“Ah! After ten thousand years I’m free. It’s time to conquer Earth!” –Rita Repulsa
While Rita from “The Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers” isn’t one of my absolute favorites (sorry, girl, but Zedd’s way cooler) I recognize her gumption and desire. Clearly, she wants to take over the earth despite her mass delusions about the success of her world domination tactics. While both villains and villainesses in fantasy-based shows tend to follow the same plot formula in every episode of every series (the good guys are inherently good and the bad guys want to thwart the good guys and achieve world domination/avoid jail/make their daddy proud/reclaim something/feel good about themselves), the villainess holds a special place in my heart, especially in television.
Disclaimer: I do not own any of these shows or characters (but I do own your mom and she likes it).
I’m focusing this post specifically on television villainesses because they’re usually what encourage me to begin watching a series. Once I’ve gotten into a series and begun liking the other characters, the villainess still retains that je ne sais quois. They’re dramatic, they clearly don’t need a prince, and they have better fashion sense than any protagonist (aside from Rarity and Katara, of course). Clearly, they’re something to aspire to. In a modern sense, they’re board room bitches with buried hearts of gold. In a fantasy sense, they are the kingdom, the bedtime fear of children, the antagonist of all things goody-two-shoe, and the most tragic of stories because, for them, good does not prevail.
These are the villainesses I admire in alphabetical order by show. Each name is linked to a fan wikia profile.
Avatar: The Last Airbender: Azula
Beast Wars: Blackarachnia
Kim Possible: Shego
Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, specifically seasons 1-2 and 6: Rita and Astromema
My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic: Princess Luna/Nightmare Moon and Queen Chrysalis
Mystic Knights of Tir na Nog: Queen Maeve
Once Upon a Time: Queen Regina
Storm Hawks: Master Cyclonis
Young Hercules: Discord
Honorable mentions go to Pixie from Monster Rancher and Jara from Big Bad Beetleborgs, whose television shows were much too lame to discuss. XD
Honorable mentions also go to Harley Quinn and Pamela Isley from Batman, who are in a league of their own. Hats off to them.
I prefer villainesses to protagonists and male antagonists, and here’s why.
She’s socially awkward
Despite all the reasons a villainess is awesome, as outlined in the examples to come, it appears my favorites don’t have many friends. Even when faking goodness to lull the good guys into a false sense of security, she can’t completely keep herself together.
Cyclonis fails at making friends when she uses such an excuse to recruit one of her enemies, Piper, to the dark side. When her plan fails, this causes awkwardness between the two in future meetings. They would get along quite well because of their common interests. Alas, Cyclonis is a bit too anti-social for that to work out.
During the a Halloween episode of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, Princess Luna crashes the party to spend some quality time with her subjects. As is custom, ghost stories had been circulating that Luna’s former, evil identity, Nightmare Moon, annually chooses this night to haunt the earth. Pony Twilight Sparkle, who personally knows Luna, seeks to solve the problem—with hilarious results.
Azula doesn’t suffer quite as much, socially, for her ferocity, but it’s obvious she’ll never be able to fit in with her peers. Observe these four scenes from an episode of Avatar: The Last Airbender.
Blackarachnia’s aversion to choosing sides is her own doing, but I understand this because leaders Megatron and Optimus Prime are both jerks to her. Why pick a side if you won’t be happy with what you choose? This causes the transformers of either side to distrust her all the time. She ends up making frenemies with almost everyone.
As someone who’s socially awkward, I take solace in knowing some powerful women (who aren’t actually real, but let’s not get into technicalities) fail with people as much as I do.
I have never met anyone who could do a Rita voice, and it just goes to show how voice actress Barbara Goodson goes beyond the call of duty for this character. It goes beyond raspiness because practically every word is shouted. Between the actress and the voice actress, the poor lip syncing almost overshadows all of the overacting in Power Rangers, but she is one of the villains that shaped my childhood and possibly the first television villainess I ever encountered.
Perhaps I inherited chronic headaches from her.
Blackarachnia and Cyclonis are my favorite voices ever. Aside from being performed by the wonderful Lenore Zann, Cyclonis sounds as if she’s doing everything to compress her sinister tendencies. How can a teenager be so bad? Blackarachnia’s voice puts me at ease whenever she’s in spider form. I’m grossed out by big spiders, but I’m a fan of interesting voice actors. If I didn’t know how young her actress, Venus Terzo, was, I would have thought Blackarachnia was voiced by and old smoker.
In this clip, Blackarachnia and Tarantulas witness the show’s entrance of Inferno. Silly, stupid Inferno. (No laughing at the animation, please. It was the 90s.)
Besides the raspy qualities I clearly enjoy, Luna and Shego also have voices to aspire to. Luna made royalty hilarious as she shouted, “This is the traditional Canterlot voice.” She would make a great announcer; she has the projection and the ability to get people to listen to her. Her evil, alternate ego, Nightmare Moon, has an even better Canterlot voice. Below is a multi-language sample of Nightmare Moon. In any language, her voice is splendidly evil.
Shego is different. She shines in her sarcastic dialog with her partner, Drakken. Nicole Sullivan is the perfect person to perform these lines. Shego is interesting even when not in battle. In fact, she’s funny!
Below, a Shego compilation.
It seems that villainesses tend to have lower voices than protagonists. As an alto, I approve.
Her gadgets and her scepter
While my childhood peers were probably doodling dainty wands and fairy wings, I was designing scepters of styles ranging from high fantasy to cyberpunk. A villainess must have her scepter, but she must also have other powerful gadgets.
Cyclonis has both! As a master of crystals, her world’s source of magical components, she’s the best learned keeper of her large collection. Her staff can hold any crystal to wield in combat or to use as a torture device.
In the below video, Cyclonis meets her rivals for the first time. You see the claw-like appendages around the crystals of her staff? They open and close like awesomepie. ^_^
My most favorite gadget is her storm engine. This uses powerful crystals to create catastrophic events. When I first started watching this show, my apartment had no appropriate furniture and I had to use a rickety shelf for a desk. Inspired by her fingers pressing levers at the machine as she stood before the console, I typed standing up with my laptop on the top shelf. Making the best of the awful situation felt very diabolical. Thank you, Cyclonis!
Maeve’s goat head with a crystal imbedded in the top has been the butt of many jokes with my friends, but looks are deceiving. This scepter is the source of most of her power and she uses it at liberty.
Compared to Rita’s, Astonema’s scepter looks cheap. While Astronema’s is nice and pointy and can shoot blasts of energy, Rita’s wand can hurtle through space and fertilize the monster she sent to Earth. She also has a telescope that can spy on every person in the world.
Who wouldn’t want to carry an all-powerful and fashionable staff?
The way she moves
Everything a villain does is calculated, but the villainess takes special care with the way she moves. Sometimes this is an effect of her heavy or stiff outfit, but whether she wears heels and a period dress or flexible spandex, her movements are carefully authoritative.
Mystique is a special case. She can shape-shift into any person, male or female, the resemblance so identical to the original model that she’s able to lead people into believing she is someone else. She’s comfortable her her own skin, as well as everyone else’s.
Actress Meighan Desmond seems to be flauntfully pleased (flauntfully is too a word; it’s my post here) as the bringer of confusion and chaos. She is, after all, the goddess of discord. It’s in her character’s nature!
Online sources say the actress who plays Astronema, Melody Perkins, is a ballet dancer and model, so it’s no wonder the physical portrayal of her character is so unique. As the show’s acting standard calls for exaggeration, she caters to that—but with style.
The below video also shows her many hair styles, which I will touch on in the next post, Part 2. (Too bad Astronema was around before good reception.)
Azula’s training in martial arts can be credited for her physical appeal. As the most well-trained Firebender in the world, her greatest strength in her small frame is her deftness.
The Youtube user disabled embedding, but it’s totally worth a look for the awesome fight sequence. Azula fights the Avatar.
Blackarachnia is something else. When you get past the quality of the computer animation, which was pretty good for its time, it’s plain to see she knows how to use her femininity to manipulate others. Being the only female character for almost the entire series gives her a definite edge.
In many children’s shows, at the end of a big battle, the villainess will appear surrounded by the approaching heroes. The heroes stop just feet from her to listen. She touts a few lines, then disappears in a puff of smoke, a zap of energy, or is carried away by her transportation. She’ll be back another day to defeat them once and for all!
Discord, being a goddess, takes each defeat in stride. Being immortal, she has all the time in the world. Besides, when the going gets tough for her, she decides not to bother with these pesky mortals; Olympus awaits.
Shego admits defeat more quickly than other villainesses I’ve seen. (She’s definitely Drakken’s better half.) As a warrior, she knows her weaknesses. She may just be along for the ride in this villain gig, but she knows when to preserve her energy for another battle.
Is defeat a sign of weakness? Not if you’re a villainess. She will prevail. She WILL prevail! She may lose every battle, but the war will go on and on and on. In the slight chance she does win a battle, it will happen because of the show writers’ interest in her. This is prime material for her backstory to be told (more on the backstory in Part 2). It also gives us a chance to see her in a good mood. A really good mood. But, evil laughter aside, the villainess usually remains calm in the face of happiness unless she’s putting on a show during a battle.
Azula is an exception; she doesn’t know how to give up with grace, and (Spoiler alert!) that drove her to insanity, which brought about her demise. This series is worth a watch not just for Azula; all of the other characters rock in their own ways. Azula’s ignorance of their goodness hurts her from the beginning of the series until—well, perhaps you should see for yourself.
Stay in school, kids.
I hope the same doesn’t happen to Regina, who always finds a way to come out on top. Even after a loved one has perished, life must go on if not just for the sake of winning or trying to find a new love. When Once Upon A Time reaches its end, which will hopefully be many years from now, I wish she can have a happy ending because of this perseverance. Yes, she’s evil, but it always feels good to see a villainess learn the error of her ways and become good. (Unless she becomes the Pink Ranger like Astronema did. Actually, that would be hilarious. OUAT Halloween episode, anyone?) Besides, Regina wasn’t always evil.
Below, Regina confronts Snow White about Snow’s betrayal in the origin of their conflict. (If I may quote Stephen Colbert and his grabby hands: “Emmy, please!”)
Because Regina from Once Upon A Time is currently my most favorite from all the shows listed here, my next post will feature Queen Regina in all examples I have yet to touch on. The best is yet to come.
I’m off to gather more evidence of awesomeness. Maybe I’ll conquer the world between now and then. Till next time, lovelies!