Evil woman, don’t you play your games with me
I’m slightly hesitant when it comes to writing about this subject even though I think I’ve got a lot to say. One problem is, how to define ‘evil’? Another is, why would I write about women? Not humans in general? Why do I have to differentiate between the sexes here because we’re all equal blah-dee-blah-stop-demonizing-women!
But as a fellow-blogger/writer Jian pointed out,
“It’s also a subtle way of having a female character that does evil things, but is not evil. Albeit, a very easy way to do it. It allows them to be redeemable, yet bad simultaneously.”
so could it be somewhat unnerving for a writer to even write a truly evil woman? Should, for women, a chance for redemption exist? Is it “safer” to write her mentally unstable than downright evil? In a way, especially for male writers (yes, I said it, sex/gender matters, don’t even bother pretend otherwise) this might save them from proverbial crucifixion by angry feminists… or not.
But bad things are done by janes and joes all the time all over the world. True evil, the way I see it, is done by mentally unstable. Sociopaths. Murder, torture, and rape being their favorite gummibear flavors. To not understand or grasp (as much as it can be) morals, right and wrong, to not feel remorse, perhaps not much anything aside of pleasure, sounds to me really quite mental. So I’d say evilness and mental health go hand in hand here.
Back to the woman. So the Evil Woman (i.e. the female villain) is, most likely, the Insane Woman as well. But still there are more character tropes for the villainous lady than there is for a sole nutjob sans obvious evilness. Here are a few (from tvtropes.org, what a depressing place!):
Alpha Bitch, Black Widow, Dark Chick, Dark Action Girl, Dark Magical Girl, Dark Mistress, Evil Diva, Femme Fatale, Fille Fatale, Evil Matriach, Lesbian Vampire, Psycho Lesbian, Vain Sorceress, The Vamp, Woman in Black, Violently Protective Girlfriend (evil? At times), and many more. There are a few things that most of these have in common which seem to boil down the essence of ‘The Evil Woman.’
So, let’s take a look how one can write a nasty lady, and how they compare to evil men.
For one, I can see that the Evil Woman must be attractive (Poison Ivy, Elle Driver, Faora…). That’s the number one rule. Yeah, realistic. Look up these beauties: Ilse Koch, Aileen Wuornos, and Anneli Auer (I added the last one ’cause not only is she suspected of the murder of her husband, but of abusing her children sexually as well. Now that’s effed up). I’ll admit it, T. K. Trian has written evil hotties–men and women–in the past (Blood Calling, Bricks), but we have fuglos and plain janes as well (Solus).The men, well, to them it’s the brains rather than the looks that matter. In fact, the men have turned evil ’cause they’re so butt-ugly they never got laid which then turned them evil (e.g. in Buffy it was the Trio who wanted to become supervillains so as to get laid). Evil men must have brains, evil women must have beauty. I think this would work quite plausibly the other way around too. Anyway, if you’re writing an evil chick, make her pretty. Because beauty and admiration do not equal happiness, ergo you may end up on the dark side. (I mean, at least the heroine can be an unassuming, hidden beauty like that Anastasia chick in that trilogy I never read and that has nothing to do with Russian royalty!)
Secondly, the Evil Woman displays her crazy more than the Evil Man (Bellatrix Lestrange, Drusilla from Buffy). Sure, the guys are nuts too, but they often appear outwardly normal if cold and calculative. The Evil Woman is all over the place violent, giggles manically, neglects to comb her hair, and dresses flashily though usually in black. Of course, Joker wasn’t a cool-as-cucumber type of a bad dude. Batshit crazy. Yup. But does it make the villain more sympathetic if they’re blatantly crazy? Well, in Joker’s case, no, even when played by Heath Ledger. Like how Jian pointed it out:
“…whereas an insane man is downright creepy. Don’t get me wrong. He’s cool to us guys, but to most women, he’s reeeeeal creepy. For example, the movie Psycho. Norman Bates is creepy. Cersei from Game of Thrones is insane… but she’s kind of attractive.”
In Bellatrix’s case… maybe a little more sympathetic. I mean, at least she’s still a looker despite the crazy hair.
Third point: The Evil Woman gets away with her evilness (Willow and Anya in Buffy, Ruby and Meg in Supernatural). Either the guy falls in love with her or she turns her back to the dark side at some point and everyone and their dog forgive her. And I mean, pretty much they all forgive her, and their sanity is not questioned. The male villain turned hero is treated with less civility. It’s usually the masochistic girl who forgives him while her (male) friends suffer of lesser cases of amnesia. I don’t quite get this. I’d just punch the villain regardless their sex and be done with it. Wait, would that then make me evil? So, if you want to write a bona fide shady lady, make sure she will be forgiven at some point. Especially nowadays it may be considered of bad taste to burn the evil witch. I mean, they have rights.
I have to admit that I’d love to read a novel or watch a TV-series with a female villain who is not gorgeous, obviously crazy, or over-sexed. I don’t personally care if it’s written by a man or a woman (you know this one: “There is a technical, literary term for those who mistake the opinions and beliefs of characters in a novel for those of the author. The term is ‘idiot.” Check out Niven’s Law), as long as she comes off realistic. A character of her own, not a plot device. Even better if she broke to the mainstream, plowed way to the other non-willows, bellatrixes, and poison ivies. Don’t know why, but it’d just be quite interesting. I know there are such characters out there… so if you know some interesting stories, let me know!