MAKI, The Player from Undertale
Yes, I’m not talking about Frisk here; but you, the player of the game, Undertale. Is the Player a meta choice? Perhaps. Maybe even cliched or even controversial. Either way, it all boils down to this heavily loaded word: CHOICE.
Undertale is a whimsical game. And it gladly shows the Player that there are many ways to avoid bloodshed. However, the game also shows the Player the consequences of their actions as they continue to dictate on their avatar, Frisk.
As the Player, you are given limited information and different opportunities to go about certain scenarios.
For example, you may choose to kill Toriel or not, despite of the game’s guidance. Heck, even getting more than one piece of candy from the candy bowl is a choice you consider.
The choices you make in Undertale are pretty heavy; and you will have to make them no matter what route you take: Mercy route, Murder route, Mercy-Murder-Mercy route, No saves route, etc. That’s what makes the difference between heroes and villains, right?
IAN, Aunty Entity from Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome
Look, I know everyone likes to make fun of Thunderdome as the weirdest, most polarizing Mad Max film to date. From corny duos like Master Blaster to the Peter Pan wannabes that got more screen time than they deserved; Thunderdome definitely isn’t an easy film to love. But I am willing to take the bullet for this movie. Especially when it comes to Tina Turner’s Aunty Entity, the ruthless ruler of Bartertown.
It is tempting to argue that Aunty is so obvious a choice for GGG; given that she is a woman of color who happens to reside at the top of the post-apocalyptic food chain. But I would also argue that she is actually a decent character whose motives are completely understandable. Even though she is still clearly the villain.
One of the very, very, very few upsides of living in the post-apocalypse is the opportunity to rise up from obscurity in the face of crisis.
Aunty (who still had memories of the old world before it fell into chaos) was able to, against all odds, bring back some form of civilization in the form of Bartertown.
Obviously, an orderly society and a working economy are things worth cherishing in the cruel world of Mad Max. Which is why Aunty goes to ruthless lengths to keep Bartertown running. Whether it’s assassinating those who challenge her authority to enslaving the man who keeps the lights on to exiling Max to the desert for refusing to do her dirty work; Aunty is willing to sacrifice some human decency in order to preserve the little that’s still left in the world.
The sympathetic tyrant is hardly the most unique villain trope out there, but it’s one that I still find compelling when given a unique twist. The fact that Auntie can be such a compelling villain while also starring in a corny 80s action film makes Thunderdome just a little more bearable to watch.
Okay, I’ll admit it. That Tina Turner song is really damn catchy too.
DENICE, Kilgrave from Netflix’s Jessica Jones
Maybe one of the things I find most sinister is the predilection of some people to manipulate. It’s a very underhanded show of power that feels worse than getting physically hit. Because we all have this ego thing that tells us that we won’t be taken in.
In Marvel’s Jessica Jones, Kilgrave – The Purple Man in the comics – is bestowed with mind control. All it takes one command from him to make everyone do as he says. But simply telling people what to do is boring, so on top of the fact that he can make anyone do what he wants, he plays with them, mentally and emotionally. Grade A douchestain, that one.
The character development for this villain, however, is A++++.
Aside from the fact that he was brilliantly brought to life by David Tennant, Kilgrave’s story makes you feel conflicted over your allegiance; as if you yourself are being taken in and manipulated to feel for this ass.
What makes Kilgrave so dangerous though is that he is redeemable, but he refuses it. In fact, he uses his redeemability to manipulate even further.
“I can’t be a hero without you,” he tells Jessica. And your skin just crawls at the douchebaggery of it. Netflix does amazing with making their villains compelling and multifaceted. That you wonder how they could make a sleazebag like Kilgrave so much more likeable than a hero *coughIronFistcough*.
ARI, Kyubey from Puella Magi Madoka Magica
Kyubey is initially presented as an archetypal magical girl’s familiar: aware of a great threat to humanity, equipped with the knowledge to prevent it—all he needs are heroines willing to awaken to their power and press on to victory.
However, Kyubey twists all this. Rather than bestow wisdom upon his wards, he manipulates them by willfully giving them incomplete knowledge. He leads them to their inevitable ends in order to prevent a threat not against humanity, but against the apathetic universe he seeks to maintain.
The kicker is that human despair isn’t, strictly speaking, the only way to prevent the universe’s expiration—it’s just the most efficient.
But Kyubey’s methods and means align to cast him in another role: that of the author-turned-character. The universe Kyubey seeks to preserve is a theater of misery and each of the magical girls’ lives are but episodes in a serial tragedy.
But as with all great art, Kyubey’s oeuvre lives and dies by its reception—and so makes its viewers complicit. Fans of Puella Magi Madoka Magica hate Kyubey for the suffering he inflicts on the heroines, but love the show for that same reason. They might profess to revile the playwright, but they keep turning up at his shows, clamoring for more.
And so Kyubey’s masterstroke isn’t simply that he weaves a world of pain—it’s that he’s made us accomplices is our own suffering.