November 4, 2011

Dee's 10 Freaking Awesome Villains and Antagonists!

Good Thursday/early Friday to you all!

I know that Halloween (and the most epic weekend of my life) has passed, but seeing as I posted something dull and serious on Halloween, I’m going to do a somewhat Halloween-themed post for this week. Why? Because it’s my damned blog. Zitto.
Vader didn't actually end up on my list...too easy.


Anyone who’s known me for about three seconds knows my love for antagonists and villains. I’ve rooted for the bad guy since I was old enough to understand the whole good vs evil paradigm.  One of my earliest dreams involved me running off with the Joker from Batman the Animated Series.

…Yes, even at age 6, I loved the Joker. Don’t judge me.

Anyway, villains and antagonists have always fascinated me. Much of the time, they’re far more interesting than the heroes/protagonists of their stories. Their backgrounds are far richer, usually depicting some sort of fall from grace, their personalities more complex, their motives more relatable. And honestly, I’ve always found them less…annoying. This is hearkening more back to Disney, early comics, and less complex social paradigms than, say, literature or modern movies, but many protagonists are too simplistic and so…boring. Especially in my writing, I have a tendency to focus on the antagonist or antagonistic characters. They’re just more fun!

I have made the decision to compile a list of my top 10 villains/antagonists. Okay, wait, no, not my top 10. If I call it my top 10, I’m going to make like 800 other posts adding, subtracting, and changing the order of this one. So let’s just call this my list of 10 freaking awesome villains/antagonists. Some you’ll all know, some you might not have even heard of because, well, I’m a geek. Either way, it’s going to be fun for me to do!

10. The Lord of Darkness from Legend film


            I’m going to kick this list off with a classic evil character. Known only as the Dark Lord or the Lord of Darkness, Tim Curry’s antagonist in legend is exactly what most people would expect a villain to be; big, scary, loath to sunlight, and doesn’t hesitate to kill anyone who stands in his way. Or annoys him. Or is standing in the wrong place at the wrong time. The Lord of Darkness is a huge, towering figure, based off of the quintessential Christian Devil, complete with horns, hooves, and a tail.

            Normally I wouldn’t bother with such a typical run-of-the-mill villain, but Legend is a staple of my childhood, and I honestly think there is just a little bit more to the Lord of Darkness. He is the quintessential evil, and he knows it. He even alludes to it at the end of the movie, stating that he could never really die because light and darkness cannot exist without each other. Not a new theory by the furthest stretch of the imagination, but I would hesitate to call him a cliché. I think he’s more of a classic. The entire movie is a classic, really. It doesn’t add anything new to the good/evil fantasy paradigm, but it’s comforting, familiar.
The one downside? He still sounded like Tim Curry.

            Being a total sucker for this, I absolutely have to mention the Lord of Darkness falling for Lili, the innocent princess character. His fascination with her is that contrasting duality that is totally my catnip. She fascinates him because she is everything he isn’t, and he wants her as he wants the light, but at the same time he wants to destroy all that she is, which is all that he finds so attractive in her. He longs to destroy all goodness, but he longs for it, treasures it as well, and he knows he cannot survive without it, yet he continues to be what he is, the darkness, even though he knows the dance is eternal. That’s why the Lord of Darkness is an amazing villain. He knows that everything he does is futile, because light and darkness cannot survive without one another, but he must continue to seek to annihilate it, because he cannot be anything but what he is. His self-awareness is astounding for a villain in this sort of classical fantasy tale, and the fact that he chooses to continue to be darkness, to be evil, in spite of his knowing that this cycle will never end, is just fascinating.

9. Freddy Kruger, A Nightmare on Elm Street films
I always marry the bad boys.

            Some of you are probably surprised to see my favourite 80s slasher so far down on my list of awesome antagonists. True, I love Freddy Krueger like no other (to this day some of my high school friends still call me the Bride of Freddy…long story for another day). As most of you know, I've suffered from nightmares and night terrors all my life, so Freddy hits a special chord for me, as he most of his killing in your dreams. But though my darling husband is and always will be one of my favourite villains, he's pretty run-of-the-mill by today's standards. A child killer/molester murdered by angry parents comes back in the dreams of the children of Elm Street, now in high school, and wreaks havoc. There's nothing redeemable or complex about him. He loved harming others in life, and his death didn't change that. According to the fourth movie, he was even spawned by a hundred criminally insane men raping a nun.  He's evil through and through.

Shit, was it the fourth or fifth movie?...fifth, I think…I'm too lazy to Google it.

Yeah, the Fifth was Dream Child, right? With the nun and the car crash and the crazy demon baby puppet…?

…I ask myself on the blank canvas of my blog window…

Moving on…

            I love Freddy. His movies are simultaneously hilarious and cringeworthy. He also is a sexual killer, which is the kind of stuff that scares the hell out of me. And…dude, he has that freaking awesome knife glove!  Come on, he wins right there.

8. Lucifer/Satan/The Beast, Paradise Lost by Milton

            Putting on my lit nerd glasses for a second…I have to say that I love Paradise Lost. In spite of Milton being excessively sexist and traditionalistic even for those times, he manages to make Lucifer a very deep and complex character. I was shocked by his intelligence and self-awareness when I first read this poem. I had fully expected it to be a glowing testament to Christianity, portraying Lucifer as the ultimate evil for the sake of being evil, the quintessential two-dimensional devil. But throughout this entire work of literature, Lucifer shows intellect, doubt, regret, and a shrewdness I had never expected from an uptight prick like Milton. I’m going to severely reign in my insatiable urge to rant about this topic and give you only one example of this…even though there are so many good examples….gah, must be strong…

            In this teeny tiny little section of Paradise Lost, Satan sits on his newly acquired throne surrounded by the angels who fell with him who adore him. He has shown resolve to continue his war with God, to destroy all that God loves, meaning man. These are his thoughts, however, as he sets out to execute his plan to enter Eden:

Ay me, they little know
How dearly I abide that boast so vaine,
Under what torments inwardly I groane:
While they adore me on the Throne of Hell,
With Diadem and Sceptre high advanc'd
The lower still I fall, onely Supream
In miserie; such joy Ambition findes.

            Through the anger and pride that had been his downfall, Lucifer is aware that there is pain and loss buried within him, that he mourns the loss of heaven. And while anger is a fine spice for a villain, I prefer a little emotional complexity in my bad guys, and Lucifer's got it. In Paradise Lost, Satan himself actually wonders if he could return to heaven if he repented, and go back to his home. He concludes that even though he would be happy again for a while, his pride and envy of Adam and Eve would eventually return, and the cycle would begin again. So he fuels his anger not with the need for revenge, but with mourning and a level of self-loathing. Honestly, I've never known Lucifer to be so deep in other literature I've come across.  Alot of people are nervous about reading epic poems, but this is well worth the struggle, in my opinion.

::WARNING! This next one is a SPOILER for the movie UNBREAKABLE! Consider yourself warned if you haven't seen it. By the way...SEE IT!::

7. Elijah Price, Unbreakable film

            One of the two M. Night Shamylan films I truly enjoy, Unbreakable is nothing short of a masterpiece. Although I say this begrudgingly, I don't think anyone but Shamylan could pull off throwing a comic book sense of good and evil into the real world. The symbolism is, of course, heavy-handed, but it works in this movie.

            Samuel L. Jackson's Elijah Price is an antagonist that you love.  Now, in true Shamylan style, you don't know he's the antagonist until the end, which probably helps.  You pity Elijah. He was born with a bone disorder so debilitating that his bones break under nearly any stress. His own birth caused his collarbone and arms to break.

            Elijah is one of the coolest villains to me because while most comic book-style villains kind of fall into the supervillain role, he literally chose the path of the antagonist. His childhood was spent reading comic books, and he knew that if someone like him existed, then an opposite person existed, too, someone strong and brave and unbreakable. His pursuit of a living superhero is the pursuit of his own meaning, a purpose for his existence. His story has just enough metafiction to appease my inner lit nerd.

6. Inspector Javert from Les Miserables (as I haven't read the book, I'm referring to the musical and especially the film where he is portrayed by Geoffrey Rush...sweeeeet.)
He looks so warm and cuddly.

            Javert is one of those villains that doesn't think of himself as a villain.  He's the good guy, the law, chasing after a criminal who violated his probation. His evil is his certainty in his black and white perception of the world. When that perception is completely shattered, he simply can't handle the fact that he'd spent so many years chasing a good man. His death in the movie makes me cry every single time I see it. Javert, played by Geoffrey Rush, stands on the ledge of the river Seine, slaps iron handcuffs on himself, and turns to Valjean.

            "I've tried to live my life without breaking a single rule." he says. Then he closes his eyes, his face smooth with complete peace, and allows himself to fall into the river and drown.

            I know, right?!

            I think this death is much more eloquent than the way he dies in the musical. He still jumps into the river, but only after a lengthy belting monologue that ends with, "There is no way to GO OOOOOOOOOOOoooooooooooooooooonnnnnn!"::splash:: That ending has always reminded me of when Wil E Coyote falls off of cliffs.

            But yeah, that's just me.

5. Hannibal Lector, from Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal, The Red Dragon, etc.
Creeps me out even in photo form.

            Of course Dr. Lector has to be on this list. He's hardcore. A few of his scenes in Silence of the Lambs still make me curl up into a Dee Ball of terror, though they aren't the scenes you'd think.  Yes, Hannibal is a cannibal, a vicious murderer who gnaws people's faces off without making his pulse race. Yes, he's gutted people and bitten off noses and all that, but honestly, that's not what scares me about him. What scares me is his psychological sadism. It's just...ah, just fucked up how he enjoys seeing Clarice's pain as she recounts moments in her childhood, or when he taunts Senator Martin about her missing daughter.  To me, the most frightening and disturbing moment in Silence of the Lambs is right after Clarice finishes recalling the tale of her witnessing the slaughtering of lambs when she was a child. As she finishes, her eyes clouded with old terror and tears she doesn't notice falling, Lector leans back, closes his eyes as if he's listening to the most exquisite music, and murmurs, "Thank you, Clarice...thank you."

            ...dude.

            Unfortunately this aspect of Lector is downplayed in the other movies, shoved aside for more physical violence like brain eating and face slicing. But Lector's mental sadism, rather than his slasher status, will always be what sets him apart from other antagonists.

4. Erik/The Phantom of the Opera from The Phantom of the Opera book (and the musical, but I'm mostly referring to the book here)


            No surprise here. I could go on for years about how amazing Erik is. Born deformed to the point where even his mother despised looking at him, he was unable to relate to others from his very first day on Earth. A genius of music, engineering, architecture, and murder, Erik is the quintessential evil genius. And when he falls in love, he doesn't weaken and forgive all the wrong done to him and live happily ever after. No, he stays true to his nature, his inability to function on a normal level, and manipulates, threatens, and terrorizes the woman he loves in an attempt at courtship. I love it when a character stays true to his nature.

            I would like to point out that he does release Christine (and Raoul, and the Persian) in the book much like he does in the musical. She kisses him and he has a moment of clarity, that he cannot make her love him and even though she consented to be his wife, a relationship built on terror is not love. But that one break in his existence, much like Javert, is what ultimately kills him. I still cry when I read his words to the Persian, whom he calls daroga (Persian police chief): " Of love...daroga...I am dying...of love...That is how it is.... loved her so!...And I love her still...daroga...and I am dying of love for her, I...I tell you!...If you knew how beautiful she was... when she let me kiss her..."

            As a villain, Erik is so badass that the only way to defeat him was ultimately him defeating himself.

3. Frankenstein's Monster, Frankenstein; Or; The Modern Prometheus book


            Frankenstein has been one of my favourite books since junior high, and it's all because of the monster. Far, far from the electrified zombie with bolts in his neck in his Hollywood portrayal, Frankenstein's Monster is a highly intelligent, fast-learning intellectual creature who was abandoned by his creator and left in existential crisis on the very night of his birth. If Frankenstein hadn't flipped out when his creation opened his eyes and looked at him, I truly think that the monster would have become a sweet, gentle, loving man, though hideously malformed. In my opinion, Frankenstein is more the antagonist of the story than his creation, but for the sake of time, I won't rant about that…

            Frankenstein's Monster's story is one of the most tragic I've ever come across. He was the fruit of a feverish and obsessive mind, a man who brought him life and fled before his creation could even comprehend his own existence. The poor creature fled to the woods, and there he slowly became self aware, began to think, to speak, to read Paradise Lost, and to search for his creator. Frankenstein's Monster becomes an instrument of destruction after he falls in love with a small family in the woods, in whose cottage he hides without their knowledge. While remaining concealed, he helped them with crops, daily tasks like collecting firewood, and things like that. But when he finally had the courage to make himself known to the blind father of the family, he was beaten and driven away when the rest of the family returns. They saw his disfigurement and found him horrifying, attacking him and abandoning their cottage without giving him a moment to speak. Twice abandoned, Frankenstein's Monster became an instrument of rage and destruction because he felt he could be nothing else. His tragedy is that he is a loving and gentle creature, but his pain of being abandoned by his creator, his search for the reason for his existence, twisted him into an instrument for horror and revenge.

            This is another classic I highly recommend because it's one of those stories that is so heart wrenching, so terribly sad that it's…beautiful.

2. Annie Wilkes, Misery (the movie, because it's been a long time since I've read the book)
Fucked. Up.

            I hate Stephen King's horror novels. I always have. They're full of gratuitous gore and violence, horror for the sake of horror. I hate that.

            But Annie Wilkes is. Freaking. Terrifying. Fuck It, fuck Dreamcatcher, fuck Carrie. Annie Wilkes takes the cake as King's most frightening antagonist for me. Maybe it's because she reminds me of a librarian I had in junior high and high school with her schoolteacher voice and her hatred for curse words.

            Or maybe it's because she's a nurse who flies into random rages and breaks peoples' legs with a sledgehammer.

            Annie's mental instability is frightening because it's so real. Everyone else on this little list of mine is, in some way, superhuman or an exaggerated type of character. But Annie…there are people out there like Annie. Her horror is solidly ground in the real world; an nurse with the mind of a child and a complete disregard for everyone else when she has a tantrum. If I ever become a published author, I'm going to be wary of my fans because of Annie Wilkes.

1. The Joker, from anything Batman


            Yes, I can hear you protesting already. "Of course you'd say the Joker is the best antagonist. You're totally obsessed!...Heath Ledger's performance!...totally biased!...blah blah blah!"

            I only have one thing to say to that, which trumps any and all arguments of bias.

            Fuck you, it's The Joker.

            The Joker is the quintessential antagonist. When we think the word "superhero", we usually first think of Superman. But when we think of heroes vs villains, oddly enough, we don't think of Lex Luthor. We think of Batman and the Joker. The two sides of a single coin. The eternal dance of good and evil.
My two favies, side by side!

            The Joker is such a legendary character and has been in existence for so long that he is almost everything you could possibly look for in a villain. Insane and super sane, hilarious and horrifying, brilliant and impulsive, fair and ridiculously cruel. There are child-friendly versions of the Joker and there are murdering, drug-using, raping versions of the Joker, and everything in between. The thorn in Batman's side! The insanity in us all! The organized anarchist! All hail the Clown Prince of Crime!

            My darling Mista J has survived social revolution, wars, economic strife, ethical pendulums, the very meat of American history. His image has been recreated in countless ways, his iconic grin scarred, painted, and chemically burned. He's been sympathetic, sociopathic, whimsical, and pure evil. But throughout his long and chaotic history, his multiple origin stories, and all the havoc he's wreaked, one thing remains the same: The Joker is, and always will be, the ultimate antagonist.


As Marshall Erikson of How I Met Your Mother would say….Lawyered.


Whew.  And with that ridiculously long and overheated rant about fictional beings, I take my leave.


If only I were this passionate about my schoolwork.

1 comments:

L said...

D-

I discovered your blog about fifteen minutes ago, after googling something about antagonists for my own blog. I like your writing style a whole lot, it's the same sort of sarcastic/witty/well-read type of idea I'm trying to execute in my own writing (you're a lot better at it; I'm kind of smitten). We should be friends. I'm writing a post on bad guys you root for, hoping it's cool to give a shout-out to your blog.

-L

Post a Comment