I love my blog sisters, but the dark heroes topic threw me for a loop. Done well, dark heros are twisted, tortured creatures—not quite villain, nor really quite hero either. I find it hard to get my head and heart around them. My pick really exemplifies that challenge—Jaime Lanister, from George R.R. Martin the Songs of Fire and Ice series. If you haven’t read it, or only read parts (I don’t have HBO so I haven’t seen the series and don’t know how it compares), spoilers coming. After finding this pic, I wish I did have HBO, he’s lovely.
Jaime starts out evil. E.V.I.L. Big time. Let’s face it, when we first meet him, he killed the former king (he’s called Kingslayer) whom he was responsible for guarding, is cuckolding the current king by sleeping with his own sister, Cersei, with whom he has three children in line for the throne and he tries to kill a child who overhears he and Cersei plotting, by pushing him off a tower. Yep, you really have to hate him…at first.
And then one of the greatest soldiers in all of Westeros loses his fighting arm and Jaime Lannister can no longer even pretend to claim to be a hero. Aware finally that he is missing an integral part of himself (ain’t imagery grand), he reluctantly befriends Brienne of Tarth, a female fighter with integrity and honor to spare, and we are brought inside his head to see the humanity he’d been hiding under a rock somewhere. Its still a little dusty and a lot out of practice. His wounds open, his love of and betrayal by his sister a palpable painful thing that’s almost physical in nature. And voila, Jaime moves from villain to dark hero. It’s George Martin’s handling of the complexity of characters that shows how near the edge dark heroes really are. And why they are so fascinating–because they can go either way. No HEA guarantee here. They are not heroes, they don’t always choose good even after we hesitantly start to open our mind to the possibility of liking them.
What makes a good dark hero is how well he handles that edge. Jaime has been on both sides, which makes him hard to love, like we love a hero. But as we get to know him, see the hero he might have truly been had things been different, we can ask ourselves if he may be a hero yet (Dance of Dragons is sitting on my bedside table. If he falls either way, don’t tell me!).
Villains We Love To Hate – I am a little obsessed with the Marvel Universe at the moment, having watched The Avengers, Iron Man, Thor and Captain America a few
dozen times. Let me just say my post is based on the films not the graphic novels and there will be spoilers.
So, out of the villains in the films I find Loki the most intriguing. On the one hand he found out that Odin, the man he thought to be his father, had lied to him all his life. He lived with a brother who was the golden child and appeared to receive all his father’s love and attention. And I think Thor can be somewhat annoying with his willfulness and his determination to see only good. Tom Hiddleston, the actor playing him in Thor and The Avengers, describes Loki as follows “He’s one dark, anarchic, bottomless black hole of rage, hatred, pity and pain. An exiled outcast, a lost & lonely agent of chaos, who wouldn’t know what to do with familial forgiveness if it walked up to him in the street and slapped him in the face.” I emphasise with this Loki.
Then there is his other side, the side that imagines he deserves to be king, that he can just go around killing people with no consequences, because they are all beneath him. Oh, he is so hateable in those instances! When he takes over Hawkeye and makes him go up against his own team, when he manipulates Odin to banish Thor, when he demands to be worshipped and wants to take free will away.
Both sides are part of Loki. What I enjoyed most in The Avengers was his ambuguity. I was never quite sure which side he was on, if Thor could persuade him to give up his quest to rule earth or if he was manipulating his opponent. The instances where it appeared as if he realised his mistakes and he was ready to stop. I loved his interaction with the Black Widow, thinking the whole time he had the upper hand only to discover, at the same time as Loki, that she had played him.
Overall, Loki is an interesting and developed character. I hate what he does, the pain and anguish he brings with him. And I can understand where some of it comes from.
But I still love the scene where Hulk trashes Loki.
Puny god indeed:).
How about you? Do you have any villains you find yourself torn between loving and hating them?
Halfway through Stargate SG-1‘s ten season run, came a two-parter involving Daniel infiltrating a meeting of the show’s Big Bads at the time – the Goa’uld. As well as a few of those the audience had met before, there were also new ones introduced – most of which were never seen or heard from again. However one played against type… and the audience absolutely loved it.
Best known for torturing lead Jack O’Neill to death over and over again (long story), Ba’al was played to utter perfection by South African actor Cliff Simon. Instead of the arrogant loudness of previous Goa’uld, Ba’al is a calm character who delivers his flavour of revenge cold and with a smirk. He has an eye for the ladies and a wry sense of humour, though his grasp of human sayings sometimes alludes him.
In the later seasons, with the introduction of a second antagonistic race – the Ori – Ba’al entered a grey area. Sometimes an enemy, sometimes an ally, the only thing the audience ever really knew for sure was that, no matter what else he was up to, he was always looking out for himself.
Key to Ba’al’s character is the actor who portrayed him. Cliff was determined to create more than a one-dimensional “bad guy”, and he very much succeeded – Ba’al is layered, complex and morally ambiguous. He never reacts as the audience expects, facing his own execution with quips and a smirk… only to violently stab O’Neill when he escapes his bonds. A good part of my love for Ba’al comes from utter adoration of Cliff; his generosity to his fans (and yes, I have been on the receiving end of this), his wicked sense of humour and his passion for the causes he supports.
Um, this post went a little sideways on me… I’m such a fangirl. Anyway, let’s announce the winner of two of my backlist books.
Viki, please email your preference to misa[.]buckley[@]gmail[.]com
You should probably be warned that I’ll do my best to post some eye candy at the beginning of every blog. No, it rarely has anything to do with the blog. But looking is fun, no? (And apparently I have a thing for asses lately.)
Now to the topic at hand: villains. They bring out the best in our heros and heroines. They are the antithesis of all that’s good and right with the world. They are the darkness and the devil, often in a pretty package, and we love, love, love to hate them. So who’s my ultimate villain? Allow me to introduce you to Black Jack Randall, the darkest villain I’ve ever encountered.
Black Jack Randall is an English soldier, a Captain I believe, in the 1700’s. He is solely the product of the brilliant and talented mind of Diana Gabaldon, my hero. Jack Randall is one of the first characters we meet in her book Outlander, the opening to the series she began with Jamie Frasier and Claire Randall. Is Claire married to Jack? No. He’s her 1940’s husband’s several times great-grandfather. But the connection is there–until he assaults her and she figures out he’s a sadist.
What makes Jack Randall such a wonderful villain? The list seems endless as I write to you. He’s a dark, tortured soul, one who seems incapable of any type of compassion or empathy, let alone love. He is a rapist and the worst sadist you can imagine. He is fiercely attracted to Jamie Frasier, not only physically but psychologically. He wants to break our hero and he comes damned close to doing it. It was in that moment in the book, when Jamie was at his lowest, that I knew true hate for a character. Why? Because I was, and am, madly, truly, hopelessly in love with Jamie. I want him. I covet him. I cherish him. And that’s what makes the villain so effective–Diana has created a hero we truly love. It is that passion for the hero that brings the villain to life.
Jack Randall’s darkness, his sadism, would be horrible in and of itself, no doubt. But the fact he has a laser-like focus on our hero is what makes him so easy to hate. You root for Jamie and Claire, you boo and hiss at Jack, and you hold your breath every time the two men are on the page together. I have rarely cried because of a villain’s actions, but Jack Randall turned my stomach and made me weep.
I once heard Diana speak. She talked about a tea she attended where the ladies were discussing how evil Jack Randall was, and Diana grinned at us, her current crowd of apt listeners. She took on a delightful grin and said she enjoyed the conversation, but was surprised at one thing. Didn’t the ladies know that she was Jack Randall? He had come from inside her?
It struck me then that every villain I write has some component of me, from a gram to a metric ton of my influence and personality. It’s made it harder for me to write my villains because who wants to acknowledge the dark inside us? But it’s there, waiting for us to make it manifest in the form of our characters. I suppose I should get back to my current villain, a goddess intent on taking over the world and killing both my hero and heroine. Hmmm. World domination? Who knew I had it in me?
Until we meet again, read and be happy.
Great villains don’t see themselves as villains. This moral blind spot not only enables their bad ass ways but also dangles a nuanced humanity–accessible actions that have us believing in their potential for redemption–that makes them so downright scary.
Great villains have:
- Focus and purpose—they are on a mission, even if we don’t agree with it.
- Leadership and fierce intellect—while there are many lone villains out there, I like those that come as part of a pack. Their ability to motivate their people, care for them even if that care is twisted reveals that nuanced humanity.
- Beauty and Seductiveness—their words, mannerisms, looks, intellect, all would be drop dead sexy if their bad wasn’t so truly bad. They tempt us using our weaknesses as bait.
I’ve got two favorites—one male, one female. Let’s start with Hans Gruber, played to perfection by Alan Rickman, in the film Die Hard.
When he glides off the elevator in a custom-tailored, Savile Row suit, followed by a horde of to-die-for bad boys masquerading as terrorists to execute the ultimate burglary, Hans had me at: “I could talk about men’s fashion and industrialization all day but I’m afraid work must intrude .” The British accent upped him on the hot scale, and had him serving up dialogue in a way that made me swoon.
Witty, sophisticated, brilliant, I’d have gone for him big time if he didn’t have a ruthless penchant for killing innocent people. Although he radiated heartlessness, he wrangled his pack as a true leader, stayed firm to his goals, perverse as they might be, and maintained a veneer of politeness when dealing with the hostages (even though he did ultimately plan on killing them all). Not a hair or etiquette out of place.
What really made Hans accessible was Alan Rickman’s performance. In Rickman’s own words, Hans was not a villain. And that is why he nailed the character—he kept him human.
My favorite female bad ass is the Borg Queen (BQ) from Star Trek, played by Alice Krige in the movie First Contact and Susanna Thompson in the Star Trek Voyager series. BQ slinks into our world with the swagger of a seductress, catching Lt. Commander Data in her claws. Take a peak:
BQ: “Are you familiar with physical forms of pleasure?”
Data: “If you are referring to sexuality, I am fully functional, programmed in multiple techniques.”
BQ: “ How long since you’ve used them?”
Data: “Eight years, seven months, 16 days, four minutes, 22—“
BQ: “Far too long.”
If you haven’t seen the movie, yes, she kisses him and he kisses her back. In addition to temptress, the Borg leader prowls with the protectiveness of a mother tigress shielding her young. Here’s a snippet from Endgame with Seven of Nine, a former Borg drone returned to humanity by Janeway and the Star Trek Voyager crew:
BQ: “Seven of Nine, Tertiary Adjunct of Unimatrix 01. It’s been too long.”
Seven: “What do you want?”
BQ: “Do I need a reason to visit a friend?”
Seven: “We’re not friends.”
BQ: “No. We’re more than that. We’re family.”
She may not be human, but the humanity in that demeanor cannot be denied. With an emotional vein, not present in the drones she leads, she can be hated. The Borg drones are victims, and can only elicit only our pity.
The Borg Queen as mother brings us closer to her and separates us from her entirely. To protect her collective, her family, is to terminate us. What I love most about her villainy is that while Picard and Data defeated her, only Captain Janeway, another mother guarding her family, could destroy her. Like Ellen Ripley and the Alien Queen, it takes a mother to outmaneuver a mother. An interesting twist when dealing with female baddies.
It’s that need for family and loyalty to achieve defined objectives that makes these villains great, and gives us a way to understand them even as we hate them. That nuance haunts us because it reminds us that but for fate, we are not that far away from villainy as we sometimes like to think.
I’d love to hear from you. What characteristics make up a great villain? Do they differ between male and female baddies?
I know I’m a little late. I have a perfectly good reason for it too. I was flying home from RomantiCon and then had to regale everyone with pictures and stories. Don’t worry, you can learn about what happened at the convention over at my personal blog, Unearthly Musings.
But today isn’t all about me. You want to know if you’ve won anything in the awesome giveaway we’ve held the last couple of weeks. Well, here goes…
Lindsey E has won the swag pack from me.
Junegirl won the prize from Sabrina.
Tina B. won Denise’s prize.
Lyndsay Avalon won Marcella’s goodies.
June M won the prize from Regina.
Vanessa N. and Joanne B won Virginia’s prizes.
Suzlyne won Anya’s goodies.
Urb won Leta and Keira’s gifts.
Teresa won Viki and Jan’s prizes.
Linda Larsson won Tina’s prize.
Congrats, y’all! The bloggers should be contacting you via the email addresses you provided to get information for your prizes. Don’t worry, this isn’t the last giveaway we’ll ever have. I’m pretty sure we’ll be throwing out prizes left and right.
So now for the meat of the post. We already talked winners, but what about sinners? Or rather villains? I love a good villain, the guy who everyone can’t help but hate, yet find strangely compelling at the same time.
I have a couple of villains that just work for me. Riddick from Pitch Black is awesome in my opinion. He’s a bad guy. He knows it. You know it. Everyone knows how kick ass he is. And yet, you can’t help but think how perfect he is for the environment the stranded people find themselves in. He becomes the most unlikely hero because of his villainous past and tendencies. Yes I’m aware he’s more of an anti-hero, but he does it for me. And not just because he’s seriously stacked.
The other villain that always gets my goat is Hannibal Lector from Silence of the Lambs. He’s lethal. He’s intelligent. He’s even snarky and amusing at times, but you can never forget he’s downright creepy. There’s a part of me that finds him the scariest character in any movie, probably because he doesn’t seem to move very fast or act in haste. Everything is so well thought out and he leaves no room for mistakes. You just know he could skin you alive in a thrice and not think anything of it.
I’ll never be able to hear the phrase quid pro quo without thinking of him immediately.
Have you seen these two movies? What do you think of these villains?