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June 1, 2016

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Characters We Love to Hate

As a kid, I tended to have pretty clear ideas about bad guys. From the moment Dorothy lands in Oz and is asked “Are you a good witch or a bad witch?” the difference between good and evil felt as obvious to me as the difference between her black-and-white existence in Kansas and the Technicolor wonder of Oz. Who would want to be a bad witch when the good witches obviously got the better outfits and the heroic roles?

But then there were certain bad guys (and gals) who had an undeniable appeal. Like Maleficent, the evil fairy from Disney’s Sleeping Beauty, whose dark imperiousness was as much about her style as her part in the story. As I eagerly await the upcoming movie I’ve found myself thinking of other similar villains I’ve loved.

The White Witch from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis tops the list as the icy counterpart to Maleficent in my childhood. Even though I wasn’t sure about anyone who would prevent Father Christmas from coming around, the ability to turn things to stone was pretty attractive to me. (Especially if by “things” we mean “little brothers interrupting you while you’re just trying to read about Narnia.”)

 

Another villainous character who pulls off her evil deeds with charisma is Mrs. Coulter from Philip Pullman’s The Golden Compass. She is so stylishly duplicitous that it became very confusing for me to know who to root for, and the rich fantasy world created by Pullman allows her to shine, even as readers start to get hints that she has ulterior motives.

 

A more recent villain I’d love to hang out with comes from Alex Flinn’s Bewitching, which draws a sympathetic picture of Kendra, the witch who places the defining curse in Beastly. Kendra’s curses sometimes go awry, and readers get to relate to her as a character who is really trying her best, even if the results are sometimes off.

Power-mad bad guys, bullies, twisted magicians, and oafish overlords can be easy villains to spot and are very satisfying for heroes to defeat. But there is something about a villain who makes being bad look good that I continue to find irresistible.

 

About the Author: Mia is the managing editor of teen reading club and Book Beat at Scholastic Book Clubs. She has also worked as a young adult librarian and dreams of someday joyriding around the country in her own bookmobile. 

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