Continuing our streak of bringing new perspectives for Women’s History Month, this week several of our women writers put their minds to this one: Who’s your favorite woman villain? Who does the best killing, back stabbing, and betrayals? Who just makes you want to be BAD? Here’s a few of our favorites. Add yours in the comments or on Twitter.
The villain that tickles my fancy, just gets me going, is the goddess of death herself Hela. Now I’m talking MCU Hela, that decadently seductive evil for evil sake First born of Odin, sister to Thor and Loki and all around badass. Played by the incomparable Cate Blanchett – Can this woman do no wrong? Oh yes she can do wrong and do it oh. so. well. She pulled Thor’s hammer right out of the air and crushed it like a snack bag of potato chips. Smirking like “oh were you using that?” She walks into Asgard with a lean 45 degrees cocked hip and says, honey I’m home! Murks the baddest soldiers, does a backward flip super villain landing, raises the dead with the eternal flame, AAAND has a recruitment meeting with her new executioner before lunch. Girl is a beautiful terror — so bad the only way to stop her was to bring on Armageddon. I may not be able to be a part of your army, but I sure as hell would watch you burn the world anytime. — Aisha
This next villain is not the one I love to hate — I just straight up despise this woman, which is the sign of a perfect villain. Cersei Lannister is a conniving, manipulative cold hearted B…uster. From the moment she graced the screen I was like…you think I care about your white entitlement?… please. Then I watched her bestow evil on any and all those who got in her throne light. Don’t throw off this emperors groove she’ll light your whole town up with Wildfire. Worst part is, she ain’t even the emperor. If anyone has claim to the throne it ain’t her. But her passion alone for burning the world has brought anyone to their knees – first and foremost her brother *cough* *cough* You gotta respect a woman who says F these men and, by any means necessary, carves her name on the world’s forehead. She would force The Mountain down on hands and knees to make a seat for herself at the head of the negotiating table. I honestly feel her reign gets more and more fierce, like she tryna resurrect her children through pain and war on the world. So I have to hate her, but I could never disrespect the evil that runs through her veins. — Aisha
One of my favorite villains is actually a character largely known for being a sweet and gentle being–Willow from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Throughout the first few seasons of the show, she’s the quintessential Female Best Friend: kind, supportive, insecure, nerdy. She never outshines the blonde title character, spends years pining away for Xander (who is necessarily in love with Buffy), and only really begins to feel like a fully realized character towards the end of the Scoobies’ high school careers. That’s when she begins dating everyone’s favorite werewolf Oz and steps up her dalliance with magic. We do get an inkling that Willow might have a dark side when a Vampire Willow from an alternate universe is briefly unleashed on Sunnydale, but our Willow remains the good-natured friend we’ve grown to love.
It’s when she gets to college, however, that everything changes. When Oz leaves town abruptly and Willow hooks up with another Wiccan, both her sexuality and actual magic bloom — which is what sets her up for one of the sharpest turns in a character’s development ever. In Season Six, Willow goes over the edge. She’s already been using magic when she isn’t supposed to — charming her girlfriend Tara to make her forget a fight ironically about her overuse of magic, for instance. She goes into rehab, so to speak, but when the nerdy Trio, led by Warren, kill Tara with a stray bullet after declaring war on Buffy, Willow goes full-on dark — including her eyes. Her heartbreak shifts immediately into rage, and she flays Warren alive with a casual “bored now” and goes about trying to bring on the end of the world. It’s only her friends, Giles and Buffy, who are able to bring her back from the dark side and prevent an apocalypse of her making.
But to be real? I love me some Dark Willow. She turns the best friend archetype on its head in all the best ways. Are there issues with lesbians so often turning into murderous lunatics in pop culture? Sure. But Tara deserved better. I wasn’t mad at Willow for transforming into an avenging angel. — Lauren B.
The Miss of Misdemeanor, Carmen Sandiego
I started out thinking I was going to write about Mystique. But as I began to recount all the reasons I love the blue shapeshifter, I remembered someone else. Someone who influenced me even earlier. That worldly witticist, that geographical OG, Carmen Sandiego. A powerful Latinx woman whose capers have kept generations of gumshoes getting A’s in Social Studies and knowing words like ‘gumshoe’. She’s a wanted criminal. Like, FBI playing card wanted criminal. Yet she walks around, fly as hell, in the most conspicuous getup on the planet. Carmen out here in a bright red trench coat with matching fedora not even tryna hide cuz she knows you don’t know enough about your own country to catch her.
As a kid, I loved that Carmen was unapologetically smart. She seemed to know everything about everywhere: her clues were hard! I appreciated that culture, history, and language were integrated as essential parts of the places she and her crew went, rather than just focusing on the CliffsNotes ‘capitals and statues’. (To be fair, the board game was a bit predictable.) You just knew that Carmen had been the teacher’s pet who also pulled the best pranks and smirked when she got away with it.
Carmen was also independent. She had a bunch of minions who honestly seemed more like megafans she tolerated, but she was fine without them. Better, honestly. Despite the gazillion backstories and retcons, Carmen doesn’t use the common tropes of love interests, children, or slutty outfits to validate her femininity. She’s the best and she knows it. She only ever showed up in the last two minutes, but the whole thing – games, shows, and books – was about the Lady in Red. That is a powerful woman.
Carmen Sandiego was smart, funny, and looked good being bad. Also, she had the best getaway vehicles. And you know what? Grown me ain’t even mad Carmen went around stealing monuments from colonizers! Go ‘head, girl!
P.S. for those of you still wondering “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?” Well, she about to be on Netflix in 2019 voiced by Gina Rodriguez. — Victoria
Helga Sinclair received no damn justice in Atlantis: The Lost Empire. I mean, yes, she tried to destroy an entire civilization with barely any qualms, but I’m talking about how we, the audience, deserved to see more from this villain/anti-hero. According to the lovely Atlantis wikipedia, Sinclair has a very interesting backstory that we don’t really get to dive into within the film. Set up from her character creation to be a femme fatale, we see that Sinclair was brought up in an environment that molded her fighting skills as well as her innovative wit and charm. She grew up in a military family, where she traveled extensively and eventually became adept at using weapons (i.e., firearms). Then she came into the employ of asshole colonist extraordinaire Commander Lyle Rourke. This partnership is seen in the film, and well, we know what happens in that.
Helga was seductive in her introduction, but soon, we see her as a capable leader and battle-hardened soldier. Her methods when there is nothing but destruction happening all around her are like witnessing a conductor in front of a symphony. Seeing capable women like this on screen, especially when their actions are immoral or operate in the grey area is vital for any human being coming into their own identity. Helga proves that women are complicated and are not just here to be some jackass’s lapdog. I acknowledge that Helga, while wary at first, still decided to murder an entire civilization of human beings, which pretty much makes her on par with Rourke. So she also proves that sometimes, women just want to be in a position of power. If the ending of Atlantis proved anything, Helga was always there for herself. I can never forget that when the time came, she choose just how she wanted to go out: In fiery style. — Oona
“I don’t mind people believing in God. They just can’t believe that they can take back these streets.”
I’ve talked before at length about how Eartha Kitt’s Catwoman is Top 5 Dead or Alive but what I hadn’t been able to find was a villain that quite replicated that poise, beauty, and confidence only a Black woman can wear… until now. I know Black Lightning is a fairly new show, but when I tell you that Lady Eve (played by the the incomparable Jill Scott) is villainess goals, honeyyyy.
First of all, her entire closet is killing almost as much as she is. It doesn’t matter how evil you are, if you’re running around in last year’s capes and scuffed boots no one is going to give you queen status. Lady Eve knows how to dress for all occasions. Are we examining a dead body? Layered pearls at the neck, a feathered brooch, black lipstick, and black evening gloves. Oh, did our underlings try to talk big? Serve ‘em this sumptuous black velvet dress, a classic red lip, and a gigantic black pinky ring that says, “Step to me. Please. I would love that. I’ll give you a whoopin’ so bad your ancestors will start crying.” Hell, sometimes we just need to throw on our fur coat to remind folks we could skin them like this bear if we wanted to.
But that’s just starters. Lady Eve sets the stage better than an HGTV host tryna flip a house. This blessed goddess of evil got embalming bodies just laying around whenever she needs to check folks. Sometimes they may approach her as she is sitting idly in her golden ass, throne-like chair. Whatever the reason, you make people come to you on your terms. Period.
Last but not least is her method of address, and “regal” is the word I keep coming back to. Unbothered by threats, authoritative, Lady Eve craftily lulls her opponent into a false sense of comfort with a parable or a familiar memory before striking without mercy. She hardly needs to sully herself with sarcasm with venom that strong. A Black woman to be reckoned with who never lets you forget, Lady Eve will continue to be my role model for a good long time. — Lauren B.