The Best Kinds of Villains

Just making a quick post today because it’s kind of a hectic few weeks. I came across this post on Facebook, and I have to say, I definitely agree:

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Personally, I have never thought of Umbridge as a “female villain,” nor do I buy into the idea that she is so heavily disliked because she is a woman. Umbridge is hated because in our daily lives, at some point, we have all come across an Umbridge. Or if not yet, it is probably inevitable that one day we will come across someone like her.

I actually had to do a bit of research into the alignment system mentioned in the quote, and here is what I found about lawful evil (according to this website). These are people or characters who:

  • Care about tradition, loyalty and order, but not freedom or dignity — as seen in how she imposes rules that further and further restrict the students’ freedom, and her attempts to limit Harry’s (among others’) freedom of speech
  • Values the allegiance they have to their cause or government — as seen through her blind allegiance to Fudge, even with all the building evidence to support Dumbledore
  • Plays by the rules, but without mercy or compassion — as seen in how she strictly enforces the rules she imposes, most of which are designed to give her an excuse to punish
  • Feel comfortable in a hierarchy and would like to rule, but are also comfortable serving — as seen in how she serves Fudge’s orders while at Hogwarts, but still does her best to gain more power over everyone else
  • Try to work within the law, and like to use the law against their enemies — as seen when she sets Harry up to be attacked by Dementors in a Muggle area, forcing him to use magic and risk expulsion from school
  • Seek to increase their power over others — as seen in how the educational decrees quickly grant her more and more power and leadership over her fellow teachers and the students, eventually becoming Headmistress herself
  • Will use torture to extract information — as seen in her choices of punishment for rule-breakers

Umbridge is an extreme example, and I would hope that none of us has ever encountered someone as nightmarish as she is. Even so, I can think of several “Umbridge-like” experiences I’ve had in my own life:

  • The English teacher who won’t allow the same word to be used twice on the same page, and who will deduct marks if she finds any cases in your paper
  • The boss who in one breath criticizes my ability to do the job I had, and in the next asks me why I didn’t apply for a promotion that had recently been posted. Never mind the fact that the posting only went up during a mandatory “break” between contract positions, so I was never even ware that it existed.
  • The workplace that sets you up fail, for no apparent reason other than you’ve worked there a few years and they would have to pay more
  • The co-worker who forces the board of directors to create a job for her, giving her a leadership role that is often held up as “proof” that she is more valued by the company

And for me, this is exactly why Umbridge has stood out as such a strong villain in the series, even more at times than Voldemort himself. It’s not because of their genders. It is because at the end of the day, Umbridge is so terrifying because she is so real. If we haven’t had the misfortune of encountering someone like her yet, there is the very real and present danger of meeting one almost any time and anywhere. Voldemort is scary on a different level, one that we can distance ourselves from just by claiming “wizards don’t exist.” Umbridge is a witch as well, but her magic is the least of her evil. That is what makes her so scary, and that is why she may be one of the most well-written villains I’ve ever read.

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One thought on “The Best Kinds of Villains

  1. Pingback: In Honour of Harry Potter’s 20th Anniversary | Abyssal Librarian

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