Why aren’t there more evil female villains?

Best villainess ever...

The other day, Cassandra Jade had a post asking people about their favorite female protagonists.  Check it out if you haven’t already–lots of good characters listed.  Well, this got me thinking about the flipside of the coin, and I tried to come up with a mental list of favorite female villains.  Surprisingly, I could only think of a few, and now I’m wondering if my memory is just really shoddy, or if there really is a shortage of female villains.

When I say “female villains,” I mean truly evil characters.  Not the bitchy boss, the lying friend who isn’t really a friend, the snarky whatever.  I mean the kind of villain who wants to kill or hurt people, or take over the world, or…well, be really evil.  Can you think of any good ones? So far, I’ve thought of the White Witch from “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe,” by C.S. Lewis, Umbridge from “The Order of the Phoenix,” by JK Rowling, and, well, I’m sure there must be many more, but I’m mostly drawing a blank.  I know a lot of the different fairy-tale retellings have the evil witch or stepmother figures, and there are some female villains in different series; Laurell K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake books have some good ones, for instance, but they all feel almost like minor villains since they only really affect the one book they’re in, and not the series as a whole.  But maybe I’m just being picky.

If you think of any good ones, let me know.  I’m curious, and I’ve now decided I’ll have to have a good female villain in my own future writing.

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Published in: on May 21, 2010 at 11:41 am  Comments (7)  
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7 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Seems like a lot of Disney movies (and fairy tales in general) have strong female villains: Grimhilde from Snow White, Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty, and Ursula from Little Mermaid. Must be all the evil witches. See also Stardust.

    There are some pretty major villains in more modern fantasy as well, but they’re mostly subservient to even more powerful and evil male villains. It’s pretty much a cliche for the female villain to fall for the main, male protagonist at some point.

    I think there’s just something emasculating about having a female villain who’s the most powerful character in the story. Even when the hero triumphs, it doesn’t seem very “macho” to trounce some old lady or young girl. So having a strong female villain probably works best when the main protagonist is also a woman.

    • True, true. The only movie that immediately comes to mind where a male protagonist fights a female villain properly is “Live Free or Die Hard.” It’s a shame, though. Oh, and “Stardust,” actually, which you’ve mentioned. Man, I can’t believe I forgot about Stardust…sorry, Neil Gaiman, I must be slipping. Thanks for the comments!

  2. There’s also T-X from Terminator 3, the Borg Queen from Star Trek, and the queen alien from Aliens, although that’s beginning to stretch the definition of female.

  3. The villain in the first three books of the Black Company series by Glen Cook is the Lady. It’s really a fascinating character. Early on we learn that she’s sold her killed her own twin sister to gain power. But as the story goes on we start to emphasize with her. She has this strange desire to see the world in the eyes of normal people (she’s been a powerful wizard for all of her life). Great character.

    • Good choice!! I love those books! I guess even Soulcatcher could be considered a villain, in a way, since they start out working for her, and then against her, if I’m remembering correctly. I just remember she was extremely creepy, with her ability to talk in other people’s voices. I’ll have to re-read it…Thanks for the comment!

  4. […] In her call for favorite female protagonists, Cassandra Jade actually just asks for interesting female leads, while Lunaleo asks about evil villainesses. […]

  5. Interesting topic. I’ve never really thought about it this way!


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