Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The Best Villains Don't Just Tie the Heroines to the Railroad Tracks

Who's your favorite fictional villain?

Yep, I said villain. Who's the guy (or gal) you most love to hate? Why is he or she your favorite?

My favorites aren't true villains. I think anti-heroes would be a better description. There's Thor's adopted brother Loki...the enigmatic Raymond "Red" Reddington of The Blacklist...Dallas' scheming oilman J.R. Ewing...Victor Newman and his son Adam from The Young and the Restless.

Loki's done some pretty bad things, I can't deny that. If I were a criminal defense lawyer defending him, I'd go for the plea deal. He's sent the Asgardian Destroyer (who, by the way, deserves that title) to kill Thor and trash a small New Mexico town. He's come to New York City with an alien army, made a big mess and killed a lot of people.

But Loki's not all bad. He's dealing with a lot of childhood resentments. He grew up in the shadow of older brother Thor, god of thunder, heir to the throne of Asgard. Their father, Odin, favored Thor and apparently didn't bother to hide it. Then, Loki found out he wasn't an Asgardian by blood. Now, his whole identity was a lie, in his eyes. He was angry--and directed all of that anger at Thor. Loki wants the Asgardian throne. He wants to re-establish his identity by becoming king. He wants to take away all that Thor loves.

No matter what he does, I just can't hate him.

Then there's The Blacklist's brilliantly-written, brilliantly portrayed Raymond "Red" Reddington, the rogue intelligence agent who, after twenty years of eluding capture, suddenly surrenders himself to the FBI--on the same day rookie agent Elizabeth Keen joins the team. He promises to reveal the names on his "blacklist"--the world's most dangerous criminals--but only to Elizabeth. Why? Looks like there's a connection between them of which even Elizabeth isn't aware.

Red is brilliant, manipulative, resourceful, and yes, dangerous under certain circumstances--but with Elizabeth, he's gentle, protective and caring. Could he be her long-lost father? Looks that way--but with Red, looks can be deceiving.

My all-time favorite bad guy redeemed himself in the end. Dallas' J.R. Ewing had screwed over so many people--including members of his own family--that when he was shot, even his parents were on the list of suspects. But J.R., eldest of the three Ewing sons, was driven by a need to prove himself to his father. Brother Gary was their mother's favorite child, while father Jock favored the youngest brother, Bobby. The original Dallas ended its run with J.R.'s sins catching up to him, prompting him to contemplate suicide. But in the new Dallas series, as old and new enemies closed in on his family, J.R. finally used his "powers" for good--and in his final hours devised a brilliant plot that saved the day for the Ewings. J.R., you'll be missed!

The Young and the Restless' Victor Newman reminds me of J.R.--and in some very basic ways, of my own father. Maybe that's why I love him. Victor wasn't always rich and powerful--quite the opposite. Born Christian Miller, his mother left him at an orphanage when his father abandoned the family and she was unable to take care of him on her own. He grew up angry, bitter, and determined to never again be as helpless as he'd been as a child. He reinvented himself--hence the name he chose for himself, "Victor New-Man"--and built a financial empire. He can be ruthless, but he loves his family (on-again-off-again wife Nikki, children Victoria, Nick, Adam and Abby and grandchildren Cassie, Noah, Summer, Reed, Delia, Johnny and Connor) above all else. If only he didn't have so much trouble showing it--but then, that's the result of his own troubled childhood, as is his need to control them.

Ironically, the child most like him--Adam--is the one with whom he's had the most difficult relationship. Adam didn't know Victor was his father until adulthood. His mother, Hope, raised him on her Kansas farm, only revealing the truth to him on her deathbed. Victor persuaded him to go to Genoa City--but Adam was rejected from the start by Victoria and Nick (Abby didn't yet know she was Victor's child, either). Adam worked to prove himself, but nothing he did seemed to please his father. When he discovered he was a father himself--to ex-wife Chelsea's baby boy, Connor--he vowed to be a better father than his dad had been to him.

That's my list. Who are your favorite villains--in books, TV or movies--and why do you love to hate them?


Don't miss the photoblogs: William's, London Lulu's and Grace's. And I think William has another Day in the Life of a Cat post coming up at Speak of the Devil....


  1. Hmmm. Can't think of any outstanding villains right off that I hate. To me a villain is more interesting when there's reason for him to be what s/he is.

  2. A villain you love to hate goes a long, long, long way!

    Loki's such a compelling character, after all, and in whatever media, comic or movie, you understand what it is that drives him.

    And Raymond Reddington might well be the best character television has seen in years.

  3. I might have to get back to you on this one Norma, it's after midnight here in Perth and the brain is winding down :) I do like Reddington in the Blacklist (was just watching earlier tonight) definitely her father... maybe !

  4. Rhett Butler is the type of villian women love to hate and wish they could change. William Defoe in the original Spiderman was great and all Baldwin brothers fit the category.

  5. @ Cheryl: That's my point--these guys all have a reason for their behavior.

    @ William: I agree on all points!

    @ Grace: I know how that feels--and Red seems to be a very popular guy!

    @ Eve: Both are good examples. As for those Baldwin boys....

  6. JR Ewing is one of my favorite villains too. I was disappointed when he redeemed himself- just seems a waste of a good bad guy.

    1. I think that was done because Larry Hagman had already passed away, and they wanted him to go out as a hero!

  7. Hmmm...the zombies in The Walking Dead?

  8. I dunno. I'd have to think about it. Nothing comes to mind.

  9. Jack Elan used to play the best villain I've ever seen. Lee Marvin and Chuck Conners were excellent too. Yes, the Rifleman started out as a very nasty bad guy. Since I haven't seen any of the others, I can't comment on them.

  10. I really can't think of any but like Mari, Jack Elan was a wonderful bad guy actor.

    cheers, parsnip

  11. At the end of this overlong day (just finished work half hour ago, eep!), the main thing springing to mind is that White Witch from the Narnia books - I read them so long ago and watched a (charmingly simple) TV cartoon movie of them once! I think this means my mind regresses to a most basic stage at late/tired hours:)) Thank you for the kind mention!

  12. @ Shelly: you can't get any more villainous than zombies!

    @ Mari and Gayle: I didn't remember that about Chuck Connors, but I do recall Jack Elan!

    @Lulu: The White Witch--good one! And you're most welcome!

  13. @ Happy Whisk: some of us don't find any bad guys remotely likeable!

  14. Good list, Norma.
    Dracula, of course, for me.

  15. Oh, Victor, you're so sexy and endlessly mesmerizing but my new TV crush is James Spader's Reddington. Why do we have a weakness for bad boys?!

  16. @ Lorelei: Dracula...he's always inspired erotic feelings in women. I just wanted to run and hide!

    @ Jan: I know what you mean. Red's a truly fascinating man. I think he should be People's next Sexiest Man Alive!


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