pain, only take it out on unsuspecting others. Cheerleaders/most popular girls in the class make great villains, wielding their power with all the hormone-driven desires seething in their teenage hearts. Who knows what evil lurks in the souls of ordinary men and women—or how it will be manifested?
Yet, the truth is, sometimes I want the green limelight, the moustache, even the propensity to kick at small, furry creatures. Sometimes, that’s exactly the kind of over-the-top, Joker-painted-face kind of villain a story calls for.
But…but…here’s the thing…
There has to be something more.
The villain has to play against the hero or heroine in such a way we’re occasionally drawn to wonder if there isn’t something wrong with the way the supposed good guy/girl relates to life. He or she must shine a light on the hero or heroine’s actions, be the funhouse mirror if you will, showing us something we might not have seen before. And they must have that little something extra, a quirk or habit we find interesting—maybe even just a little endearing. Something the hero or heroine apparently lacks.
There are a host of characteristics that can take a bad guy from cookie-cutter, Snidely Whiplash stereotype to someone we love to hate. Pathos, a kernel of kindness, a true (even if twisted) affection for someone else, or a need—for love, revenge, power, visibility—we can all relate to.
Perhaps even a sense of humor.
One of my favorite villains ever was Q, played with gusto by John de Lancie in the Star Trek, The Next Generation television series. Q is everything Captain Jean Luc Picard isn’t—omnipotent, amoral, disinterested in preserving life or viewing much with any sense of gravity. Q has no conscience. Not even the destruction of an entire specie gives him a qualm, while we’re quite sure Jean Luc remembers every crew member who died under his command and sometimes lies in bed reliving the moment he had to inform the families of their losses. Even physically Q is Picard’s opposite— 6’ 4” and solidly built to Picard’s 5’ 10” and trimly slender physique.
Yet, while Q no doubt was a crazy, life-form destroying, humanity judging, Enterprise endangering bad guy, lordie, he was also an absolute hoot! He had the kind of sense of humor Picard didn’t have, or couldn’t allow himself to have.
I always remember the scene at the end of the episode “Deja Q” when the Enterprise crew believes Q to be dead. Picard is being completely solemn, not hypocritical enough to pretend to mourn Q’s passing, but searching for meaning in the despised being’s demise. Suddenly, Q appears with a cry of “Au contraire, Mon Capitan. Q is back.”
There is a mariachi band! Cigars! Women! And, in that moment, you want to dance with Q, while shouting, “Lighten up!” at Picard. Although you can understand the captain’s annoyance, and know he doesn’t have the freedom to behave with Q’s abandon, you can’t help laughing at Q’s antics, and wonder what he’ll come up with next.
So yes, Al, the ordinary person made extraordinary by their inner demons definitely has a big place in the villain pantheon, but don’t count out the dude with the handlebar moustache or the wild eyes…give them a relatable quirk and we’ll love to hate them too.
Villains. For days I wracked my brains trying to come up with a single villain I loved to hate. I couldn’t. After talking with a friend, I had to admit that I’m just not that into villains. I’m into forces of nature. When I think of villains, I come up with the big, huge, soulless entities. Zombies. Umbrella Corporation (from the Resident Evil games and movies). Entire species of invaders from outspace (the bad guys in my SFR books). Global warming, mega tsunamis, mega volcanoes – or any other way our planet might kill us. The techonology that allowed modern man to create living dinosaurs in Jurassic Park.
Maybe this is what comes from being a science fiction author – we’re conditioned to think in terms of humanity learning to comprehend the scope of its apparent mastery of nature and technology. (And subsequently finding out that maybe we hadn’t mastered everything quite the way we’d thought.) It’s a little like Vizzini’s line in Princess Bride: “Never get involved in a land war in Asia.” In science fiction the classic blunder is: Imagining you know what you think you know will now be disproved. Usually in the worst way possible.
In trying to parse out why I’m drawn to the big, faceless, soulless baddies, I came up with a couple of notions:
a. It feels real to me – how many of us totally and completely trust our government? Do you even know what your government looks like (with the exception of the executive branch photo ops – how about your district’s representative for state office? Not me.) How many of us trust industry to have our best interests at heart unless we’re major shareholders? I think we all grasp ‘faceless, soulless, out to get us.’ Okay. Okay. My love of conspiracy theory fun is showing. Sorry.
b. The big entities offer nearly overwhelming challenges to heroes and heroines – it’s one thing to fight a single person and entirely another to battle something where you can’t even get a handle on WHAT to attack. I do not discount the value of going up a against a single baddy. Hannibel Lector has already been mentioned – brilliant foil for Clarice in Silence of the Lambs. But from my perspective, he isn’t a villain in that movie. He is a foil – someone designed to change Clarice in such a way that she can go from novice investigator to someone who can and does catch a killer. Not even the killer Clarice is trying to catch is the bad guy. Clarice, herself, is the greatest enemy she has to overcome. Which brings me to my third and most important (to me) point.
c. A huge soulless villain points out the fact that the bad guy is inside the hero or heroine the entire time. I think this goes back to the notion of each of us being our own worst enemies. When we’re faced with a big, faceless force, our tendency is to try to humanize it by projecting. From Wikipedia, the definition: “Psychological projection or projection bias is a psychological defense mechanism where a person subconsciously denies his or her own attributes, thoughts, and emotions, which are then ascribed to the outside world, usually to other people.”
I argue that most projection involves the portions of ourselves we don’t want to own – our negative traits. It’s much easier to hate laziness in someone else rather than have to face it and deal with it in yourself. But this is the point of bad guys like Umbrella Corp. Heroes and heroines can paint the overwhelming force with their own dark aspects and then do battle with both themselves and the big bad. Remember reading the Greek plays in high school and college? All those happy, feel-good plays that left the stage littered with dead bodies? Did instructors mention that there’s a fine, thin line between tragedy and a happy ending? In both stories, the hero has to overcome some part himself in order to succeed. Tragedy = failure to execute change in oneself. HEA = change in hero so triumph is possible.
So. What do I like in a bad guy? Menace. Apparent soullessness. Grandious conspiracies are a plus. In the end, though, I’m looking for someone or something that forces my characters to look inside themselves for their fatal flaw so it can be fixed – or not – depending on what the story requires. Change is hard. Especially if you’re asking me to do the changing. One person nagging me to start exercising I can just write off as a jerk. The zombie apocalypse where everything that moves and isn’t human wants to make me a snack pack? I’ll get up off the couch and lace up the tennis shoes. No worries. Maybe that’s why I don’t seem to focus in on a single nasty villain. Single nasty villain need only meet one single bullet on a day when my heroine has PMS and then I’m out a novel.