Women of evil: female villains

In my last blog post I spoke about villains and my favourites and the utter lack of female villains in that list.  Bad me.  Below is a list of amazing female villains…

Winifred
A day or so after I posted my original post about villains, I remembered the best female villain of my childhood.  Powerful, charismatic, funny and a little bit frightening, Winifred (Bette Midler) from Hocus Pocus is a perfect female villain for a children’s story.  She isn’t just great for the kids either, I rewatched this film last Halloween and she’s still amazing, ten years on.

Catwoman
A couple of people on Twitter suggested Catwoman to me.  I don’t personally count Catwoman as a villain, but then it depends on which version of Batman you’re thinking of.  There is no doubt that Catwoman is an amazing character, but is she truly bad?
She is a villain in the Adam West version, plotting with the Joker and Penguin to bring down Batman, but Anne Hathaway’s scene stealing performance in The Dark Knight Rises are that of a cat burglar turned hero.  If anything, Anne Hathaway’s Catwoman is more the anti-hero.
The best Catwoman, though, was Michelle Pfeiffer in Batman Returns.  A woman taken to the edge by the men in her life (we’ve all been there), there’s always a glimmer of hope that she might turn around and help Batman.  But no, generally she turns around and tries to scratch his eyes out.  She’s intelligent, manipulative and slightly unhinged which all make for the perfect villain.
She’s still not as deadly as some of her male counterparts though.

Mystique
Where would this list be without a Marvel character (you should see my anti-hero list!).  Mystique is quietly deadly, working with Magneto (mentioned in the original villain post) to fight for mutant rights.  She is able to change her appearance and voice at will, making her an incredibly powerful and manipulative mutant.  The music that accompanies her in the X-Men movies should really also be mentioned for giving that creepy, spine shuddering feeling as she changes.
Unfortunately, she is weakened by her loyalty to Magneto and never really developed fully in the films.  In X-Men First Class, she is given more character and a closer connection to Xavie, suggesting at her potential but her relationship with Magneto seems to overshadow this.
However, in the comic books, Mystique kicks ass.  She not only kills easily but she is radical, a leader and terrorist, and has been labelled a Supervillain.  In the comics she is also mother to the amazing Nightcrawler and adoptive mother of Rogue (both good guys).  Supervillain and superwoman.  However, like Magneto, she has been known to help the X-Men, so while she’s not all bad, she is very unpredictable and cannot be trusted.

Ma-Ma
I was sceptical when I sat down to watch the 2012 version of Dredd, but it is an amazing film.  The villain, ruthlessly leading a group of tough, muscled men, is Ma-Ma (Lena Headley – yes, Cersai Lannister in Game of Thrones, took me ages to figure out where I knew her).  Ma-Ma is an ex-prostitute who has risen through the ranks to rule over a skyscraper in a futuristic city where she manufactures and deals the new drug, SLO-MO.
This woman has no conscience.  We don’t learn a lot about her, other than that she is intelligent (as all good villains are) and utterly dangerous.  She will skin alive those who betray her, give them a good dosage of SLO-MO, which slows time down for the taker, and throw them from the top of the skyscraper so that they can enjoy every long second before they are killed.
Like Kruger, on my last list, she has no redeemable features other than perhaps a vague notion of the abuse she suffered before she became so powerful.  Which is more an understanding of why she is what she is rather than an element which could make her likeable.

Other suggestions were Harley Quinn from the DC Comics universe, a psychiatrist at Arkham Asylum who falls in love with the Joker, quits her job and becomes his sidekick, which is disappointing.  Why are women always crippled by love?
And Bellatrix Lestrange in the Harry Potter series, played by Helena Bonham Carter, the most sadistic and loyal of Voldemort’s followers.  Maybe it’s a shame she wasn’t actually Voldemort.Harley quinnThree things stuck me while researching and writing this blog post.

  1. These women don’t all have the same amount of power as the male villains.
  2. Yet they all have the potential to be greater than their male counterparts.
  3. The majority are manipulative but ultimately very beautiful and sexy, which is part of their manipulative skills.  Interestingly, the men are not all swashbuckling handsome, do men need women thin and near naked, but women just need that intelligence?

This is probably due to most of these female villains being a) created a long time ago, and b) written by a man.

Why are we not comfortable having women as truly evil villains?  Because they are our mothers?  It seems to me that the most dangerous, evil villain could only be a woman; what is more dangerous than an intelligent woman with an agenda?  With that argument, of course there is a lack of good female villains – they might actually win against a male hero.

My feelings about this gender separation is quite personal.  I’m annoyed that I seem more attracted to the male villains than the female ones.  I don’t know if this is down to my view of male/female villains and how bad a woman can be, or simply because there aren’t enough good female villains out there.
I suspect it is connected to the fact that I rarely read female authors, despite my strong feminist upbringing (which is no longer a problem thanks to a 2013 New Year resolution), and the fact that I am embroiled in a genre traditionally overrun with men.
I imagine many an essay and thesis could be written on this subject, so I’ll leave it there.

I wonder if there are any good stories out there with an amazing female hero and female villain.  There should be, and you know what they say; if you can’t find the book you want to read, then you should write it.

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One response to “Women of evil: female villains

  1. Pingback: The anti-hero and lack of anti-heroine | J E Nice·

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