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What's with the name?

Allow us to explain.


On Xena and a Lack of Female Villains

If you’ve seen an episode of Xena, hell, if you’ve seen the opening titles to Xena, you know that you don’t mess with Xena. She’s strong, clever, resilient, and at times, ruthless. The show remains an important feminist text for a number of reasons, reasons reinforced by the likes of Joss Whedon and Quentin Tarantino. It champions strong women, but at the same time, it does not paint them as these infallible, flat superheroines. The female characters of the show, allies and villains alike, are rounded, with complex back-stories and goals that range from trying to lift a city-wide ban on dancing to wanting to become the queen of the Amazons.

But this is old news. What’s really striking about the show is just how many of the central villains are female. To date, I believe Xena still has the most female big-bads of any television show.

To clarify, I would classify a big-bad as a villain who is a formidable opponent to the protagonist—someone who could match her at every turn, and, occasionally, overpower and outsmart her. A big-bad should also have a large role, either throughout a season arc or within the show’s entire run. She should not play second string to anyone, though she can be involved in another villain’s evil plot. Ultimately, she should have her own goals.

Xena has many formidable enemies, many of whom are women, and the most intriguing of whom is her archnemesis, Callisto. Callisto is a woman bent on destroying everything that crosses her path, particularly Xena, who was responsible for the slaughter of Callisto’s family when she was just a child. Callisto is a personification of Xena’s sins, of what her past actions as a ruthless warlord wrought, and how they twisted a young, innocent girl into a sadistic psychopath. Callisto’s is a compelling story, and it reinforces a recurring theme within the show—that Xena is not the only female with power, that there is a large pool of strong women in the world she inhabits, and that extends to the villains of that world.

We all know why it’s important to see women inhabit positions of power in popular media. These figures serve as role models for young women to aspire to. They also break widely-held stereotypes about what a woman’s role should be and what a woman is capable of doing. It’s just as important to have female villains as it is to have female protagonists, and this is perhaps doubly important in a show that has a female protagonist at its center, because it shows that these heroes come from a community of strong women and that an empowered woman is the norm as opposed to an isolated incident. Giving Xena a female archenemy that is every bit the warrior she is, pitting her against other female villains who are capable of besting her, shows that Xena is not an exception. She is not the one woman amongst the thousands who is capable of wielding such strength; she is one of the many (though, there’s only one Warrior Princess). Other genre shows that have showcased universes not only populated by strong female protagonists, but antagonists as well are Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Glorificus, Faith), Angel (Drusilla, Darla), Once Upon a Time (Regina), Battlestar Galactica (early Six (arguably), and all of the female cylons for that matter), and Elementary (Irene Adler/Moriarty).

While there have been several popular female heroines over the past few decades, female villains, short of the aforementioned and the ones that fall into the diminutive tropes of the femme fatale or the seductress, are typically secondary characters working for or on a lower tier than the “real big-bad.” This brand of villain is rarely much of a threat in the grand scheme of things. They function as a small hindrance to the protagonist, a hiccup on their way towards a bigger battle, and they almost always provide a side-serving of scantily clad eye-candy for the viewer.

The caliber of these female villains is significant. It’s important to have female villains that transcend the trope of the femme fatale and do more than just look pretty beside their male boss—a villainess who’s more than an errand girl and doesn’t get pacified by a bigger, eviler male antagonist. We need more female villains that have their own agency, their own intricate back-story, and their own twisted vision of what the world would look like if they were on top. The type of villain who can flip the script, torch it, and serve its charred remains to the heroine while she frantically tries to figure out which way is up. So, I ask (you know, since I haven’t seen every show ever made), where my female villains at?

Tamar Altebarmakian is a writer whose ultimate wish in life is to record the words, “Previously, on (insert name of show currently obsessed with here).”

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  • Anonymous

    I can think of plenty of female villains. Hell, most of the Power Rangers villains from the golden age were women (Rita, Divatox, Astronema, Trakeena). If anything, I find more female villains as opposed to female protagonists and first-string heroes. If anything, Callisto is the only big-bad from Xena that I can remember, and that’s because she’s truly memorable. Callisto was insane and always made for a great episode whenever she made an appearance. For me, it’s all about quality over quantity. Yeah, we’re saturated with male big-bads, but if they come off as a Bond villain or Lex Luthor clone, they don’t stand out. Faith and Glory were fun, but The Master and Adam were not memorable.

  • WellYesYouMay

    They’re meandering around getting killed in Game of Thrones, destroying Dream in Sandman, hunting Dorothy in Wizard of Oz (or stealing shoes, depending on your point of view), torturing Anita Blake in Guilty Pleasures, and cackling over a gaggle of Disney Princesses.
    (Sorry, I don’t watch many TV shows, so that comes from a glance at my bookshelf)

  • Adam R. Charpentier

    I think my current favorite would be Mama from Dredd but I’ll take other suggestions.

  • Anonymous

    I loved Ma-Ma in Dredd! She was suuuper scary.

    The best I can think of is that I’ve seen an increase in female villains in crime shows. Of course they’re only in one episode. My problem is that they always romance-gone-bad/man-related motive, if you know what I mean? Rather than the power/money/justice motives male villains usually get.

    The best I’ve seen lately (but again a crime show with single-episode villains) is Motive, which is Canadian. They tell you the killer and the victim right away and then go through the how and why. At least two thirds of the killers have been women and part of the point of the show is the complex backstory that leads to the killer/victim confrontation.

  • Steph

    I remember Ares. I remember him…fondly.

    Parks and Rec has some great female “villains” (antagonists to Leslie Knope). Megan Mullally in particular. Yowza.

  • odango atama

    Yes, good point. If you cannot be a princess, you are doomed to be a witch. The crone image is also a negative anima that the princess must fight against; she must keep her youth because if she grows old she will become corrupted like these other women. Thus, reinforcing the terrible, terrible notion that life is only for the young. BLERG.

  • Anonymous

    Mmm…Ares. I would gladly kill in his name for a piece of that.

  • Adam Cross

    the Claymore anime has some incredibly badass female demon big-bads. do demons count?

  • Anonymous

    Female main villains? O wee… haven’t seen some for a while… I liked Elektra King in the last Brosnan Bond movie and Irina Spalko in the forth Indiana Jones film. From the “Xena”-villains I was a fan of “Najara” (played by Catherine Morris (“Cold Case”)), actually I found her much more frightening than Callisto.

    But main female villains today… difficult. Today I’m already happy if I get a female action hero who’s not just a supporting character to the male action hero.

  • Anonymous

    I think it should, given that 99% of the cast is part demon.

  • Vera

    Say what you like about Doctor Who’s women these days (and I know a lot of people like to say a lot), but there have been some excellent female villains. We’ve had Madame Kovarian, the closest thing to a leader the Silence ever had, Miss Kislet recently, and a smattering of others over the years.

  • Anonymous

    Ghibli has a few: Yubaba from Spirited Away, the Witch of the Waste from Howl’s Moving Castle. Probably the most notable is Lady Eboshi from Princess Mononoke—not that common to see a female version of the Luthor/Xanatos scumbag developer type.

    In other news, I opened a Xena minifig while reading this post. Is the Mary Sue psychically influencing my random Lego packages? Occam’s razor. :0

  • Anonymous

    Any one else really wishing for a Xena…something, reboot, continuation…something? I was a young lad when Xena originally aired…but..yes it was rather formative for me in how I look at/write female characters. I think it would be great to see the show make a come back, specifically because Xena is such a strong icon. Maybe dial back the clothing just a bit, perhaps make it sort of you know practical, perhaps looking like something someone would actually fight in.

    Another good candidate for female villain, though gender her is sort of ambiguous, is the Vord Queen from Butcher’s Codex Alera. Lady Aquitane sort of plays into a female big bad as well, but she’s usually a side character, albeit one who is very devious and ready to betray her “master” at the drop of a hat to further her own position.

  • Angela Korra’ti (Highland)

    Oh man, so timely a post. <3 My wife Dara Korra'ti and I have been discussing female representation in media on our own sites today–but I hadn't thought to address the question of villains! Because the OP is right: we need powerful female villains just as much as we need female protagonists.

    I loved Six in BSG and the antagonists mentioned from Whedon's work as well. Especially Glory from Buffy, and Jasmine from Angel. Angel had its issues but certainly Gina Torres playing Jasmine was NOT one of them.

    You could make a case for Dark Phoenix being an awesome big bad at least back in the original version of the story I remember (though you could also make a case for her not really qualifying, either). But oh man she was glorious.

    I'm somewhat chagrined to report that I never actually watched Xena–but I do love me some Greek mythology and boy howdy, is it full of females functioning as villains. Hera, I'm looking STRAIGHT AT YOU.

    Interested parties who want to see my and Dara's posts, I invite you to come over here for my post:

    And here for Dara's:

  • Solarbird

    Yeah, that’s kind of the problem, though, right? Not that there aren’t any – there are generally _some_, and _some_ of those aren’t the Usual Two Kinds Allowed. But there’s always that 17% number – 17% of movie crowds are women, and that’s seen as “normal,” and once you start getting around 30% or so, men start seeing those crowds as “mostly women,” and if you get close to equality, start complaining about discrimination against men.

    And I think it all comes back down to the fact that humans learn through stories, and if your _stories_ are telling you that 17% representation is “equal” and “fair” and “normal,” of _course_ that much deviation is going to create that reaction.

    (Which is why I wrote this big blog post here ( ) this morning – before this post went up, which is too bad, because I’d've included this one!)

  • Mark Brown

    Gargoyles had Demona, as well as the Wyrd Sisters (though their “villainny” is debatable). (As is Demona’s, of course.)

  • Emily Neenan

    And Regina’s not the only evil or ambiguously evilish female character in Once Upon A Time. Watching Once, I keep thinking “Wow, there are SO MANY women in this world” and then thinking “No, there’s just a _normal_ amount of women in this world. You know, half.” It just seems weird beside the male-dominated stuff we’re used to seeing.

  • realinvalidname

    Here’s an interesting example from anime: Kanade/Angel from Angel Beats! starts as the series’ villain, and has some great hand-to-hand battles with Yuri in the first few episodes, but eventually becomes one of the good guys… not because she changes, but because the main protagonists (Otonashi at first, and Yuri by the end) come to better understand who she is, what she’s doing, and finally what she really represents (I’m trying to save y’all from some glorious spoilers!). In other words, instead of the villain joining the heroes, the heroes join the villain, and how often do you see that?

  • Guest

    Went looking for some Yuri/Kanade fighting gifs… figured tumblr would have my back:

  • Solarbird

    But all that said I’ll forgive a lot for Madame Vastra and Jenny. <3

  • Joe Walsh

    Most of my entertainment consumption is Anime, so I gotta start off with the, as far as I know, OG female villain: Queen Beryl (and the other half-dozen or so female Bosses that the villains were always trying to bring back) of Sailor Moon fame. One Piece several Badass Female antagonists: from the Pirate Alvida, the villain of the first two or three episodes/chapters to the “Miss” Baroque Works agents (all of whom were roughly equivalent to their male partners) including Miss All Sunday, Nico Robin who joined the Straw Hat crew as the lone voice of reason among lunatics; Marine Captain “Black Cage” Hina, CP9′s Kalifa. One of the most powerful characters in the story, Pirate Emperor(ess) Big Mam.
    I can only remember one Top Tier female villain from the Final Fantasy series: Sorceress Ultimecia fro FF VII.
    The female members of Robert Jordan’s Forsaken, except Lanfear. What? She went evil because she couldn’t get the man she wanted, if memory serves… that’s just a bad motivation. Sevenna a better villain; power for the sake of having power.
    From Piers Anthony’s Xanth: Magician Peril. Magician is used to denote any character with a powerful enough Magical Talent, male or female.
    and how could I almost forget the Mistress of the Zerg Swarm, Queen of Blades: Sarah Kerrigan? Because she is the only hope the universe has against the Fallen?
    I feel like I should be able to list more… but I can has bad memory/

  • BlaughDaugh

    I think Stahma Tarr on Defiance may be taking on this role as the depth of her ambition is revealed. Datek is really her puppet though she seems to allow him some power over her. Love? Unsure as of yet.
    Not really aware of any others on TV serials other than Cersei Lannister, who is as complex and flawed as any other character on Game of Thrones.

  • EleniRPG

    Now I’m trying to brainstorm EVERY SHOW I HAVE EVER WATCHED, which is really testing the limits of my memory. But I did come up with three current TV shows that have had female “big bads” as well as female protagonists:

    Nikita–Amanda (Melinda Clarke).
    Covert Affairs–I love this one, because not only is the lead a woman, but her boss is also a woman (yay for not being “the only woman in the office wasting precious time fighting prejudice”). Anyway, they’ve also had a big bad who turned out to be a woman.
    True Blood–A couple big-bads-of-the-seasons have been women (played by such wonderful actresses as Michelle Forbes and Fiona Shaw). Crazy villains, but really all the characters in that show are pretty crazy.

  • EleniRPG

    You’re right! We’re so used to seeing women hugely outnumbered (one “token female” on a team, plus studies showing that even in kids programming, only 1/3 of speaking characters are female), that when we see anything even approaching half and half, it really stands out.

  • BabeWoreRed

    Callisto was so freaking flawless, one of the most memorable things about that show. I loved her.
    I have to say though: Sailor Moon. Probably 80-90% of the major villains were female…

  • BabeWoreRed

    I’d agree except that I recently tried to rewatch it and remember that Sam Raimi is RIDICULOUS and the sound effects were distracting and season one Gabrielle makes me angry and I just wanted to get to the Xena/ Autolycus episodes and couldn’t do it lol…

  • Anonymous

    I haven’t seen the Howl’s Moving Castle Ghibli film but the the book it’s based on was a childhood staple of mine. Which brings me to the author, Diana Wynne Jones. I know they’re books (mostly for older children, but a few on the adult side of young adult) not tv shows, but she created some truly magnificent female villains. Give them a read.

    Also in the scumbag developer type villain, Dr. Blight from Captain Planet? I don’t remember much about her, apart from wondering whether she actually had another eye under all that hair…

  • Anonymous

    I actually started watching it again recently as well. The camp is so high and I was turned off…then I started laughing and didn’t look back. The show is goofy as anything, yet it’s still pretty good.

    A Xena reboot would need to be handled carefully, but with enough tact I think it could work well. GoT is bringing people back to fantasy, so Greek/Mythological series could certainly work. Work in a slightly denser/more intrigue laden plot, set the beginning up with Xena as something of a “man with no name” style character and I think it could work rather well.

  • Melissa Shumake

    i haven’t watched any of season 2 yet, unfortunately, but gosh, regina is SUCH a good villain.

  • qivucuzusywa

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    They’re meandering around getting killed in Game of Thrones, destroying
    Dream in Sandman, hunting Dorothy in Wizard of Oz (or stealing shoes,
    depending on your point of view), torturing Anita Blake in Guilty
    Pleasures, and cackling over a gaggle of Disney Princesses.

  • Tansy Rayner Roberts

    I loved how often the main guest role was a woman – and how the eventual backstory of Xena was filled in along the way with a long line of powerful women who influenced her in a dual sense. often they taught her a new skill that helped her evil self build power and military advantage, but then later she was able to take different lessons from them in retrospect. Also the Xenaverse was peopled with such a diverse range of active female characters, in age and body type as well as race. The ‘she’s special because she’s the only woman who can do this stuff’ trope never came into play.

    This is the show that gave us Gina Torres as Cleopatra! (though Hercules, it has to be said, had some pretty badass women in it too, including important female villains and supporting characters – again Gina Torres, this time as pirate queen Nebula, for example)

  • Robert Vary

    Not to mention Titania, who was not necessarily a villain but was definitely powerful and dangerous. Similarly, Fox was sometimes a villain and sometimes an untrustworthy ally – much like her eventual husband, Xanatos. I appreciated how, once they teamed up, she seemed much more like a partner to him than becoming his secondary villain.

  • Robert Vary

    I liked the Master, but he was kinda generic big bad guy. Adam absolutely bored me to tears. The Mayor, though, is by far my favorite Big Bad of the whole series.

  • Anonymous

    Oh, she’s awesome! If we’re going for books, cannot recommend her enough. I read Howl the year before the movie came out here, just in time to get excited about the film adaptation. I was incensed that it didn’t have the same humourous/satirical tone as the original, and goes a completely different direction with Howl’s identity. A somewhat older me recommends it, though. It has its own thing going.

  • Katy

    So true! As well, Regina is a well developed villain, viewers both fear, loathe, and sympathize with her. She had the potential to be good, but she chooses to be bad for various reasons (it’s easier, she feels she doesn’t have a choice, outside forces, etc.). I think, ultimately, that she could be made into the hero of the show.

  • Nick Gaston

    …how are we counting female “secondary” villains/henchmen who are clearly more competent than their bosses, and have a bigger fan following?

    I can think of two, right off the bat. One of whom actually conquered the world™ at one point.

  • Sara Green Williams
  • lala

    Avatar! (The one with elemental benders, not blue catpeople.) The triple threat of Azula, Mai and Ty Li was an awesomeness to behold. The baddies were well rounded with clear (non-sexist) motivations for what they did.

  • Anonymous

    Would Snow White’s stepmother and Maleficent really count as old crones? The stepmother only *disguises* herself as one in order to gain Snow White’s trust, and in fact is meant to be a figure of kindness and friendliness: it’s only the audience that knows the old woman is evil, and it’s because she’s hiding her youth. Maleficent’s age is indeterminate, but she certainly doesn’t *look* like your classic old crone.

    I do think there’s a worthwhile discussion in there, but I think it’s a bit more nuanced.

  • Canisa

    Though I can’t find the link there was a study done that showed that a lot of people interpret a group that is just 17% women as being one that is 50% women, and interpret a group that is 30% women as having more women in it than men. This is because 17% is the average number of female characters in media, politics and traditionally male dominated professions. Because 50% women is what would be normal in real life and is what people expect now that ~sexism is over~ we then learn to read 17% as 50%.

  • teamintfortae

    I like how that was sort of subverted in Brave. The witch who gave Merida the potion was not actually evil or malicious or even the proper antagonist for that matter. Both Merida and her mother play the antagonist at some points, and the usual doolally about youth and beauty winning the day really didn’t come into play at all.

  • Anonymous

    “While there have been several popular female heroines over the past
    few decades, female villains, short of the aforementioned and the ones
    that fall into the diminutive tropes of the femme fatale or the
    seductress, are typically secondary characters working for or on a lower
    tier than the “real big-bad.” This brand of villain is rarely much of a
    threat in the grand scheme of things. They function as a small
    hindrance to the protagonist, a hiccup on their way towards a bigger
    battle, and they almost always provide a side-serving of scantily clad
    eye-candy for the viewer.”

    There are a couple of these even back in the days of pulp fiction. While the female villains in, say, Robert E. Howard’s Conan stories are often of the “femme fatale/seductress” type, characters like Salome, Tascela and Thalis are indeed the primary villains of their stories, with no superior from whom they take orders (unless you count demons and Lovecraftian deities that probably defy puny human definitions of gender entirely), and directly in command of powerful male villains. There are a few gems out in the realm of pulp: C.L. Moore’s Jarisme, H. Rider Haggard’s Ayesha, etc…

  • Anonymous

    “Shego” from “Kim Possible”? She just jumped into my mind! ;-9

  • Nick Gaston

    Shego *never* jumps into one’s mind…she blows the entire door and STRIDES in.

  • Anonymous

    You definitely should watch “Xena” if you are interested in strong (not only physical) female characters. A couple of years ago when the DVDs came out in my country I wanted to see just one specific episode and I got totally hooked again buying in the end all 6 season-boxes. And saw them up and down more than once! ;-9

  • Anonymous

    I still want to see a big Xena movie on the big screen after all this years. In my opinion they shouldn’t change anything. Without the two main actresses you could forget it anyway. They should see that they get the best of their screenwriters together again and the Special Effects should be up to date. Otherwise they shouldn’t change it. I wouldn’t want a “more realistic” ;-9 Xena or something.

    Sadly, people tried to get that thing of the ground for quite a couple of years unsuccessfully. When Rob Tapert, the producer said, it’s not happening I was said.

    Instead of that we get two new Hercules versions next year, talk about equality… :-(

  • Supermorff

    If that’s an unmarked spoiler for Elementary, I am so disappointed. I’ve only watched the first 5 episodes so far.
    Otherwise, this is a good article.

  • Anonymous

    Well Hercules is an actual real mythological character so he’s in public domain, cheaper to use, and more in the public eye.

    I’d certainly love to see Xena come back, but I cannot ague that it’s easier to just pump out Hercules movies and Hollywood is all about easy money.

  • Mark Boyes

    Tangential, but there’s a trivia question. “Of all the fermale villains in Doctor Who 1963-1989, name the three that wore a skirt or dress”. can’t think i that has changed in the revived series, but it doesn’t have quite the same undercurrents these days.

  • Anonymous

    Hm. Maybe crone/witch? There’s certainly an association of witchcraft or evil magic.

  • Anonymous

    I’m just upvoting you for mentioning Gargoyles. One of my favourite series of all time!

  • Nat

    I’ve heard that the movie is in fact super different from the book but I loved the movie so much (fan fiction that’s long and complete is so hard to find!) so you recommend the book?

  • Nat

    I wanted to love Legend of the Seeker so much but I felt that the female characters were more faux!strong than actually strong. Perhaps it’s because the ‘love at first sight’ in the first episode left a bad taste in my mouth (I’ve never read the books but I’ve heard a lot of problematic things)

  • Petrinka

    I think Callisto was my first girl crush. I would get super excited when I found out she was going to be in an episode of Xena. Didn’t understand why at that age. I do now. I soooooo wanted to be/be with her. Her character was so awesomely bad, I truly hated her.

  • Anonymous

    of course the fact that no one ever mentioned She-Ra: The Princess of Power kinda baffles me. I mean as a kid, she was the only real girl powered hero I had to look up to (pre-Xena)where she had just as much power as He-Man and had led her own faction to take out Hordak (and in some occassions Skeletor as well)

    I do agree with the points about Sailor Moon and the Ghibili Females as well (Especially those like Naausica!) of course even in the ghibli universe often the villan was a powerful woman as well. Heck even in Sailor Stars (that never made it to the US) the villain managed to : (Spoiler)kill off most of the cast Xp(/spoiler)

  • Anonymous

    For sure. The biggest differences are the added war and Madam Suliman, who’s a completely opposite character from the book’s Wizard Suliman. (Also half the cast is Welsh.) So yeah, super different, but worth a read.

  • Laura Truxillo

    I had that exact same moment. For all its problems and occasional cheesiness, there are so many women in it, and even better–they don’t make a big thing about it! It’s just…how the show is.

  • Laura Truxillo

    I liked that about the Avatar cartoon too–you saw a lot of female Fire Nation soldiers. Just doin’ what they do.

    It’s like the folks making the show said, “Hey, even though our world has some basis in real places, cultures, and time periods, we’re still making up a fantasy world, so I guess we really don’t need all the inherent sexism here. No real need for it.*”

    *Except for the Northern Water Tribe for one Very Special episode, but other than that, most of the other cultures seem to be pretty even.

  • Laura Truxillo

    Nothing debatable about it–the Wyrd sisters were straight-up antagonists.

    A great show all around.

  • Emily Neenan

    I’ve seen that too! And a similar one showing how once women got past, I think, about 25% of the time speaking, people thought men and women were speaking just as much as each other. Clearly, sexism is over!

  • Emily Neenan

    Exactly! It’s not a Women’s World, it’s just … a world with equal numbers of women and men. There are women and men rulers and heros and villains. The main story focuses on a few women, but it’s not a big deal.

  • Angela

    Don’t forget M’Lila. She taught Xena how to use pressure points and she honored her with her future breastplate design.

  • Angela

    Sam Raimi didn’t have much to do with Xena (or Hercules). That’s Rob Tapert.

  • Angela

    Najara is pretty underrated, though I think they kind of butchered her second appearance. Her name is Kathryn, btw.

    Velasca was another great villain. Callisto is overrated but I do enjoy the character.

  • odango atama

    I go away for a few days and this happens. Yeah!

    I’m considering the Disney trope: If you’re over 30 (or — gasp — 25), you are the villianess. And, on a side note, I have always loved the Snow White Queen, even though she’s short-sighted and narcissistic. Maybe I like her so much because she removes her enemies — if the story were told from her POV, she would be a skilled tactician, able to take on any invading kingdom.

    How to write that movie?

  • Angela Korra’ti (Highland)

    I’m rather thinking I need to eventually fill this hole in my cultural experience, yes. :D

  • Angela Korra’ti (Highland)

    Oh _totally_, I know enough about Hera to know that in a lot of the myth where she’s playing the villain, honestly, she seems to be reacting out of fury at Zeus being, well, _Zeus_. And I certainly know enough about Zeus to get how being pissed off about that is arguably seriously justified!

    Also, I salute someone whose mythology geekery CLEARLY outstrips my own! :)

  • Anonymous

    Except the Three Good Fairies stand in opposition to Maleficent. Though they still inhabit the supporting role as magical/witch entities, they are not villains (and in Merriweather’s case, are active agents in their own right).

    Likewise, the Fairy Godmother in Cinderella is a positive force, in contrast to Lady Tremaine, and Druscilla and Anastasia are young, but wicked (though not free of the “ugly = evil” trope in the original film.)

  • Anonymous

    I was going to say! Glad you brought it up!

  • Anonymous

    I think X-Men is a great example of a franchise with many female heroes and powerful female villains. Even though Emma Frost was in service to the Hellfire Club and had a submissive dynamic to Shaw, she was the major villain for the X-Men, such as their capture and later rivalry in recruiting students. Mystique remains a top-notch villain. Others I can think of are Cassandra Nova, Viper, Saturnyne, Selene, Calypso, Marrow, Lady Mastermind, Rogue, Spiral, Madelyne Pryor, Lady Deathstrike, Arkea, Adrienne Frost, Frenzy, Leper Queen, Esme Cuckoo, Destiny, Malice…

  • psykins

    Snow White and the Huntsman!

    Seriously, I’m in love with Charlize Theron after that role…

  • psykins

    Michelle Forbes! She does such a good villain. Her role in True Blood + Helena Cain in Battlestar Galactica = crush 4 lyfe!

  • odango atama

    The movie I propose wouldn’t have magic. It would be a local superpower versus rebels and “Snow White” is the rebel leader fighting for “her” throne, which isn’t really hers to begin with. And then, as is the case with fairy tales and myths, etc., a legend grows up around this battle and everything gets twisted so that it seems more mystical than real.

  • Angela Korra’ti (Highland)

    Yeah, Dara and I were talking about Mystique! My era of reading the comics mostly runs up to the original Dark Phoenix storyline so I’m not as familiar with Mystique as implemented in the comics–just her implementation in the movies. But Dara was saying she’s WAY more of a villain in her own right there than we see of her in the films.

    But you’re very right about Emma Frost!

  • casey

    So right!! I keep looking for something else like this and there is just nothing!! I can’t wait for the movie!! Any ideas on when it’ll come out?

  • Caroline Sparks

    Xena was and still is a hero. The best thing about Xena is she started off as a villain when an army slaughtered her dad and village. Xena struggled with her feelings and it nearly destroyed her. The lesson learned here is who feels worse, the hater or the hated. Look what calistos hate did to her! Xena is a perfect example of how you can change and become good. I wish they would bring Xena back, either in the series or just as a 1 off.

  • Anonymous

    Ah, well they’re clearly over 30 (or at least not teenagers), I get you now.

  • Georgi

    #XenaMovieNow the world is ready bring back those two heroes on big screen, with the original cast Lucy Lawless & Renee O’Connor!!!

  • Eva Tarnay

    I don’t know if anyone else brought this up as I didn’t scroll through all the comments, but Ma-ma in the updated (and much, much darker and better) Dredd was AMAZING. Then again, she was played by Lena Headey, so I guess that’s a given. But as a serious, unbelievably violent lead villain, the character is unparalleled in anything else I’ve ever seen.

  • Anonymous

    Okay, you’ve talked me into it. Dredd goes to the head of the Netflix queue.

  • Anonymous

    Yes. Didn’t that happen in the latest incarnation “Man of Steel?” She certainly wasn’t holding back.

  • Anonymous

    I saw Defiance once described as a “Romeo and Juliet story, if Romeo’s mom was Lady Macbeth.” Kinda apt, I thought. Stahma Tarr is an amazing character, because she’s so … plastic. Always with a smile on her face, and her eyes downcast, etc. So that when that smile slips, when she glances up … you know someone’s in for it, even though the people she’s speaking to often take her for granted, often look past her to Datak. I think Nolan was seeing her for who and what she is, and I KNOW Kenya Rosewater did, at the very end. BUT … she’s also very much the henchman, her power derived from Datak’s position. As a Castithan woman, she has no real power herself, that’s why she needs to be as cunning as she is, as manipulative. She plays Datak (and many others) like a fiddle, because she can’t act as her own agent.

    Cersei is another whose power is derived by the men she is surrounded by. Her father, her husband, her son, even her brother. Sleeping with Jamie is the only real way she can rebel against that, take control of her OWN destiny. She married a man her father promised her to, and then is forced into it again (at least, I’m assuming she is, as I haven’t finished the books, and at the current point in the show, she’s been promised to Loras Tyrell.) She manipulates THROUGH others, but has no TRUE power of her own, not even to defy her father and refuse to remarry … even as the Queen Regent.

    Now, if we’re going to discuss powerful GoT women, though, how has Daenyrus not been mentioned? True, in the beginning, she too had as much power as the men who ruled her, being first Viserys’ pawn, then Khal Drogo’s bride, but after, as the Mother of Dragons, she truly came into her own strength, leading an entire army by her own right. She answers to no one, and her strength is tempered, as she continually shows mercy, particularly to those enslaved … also an important mark of a strong female character, that their softness, their more “feminine side” isn’t lost in displays of bravado …

  • BlaughDaugh

    yeah but Daenerys is a hero. Her story is a classic heroic tale. She’s not a villain at all (unless you are a slave master I guess).
    Agreed about the other two but they are of questionable moral virtue and are in opposition to the “heroes” of the tale, making them villains. I guess you were backing me up there :)