Minority Villains! Minority Villains…

3396453-mystique-x-men-25756866-1280-1024As a feminist who critiques pop culture, I often struggle with lady villains, queer villains, disabled villains, and villains of color. The reason for this is pretty simple. On the one hand, villains can be dynamic, interesting characters and I love seeing minority characters in such a role. Villains are great, fun characters who are often more relatable than the hero, and fandoms do tend to latch onto and be protective of their favorite villains. On the other hand, when almost every TV show I watch only (or mostly) has minority characters filling the role of the villain, it often speaks to the terrible prejudice in our society.

skyfall-silva-02Villains like Mystique (X-Men), Deucalion (Teen Wolf), Silva (Skyfall), and Ra’s al Ghul (Batman) are all complex villains who are minorities and tend to be loved by their fandoms. These are all villains that we sympathize with, or at least find amusing. Often we understand why these villains do evil things, even if we don’t agree with them or their methods. It’s great when television shows minority villains who are just as complex and compelling as the heroes.

But when our hero is almost constantly a white, able-bodied, heterosexual male, having villains constantly be of color, disabled, female, or homosexual sends a clear message that these minorities are wrong, evil, and must be defeated. The problem isn’t so much that villains can’t be minorities, but that there are so few minority heroes and so many minority villains. If there were two or three gay heroes for every evil one, then perhaps I wouldn’t see this as such a problem, but there aren’t, so I do.

86921_1212981540974_fullSupernatural is a big example of this problem, with almost every villainous character female or a person of color. With the exception of Rufus, Mrs. Tran, and Kevin, almost every recurring character of color on Supernatural has been evil. Gordon, Uriel, Raphael, and Jake Talley were all portrayed as psychotic, pure evil, or both. The women on Supernatural get almost the same treatment. Though more female characters were brought in as disposable love interests, many female characters were also the diabolical villains of the season. Lilith, Ruby, Meg (to some extent), Bela, and Eve all made appearances as evil and sexy women on the show. Now again, maybe all of this wouldn’t be so bad if there were some minority heroes, but any minority heroes on Supernatural end up dead pretty quickly, leaving us with our typical three main white male characters to defeat all the evil women and people of color.

deucalionAnother problem with constantly having minority characters be the bad guys is stereotyping. Harmful stereotypes about people of color, women, the disabled, or LGBTQ+ people are sadly typical in our society and continue to promote the idea that there is something wrong and evil about these minority groups. Tropes like the evil woman seductress or the homicidal maniac send messages to viewers that woman and LGBTQ+ people and disabled people are dangerous and not to be trusted. Mystique from X-Men often acts as the seductress; she seduces men and then kidnaps them, kills them, or simply uses their lust for her to get something she needs, and characters like Ra’s al Ghul easily fulfill the Arab terrorist stereotype. No matter how dynamic the villain might be, if they are fulfilling these stereotypes, the character is not doing any minorities any favors.

I tend to really like these villains, but I think the real reason I love minority villains so much is because it’s only through them that I ever get to see any representation. When you really think about it, that’s pretty sad. It’s awesome that we have some great minority villains, but the fact is we only have minority villains, and until we have more minority heroes my love and excitement for the villains will always be lessened. 

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2 thoughts on “Minority Villains! Minority Villains…

  1. I am a parent and seriously concerned about this issue. Nearly all the cartoons only display black characters as evil minions or trecherous but not very smart villains. I don’t want her being brain washed that minorities are evil and blue eyes people are good. Sounds crazy but I’m seriously concerned. I just don’t watch tv because there is too much ignorant racist garbage on, but what do we do for our children who love to watch cartoons and children movies. Racial distrust, stereotypes and hatred are stained all over them. Any ideas from parents???

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