Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Villains

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly linkup of book bloggers hosted by The Broke and The Bookish! This week's subject is villains, which is an interesting stretch for me because I don't read a lot of book with clear-cut "bad guys". The kind of literary fiction (which makes me feel so pretentious to say) to which I am drawn tends to find its drama in the conflicts of people who don't fall super neatly into "hero" or "villain" categories. But here are the ten I chose!



Elphaba (Wicked): I know, this is cheating. The villain in the book is the Wizard, Elphaba is our protagonist. But the Wicked Witch of the West is one of pop culture's great villains, and Gregory Maguire's book examining the story from her side is a classic in its own right that spawned several sequels (none of which I've read).

Amy Dunne (Gone Girl): Also mostly not a villain, she's much more accurately an anti-hero. But also, she's a lady who faked her own death and framed her husband for her murder, which is pretty damn villainous. But damn if ladies don't understand her rage at a world that tried to shove her neatly into a box she had no desire to fit into and broke out of to forge her own deranged path.

Miranda Priestly (The Devil Wears Prada): Most of us have had a bad boss or two. But Miranda Priestly (allegedly based on Anna "Nuclear" Wintour) takes the cake: she's demanding, demeaning, virtually impossible to please. Or is she just a woman who's had to become that person in order to get to the top of her profession?

Mrs. Coulter (The Golden Compass): Much like our protagonist Lyra is, we're both drawn to and repulsed by the beautiful woman with her shiny hair and the golden monkey who accompanies her everywhere. She may be ultimately redeemed by her love for her daughter, but she's still a hateful and fearful person and a worthy adversary. 

Cersei Lannister (A Song of Ice and Fire): She's such an asshole (you know, cheating on her husband with her own twin brother, giving birth to several of her brother's children and passing them off as her husband's, the way she treats the Starks, etc). But when Martin starts giving you her POV chapters, she's still terrible but much more understandably so. A ruthless and ambitious person who is neither given the opportunities she wants because of her gender nor nearly as smart as she thinks she is, she's very rootable-against.

President Snow (The Hunger Games): The detail that Collins includes about the smell of him, his heavy rose perfume not quite able to mask his oral bleeding, is the kind of thing that lodges in your mind even if you have no real frame of reference for bloody roses. His ruthless rule over Panem is just the icing on the cake.

Humbert Humbert (Lolita): Probably the best example of a sympathetic villain in modern literature, Humbert's sophisticated excuses for his own behavior and passion for Lolita can overwhelm, on first read, the fact that he's a child rapist who preys on and attempts to dominate a vulnerable youngster who has no one else to turn to.

The Volturi (New Moon): A powerful Old World ruling court of vampires with superpowers is sort of cheesy but also sort of awesome. Once they start getting more developed in later books they lose a lot of their mystique, but when they're a shadowy force in the second book, they're a compelling adversary for Bella and Edward.

The Overlook Hotel (The Shining): I love both the book and the Kubrick movie of this story, but they're definitely different. The hotel is a far more malevolent force in King's original work, slowly poisoning Jack Torrance's mind. 

Grandma (Flowers In The Attic): Saved the cheesiest for last, because this lady is totally over the top and awful and just the most ridiculous villain. Will any of us ever forget about arsenic-laced powdered donuts? Or when she poured TAR in Cathy's HAIR? 

6 comments

  1. I love to hate Cersei Lannister! She's such a complex character and I love that about her. She does so many evil things but her reasons are somehow still kind of understandable. And yes, Miranda Priestly is one of those villains that's so recognizable. And Snow was just so creepy!

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    1. That's one of my favorite things about the Song of Ice and Fire series, the way Martin makes so many of the "bad guys" actually complex. There's relatively little "pure evil", which makes it so much more interesting!

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  2. And the whippings?!!! And Miranda Priestley is a fantastic one - totally forgot about her!

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    1. Oh man I totally forgot about the whippings! That book is NUTS

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  3. Amy Dunne for sure! You have to be a villain to be that vindictive and self righteous. She was crazy terrible and I agree, total villain!

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    1. It's so interesting to read a book with a female anti-hero/villain protagonist! That's just not something you see in pop culture very often

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