Of all the letdowns I’ve had while reading a book, it was always the dismal lack of good villainy that ended up disappointing me the most. And no, I don’t mean lovable antiheroes or bad boys gone good; no, I mean true villainy, the kind of characters who are so wholly evil, shrewd, or complex that you can’t help falling in love with the delicious chaos they wreak upon your story.
These characters know why they’re villains, and they know exactly what they’re doing when they wreak havoc upon your story.
Unfortunately, unless it’s a book focusing explicitly on a villain origin story, you don’t get too many complex villains nowadays and that really saddens me. The protagonist always needs a good opposition to fuel a genuine growth, yet when your villain is either making stupid mistakes, doesn’t appear all that compelling, or generally appears like a bumbling fool, I’m only paying attention to half your story.
And the thing is, this is coming from someone who’s not even a fan of villains in the first place! I personally prefer books where characters get in a tiff at times, but everybody wins at the end of the day: they kiss, they make-up, and they grow from the experience like mature adults. And that includes love triangles: you don’t need to villify a character just so your opposing love interest looks better. (Ahem, Sarah J. Maas!)
However, if you really do need a Hitler stand-in, then make them committed–make them scary and unpredictable. But when villains flounce about doing stupid things and wasting everybody’s time just so the protagonist can win at the end of the day, it makes me grind my teeth to stubs! After all, if you’re going to give me a supremely evil person without any backstory, then at least make them smart for crying out loud!
Take Voldemort for instance. I’m a Potterhead, yet I’ve always had this niggling thought that perhaps Voldy’s not the best villain he can be. Sure, he’s scary due to his abilities, but his success has always been incongruous with his demeanor: he screams, throws tantrums, doesn’t learn from mistakes, never enters battles himself (a.k.a. he’s cowardly), and for someone so feared and supposedly adept at strategizing, he doesn’t seem like someone to watch out based on presence alone. I mean, he sure loses his cool a lot….
Then what’s an example of a good villain you ask? Well, look within the same series. Almost every other villain in Harry Potter overshadows Voldemort in terms of smarts or complexity! Umbridge is an unscrupulous government dog who’s motivated by prestige and status, and she can be bitchin’ brutal. Barty Crouch Jr. is the deluded apostle with daddy issues, and he wreaks havoc so efficiently in the the fourth book. Pettrigrew is a coward motivated by fear, so he ruins all his friends’ life AND brings Voldemort back.
These characters are capable villains in their own right, and I’m able to put myself in their shoes to ascertain the reason for their villainy.
But Voldemort? What’s his motivation besides world domination? Sure, we get an origin story, but what does that tell us about his feelings? For J.K. Rowling to simply claim that Voldemort doesn’t have an inkling or capacity for love doesn’t say much to me (besides that he might be a psychopath), and it’s something that always made him not so compelling to me. I mean, he’s got to feel something if he’s human, right?
Long story short, goodvillainy is scarce nowadays. Sure, people have varying measures for what makes a good villain, but there’s a version of my Voldemort in almost every book I read nowadays: hyperbolic and scary, but not so smart or complex when you really think about. And that makes me so legitimately sad.
So that’s my blurb! But now, a few life updates.
I know I’ve been absent from blogging for the last few months, but if you know me and my blog, my posts tend to be quite essay-like, and it’s really not easy deconstructing these bookish topics when your head isn’t in the right space.
So am I finally rebooting this blog? Well truth be told, I started a book review blog a few months ago, so if you want to check it out, do head on over here. Otherwise, I will be periodically posting on this blog whenever I feel my head isn’t scrambled, and I’m sure this will become much more regular once my personal crisis blows over.
It pains me more than anyone else to have to take a semi-hiatus as I absolutely love and cherish this blog, but people in my life need me right now, and it’s not easy preaching about bookish topics online when you’re counseling someone every moment of the day. Thus, I shall drop this blog until my life clears up. *sniffs*
But once again, if you’re ever curious about what I’m doing, do head on over to my other blog. I will be much more active over there as book reviews are so much easier to do, and while I’ll miss doing mini-essays and bookish discussions, I don’t think I’ll be able to produce quality content until my troubles blow over haha. So thank you so much from the bottom of my heart, and until we meet again. As always, cheers.