Villains are some of the most complex and interesting characters in fiction. It’s no surprise that they can quickly become fan favorites. If you’re in the book community, you’re bound to hear someone talking about The Darkling from the Grisha trilogy, or Warner from Shatter Me, or Aeduan from Truthwitch. Don’t get me wrong–these are some of my favorite characters too, and I’m not knocking them. But my whole purpose for this discussion is to ask the question, Why don’t we obsess over female villains, too?
We love to talk about our favorite male villains. They are part of our favorite ships, or are a damaged character we want to fix, or someone who we just find ourselves drawn to. We love that most of them are strong and powerful. I mean, after all, who would care about a weak villain?
But when we talk about villains, why don’t we talk about the female villains as much? I hardly ever see someone obsess over a female villain like someone would obsess over, say, The Darkling. Maybe it’s because when we favor a male villain, it’s because we’re attracted to them sexually, but I don’t think that’s the real reason why we don’t talk about female villains as much.
Female villains are just as strong, if not more so, than male villains. In most novels–like in real life–males are almost always the person in a position of power. To have a female villain, someone who is feared by others or stronger than most, is an incredible thing. Because of this, they’re typically very cutthroat and harsh. Some people might say that’s why we don’t obsess over them as much, but I disagree again.
Male villains are ruthless, too. All villains are, for the most part–that’s why they’re the villain of the story. I think that male villains definitely get a pass for using violence and force, but we hold these things against female characters. Here’s an example:
(fanart credit to their respective owners)
I’ll use The Darkling again for the male villain. He’s killed people, a ton of people. He manipulates one of the main characters in the story. He’s feared by thousands of people. Yet, people, including me, still love him to death and will insist that he isn’t all that bad.
The female villain I’m going to use in this example is Amarantha from A Court of Thorns and Roses. She’s hella ruthless. She cast a curse over an entire court, tortured and killed innocent people, and is an all around terrible person. But. But, she is who she is because of what happened to her sister. Like The Darkling, she has a tragic backstory that can be used as an excuse for who she is.
Except, people don’t excuse her for her behavior like they do The Darkling. Both of them have done pretty terrible things, and yet, no one excuses Amarantha for it like they do The Darkling. When she’s brought up in a conversation, most people would say that she’s terrifying and evil, but when The Darkling is brought up, people defend him to the grave (again, not bashing anyone who does this. I do it).
I’m proposing that we 1) start talking about female villains more and 2) give them the same luxuries we give male villains. They’re all the same brand of evil, and we shouldn’t condemn female villains and not males. Sure, you could argue that some villains are worse than others, which is true, but we should talk about female villains just as much as we talk about the male ones.
But Alex, you’re thinking, I don’t know of any good female villains! Fear not, my friends, for I have conducted a list of some of my favorite female villains. They’re all varying degrees of complex, but I can assure you all of them are obsessive-worthy.
- Amarantha from A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas
- Astrid Dane from A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab
- The Commandant from An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
- Queen Levana from The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer
- Mab from The Iron Fey series by Julie Kagawa
- Maeve from the Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas
Basically, this entire post boils down to this: Love female villains as much as you love male villains! They’re just as great as the guys–if not more 😉