Thursday, December 27, 2012

Villainous Villains of Villainy Part II


Picture her as she appears in the throne room to curse the infant Briar Rose.

Remember her entrance; the thunder and the smoke, the high and commanding lilt in her voice as she pronounced her words of doom over the little princess. Consider for a moment her dramatic exit, the ridiculously high-collared cloak of black and purple which she wears, and the horn-like crown she perches upon her brow. Plus, there's the whole idea of 'Death by Spinning Wheel'. Truly, whoever thinks of that? And then, wonder of wonders, she transforms herself into a dragon to fight her final battle.

Maleficent rolled in style.

Now ponder a moment: Would this scorned fairy have been as evil if she had no flair for the dramatic? Or would she have been ‘marginally disturbing’ at best and a ‘bothersome old woman’ at worst? After all, style was her weapon of choice.  This shows us that she is vain and has more than a generous portion of self-love.  Many of the classic fairytale villains are beautiful to look at—at least at the beginning of the tale. Does this mean that a good villain must be beautiful and conceited in order to be appropriately evil?
It is not her beauty, of itself, which makes her the villain. That beauty merely makes her evil nature all the more shocking.
While he does not cut a particularly handsome figure, Moriarty, too, seems to have a certain desire for flair. For example, the manner by which he grabs Sherlock's attention in the popular BBC series, and his line “Honey, you should see me in a crown” hints at this aspect of his character. Or the way he calls the standoff between himself and Holmes in Doyle's work “The Final Problem” beside a great, roaring waterfall.

He challenges and laughs and preens. According to the books, James Moriarty was not a man of good looks. He is described as being extremely thin with a forehead which ‘domes out in a white curve’, and his eyes deeply sunk into his skull. In contrast, the BBC version is a dapperly dressed man, though still pale. Doyle’s villain was still a man of cunning and style. His joy was in his chain of underlings, his spider’s web of informants and hired guns. Why should he dirty his own hands? The only conceivable answer to that is because he wanted to. And that, my friends, is a fashionable thug indeed.
The vain villains love themselves and thus hate the heroes who have something better than what the villain has. Such as when the wicked-and-perpetually-nameless-queen petitions her magic mirror 'who is the fairest of them all?' When the answer comes back as someone other than herself, said-queen rages. She hates Snow White for her beauty. Here’s a thought: If Snow were any less beautiful, would she still be the heroine of the tale? In this case, chances are that she wouldn’t. The queen would not have felt the need to destroy Snow and the princess would have happily gone on singing to birds and making certain her servants never swept dust beneath the rug.

If Maleficent were a dirty old hag, would we react in the same way to her? And Moriarty; if he didn’t insist on rubbing every little thing right under Sherlock’s nose, would he make us cringe so? Likely not. They would both be added to the growing pile of mediocre hooligans, quickly and efficiently dealt with.

It’s often the discord that a villain’s vanity creates in our minds which so ingrains their evil intentions upon us. Evil is not supposed to look cute, sound nice, taste sweet, or act kind. We think about monsters and our brains inevitably turn to such creatures as ghouls and trolls, rabid wolves and hideous serpents. We forget, often, the brightly colored frog, the fragrant flytrap, the white-furred stoat and the singing siren. All have elements of beauty but can be deadly—some in reality, others confined to the tales we tell.

In a spiritual sense, things of evil nature are made to look good in order to tempt us into doing the wrong things and this is often the case in stories. No one wants to harm the beautiful queen, nor harm a single fiber of the man sitting with such self-assurance in the courtroom. When they petition you, you often accept because it looks good, sounds good, tastes good. The proverbial Turkish Delight. But it is always just a mask. A pretty face concealing the alien creature underneath. One must be oh, so very careful and alert, always watching for the danger on every side. Whether in life or in tale, there is always a battle at hand.
Does your favorite villain have flair? What do you think of the differences between the pretty villains and the monstrous ones? All thoughts and comments are welcomes on this post and others, so share your thoughts

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