{DISCUSSION} Female Villains

Where are the female villains?

I found an interesting discussion piece recently about female villains. It didn’t just discuss the fact that female villains are far less common than male villains, but also that female villains are generally ‘evil’ for the dumbest, most vapid reasons imaginable. In other words, they are petty, they are pathetic, and they are never taken seriously. I think it’s time to change that, don’t you? But first, maybe we should examine why female villains are portrayed the way they are.

1) Male writers/directors.

Perhaps this point is a bit cliche, stereotypical, and becoming outdated, but the fact of the matter is that men, for a long period of time, were the ones writing fiction. They created the protagonists and the antagonists. Additionally, women throughout much of Western history were seen as weak, fragile, mindless, and incapable of legitimate, logical thought. As such, it’s a no brainer that females would be portrayed as vapid and petty.

“Hell Hath No Fury Like A Woman Scorned.”

This quote is a perfect example of why women are often portrayed poorly.
We presume that the ONLY reason a woman would ‘misbehave’ is because some MAN wronged her.
Pfft! Yeah, okay. Back to the 1950’s with you!

2) Women vs Women

This is an entire discussion in itself – one I plan to get into in a discussion in a few weeks – but for some reason, even when females are writing fiction, the women in the stories hate each other. They usually hate each other for the dumbest reasons too: men, power, beauty. As such, it’s ten times easier to write a female villain who hates a younger/smarter/whatever female protagonist for the dumbest reasons.

3) Female Outward Appearance

This is a newer creation in that, as women have gained rights, power, voice, etc, they have begun to notice the appearance they give out to the rest of society/the world. This is very important! It means women are making headway in ‘A Man’s World,’ but there have been side effects. Namely, women no longer want to be portrayed as the villain because they don’t want that kind of FICTIONAL negativity thrown at them IRL (because we STILL believe that books are a PERFECT representation of reality. Morons.)

Please note that, as I make these points, I am not forgetting the female villains that have been absolutely fucking FAB-U-LOUS! There have been plenty out there and they are a testament to the fact that females can make GREAT villains for reasons other than revenge, beauty, and other hodge-podge crap writers come up with. (And I totally get to call these writers out because God knows I have been that writer.)

So now that we understand the root of the problem, how do we go about inviting writers to portray women as villains and, more importantly, villains that have LEGIT reasons to be villains? Well… I’m not entirely sure I have answer to this.

First off, a lot of the portrayal has to do with genre and age group. Another aspect is that we are actually fighting a battle of simply making villains more realistic in GENERAL, irregardless of their gender. We still write villains as these 1D blobs with no personalities. And maybe that is half the problem. If we can figure out how to write legitimate, real people as villains (which honestly is not as hard as people seem to make it look), we could solve HALF our problem right there.

Then we just have to stop pretending like women would have different reasons to be villains than men. Honestly, humans are NOT all that different from each other despite this ongoing chaotic battle of gender, sexuality, race, religion, etc, etc, etc. (WHOLE different subject. Trying REALLY hard not to tangent the bejeebus out of this.) Women could very well have specific reasons for becoming evil that men may not understand, but do NOT simplify it to say that women become villains because someone was prettier than them/younger than them/smarter than them because that’s assuming ALL women are vapid, airheaded POSs.

But what do you think?
How are we doing with female villains?
Leave your thoughts below!

And check out my discussion from last week:
Post-Apocalypse vs Dystopian


12 thoughts on “{DISCUSSION} Female Villains”

  1. I think you’ve hit on something here. I think there are many old stereotypes around characters good and bad in fiction. Female villains is one, the brains of a group has to be geeky and wear crappy glasses the list goes on.
    BUT I think that not only do we need to write female villains better but female heros too. Because often if the hero is female the guys are dumb, kind of implying that that can only lead stupid men which isn’t the case. We need to write in women and men both operating at the same level well.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Absolutely! I fully agree with the idea that we need better female characters on both sides. Actually, come to think of it. I just finished binge watching a TV show called Eureka and that has some FANTASTIC examples of amazing female heroines (with varying strengths and weaknesses) and a few villains. 🙂 God, I love that show. Hahaha!

      Another good one might be Dark Matter. Though, two seasons is really not enough to determine character flaws and realism. ;'(


  2. In a massive fanfic series I created, I had multiple female villains who were the utter bane of my male protagonists life. The first was his sister who was taken and sold into slavery / brothel at a young age. She worked to become the matron of the brothel and a powerful woman, but was psychologically damaged into thinking her brother had failed her by not protecting her when she was young (despite him only being fifteen at the time). She now lurks in the shadows and makes his life miserable. He’s too torn up about what happened to her to do what’s needed (kill her), and she makes him pay dearly for this weakness.

    The second female villain in this series is a woman in charge of a group of assassins and she uses manipulation and deceit to gain power and position. She plays my protagonist like a harp.

    The third female villain is perhaps the most interesting. She’s a goddess who dearly wants my protagonist (an assassin) to be her champion. She uses some really mean tricks to try and make him her puppet.

    All three are powerful, flawed and extremely dangerous. My protagonist is male but is more of an anti-hero.

    In short I use any gender for any role and often stick females in the more powerful roles in my books (none of which are actually published which makes all this moot anyhow)!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey! Published. Unpublished. It doesn’t really matter because the fact that you’re writing it means that other people may be making the same strides. We truly do need to see more stronger females in fiction. I’m still seeing way too many weak females OR WORSE strong females with literally no flaws and then they’re subjected to the dumb, backwards ideals of females ANYWAY. What is the point if you’re still gonna screw it up in the end? Blergh!

      I’m happy to hear someone is taking steps to improve fiction as it currently stands! 😀 And yay assassins!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. While I can’t recall a specific story, I seem to recall seeing a few female villains who actually used the male prejudice as a cover, feigning a simplicity that played right into it, while secretly pulling the strings, with the specific motive of proving the arrogant male characters wrong, and punishing them for their foolishness.
    I will say, in general, one of my favorite types of villain is one who allows others to think they are in control, and believe themselves superior, because it’s far easier to trick someone who thinks they are winning.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh yeah! Totally, Adam. I love the ones who you KNOW is the villain but everyone else thinks is not. Those are great because it’s like a huge secret you’re in on and you’re just waiting for that bomb to drop! 😀 Hahahaha!

      Though, I do also enjoy villains who are just outright villains. Being true to who you are (especially for women) is still needing a lot of support right now. Women are still being told to be something they’re not and while I like the whole ‘not really what I seem,’ women villains need more representation in the sense of being blatantly who they are and not having to hide it. I think that’s a lot of where this conversation comes from.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. YES! The first thing I thought of in particular was Disney villains. Ursula envies Ariel’s voice so she steals it promising her love but then put him under a spell to fall in love with her instead. The Evil Queen hates Snow White because she’s pretty. Like, what the fuck?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ehhhh. I think Ursula can actually be debated because there are many variations on the story as to why Ursula went after Ariel. In the rendition I’m thinking of, Ursula seeks revenge on King Triton because he stole her crown. Another is they are siblings and he banished her. I don’t even really believe the Disney version could be chocked up to ‘beauty,’ but it has been some time since i’ve seen it. Perhaps I am remembering wrong.

      And yes. The Evil Queen is an unfortunately perfect example of a pathetic, vapid female villain. Come on, Disney. You are giving us better heroines, where are the better villains?


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