When Mishma announced she would be hosting a celebration for villains, it's no surprise yo girl, Nova, decided to join in all the fun. Today, I bring you a post of musings I've been contemplating for a while now.
When I was a youngin', the villains were very obvious. They wore black, looked maniacal and were almost always creepy in some way. Also, they tended to be old and ugly to reflect their internal villainy. As a ten year old, this made so much sense. We see these people and go, "they're so mean and ugly! It just makes sense!" I'm drawing my experiences from mostly shows like Teen Titans and Kim Possible. Yeah, they had pretty fiendish-looking villains.
So imagine my surprise when twelve year old Nova read Shadow and Bone for the first time. The Darkling was nothing like the villains I'd ever encountered. For one thing, he was charming. HELLA charming. And intelligent. And ambitious. (And hot asf.)
I feel like whenever I tell people I love the Darkling, I never get the chance to explain why. I don't love the Darkling because he's gorgeous, although that does kind of help. I love the Darkling because he was one of the first villains I'd read about that portrays villains as more than just tyrannical (fullstop.) The reason I love them so much is because I find myself fascinated by what makes them tick. Unlike so many others whose purpose seems one dimensional, meant to be the things readers "BOO!" at, The Darking brings out a moral struggle in me. I'm supposed to hate him but I end up feeling bad. In an extreme case, I actually did agree with some of the things he said.
Don't laugh, but there's a Taylor Swift quote that I've always loved and it really fits into this situation. Taylor Swift and villains? I know, right?
“When I was a little girl I used to read fairy tales. In fairy tales you meet Prince Charming and he's everything you ever wanted. In fairy tales the bad guy is very easy to spot. The bad guy is always wearing a black cape so you always know who he is. Then you grow up and you realize that Prince Charming is not as easy to find as you thought. You realize the bad guy is not wearing a black cape and he's not easy to spot; he's really funny, and he makes you laugh, and he has perfect hair.”
- Taylor Swift
As far as I know, The Darkling is unique is his own right. I won't claim that anyone bearing similar resemblance to him is a knockoff. This is not a shade post to call out other authors but truthfully? I really like the way the title sounds.
Instead, let's dissect the Darkling. (Okay, that came out way way wrong.)
The Darkling specifically can get away with this. I tend to prefer my villains not in stereotypical all black attire but seeing as this guy represents the darkness in the corner of the room, I'll let it slide. Bringing it back to the T-Swizzle quote, I've always felt that black is cartoonish (unless we're talking about Westley from The Princess Bride while he's wearing black — he made it werk.)
2. Elusiveness & Cracks in the Armor
“The problem with wanting is that it makes us weak.” And boy did Alina want it (at one point.) I think it has to do with the mystery of things. The character had his walls up and every so often, there's this perfectly planned moment where he shows a smudge of humanity, enough to only fascinate the reader more. With villains, and really, any character, I don't always see the intrigue. It's "they're evil" but I don't believe that everyone is 100% evil. I do believe that when push comes to shove, they will either do good or bad. But to show the 3% good in the 97% evil of a character adds depth to me.
3. Tragic Backstory
Also like black, I don't necessarily like tragic backstory. I feel like it can sort of "excuse" the villain from their bad actions but in this case, it works like elusiveness, where it adds to backstory.
4. Physical Attractiveness
I don't consider myself shallow where looks are the only things that matter. No way, bro. But it does help that The Darkling is this menacingly attractive that shouldn't be fair. It's like how the brightest flowers are usually poisonous. [I felt very smart with that one.]
This is like the, "I can show you the world" thing. We see the Darkling as this source of knowledge and I don't know about you but for me, intelligence is such a bonus. The problem with this is that it can really further how evil this truly is. Personally, I really respect intelligence and if someone speaks in a refined way, it makes me want to agree with them. My favorite example is Kilgrave from Jessica Jones. That guy, he's messed in the head. But at the same time, some of the stuff he says, it makes a lot of sense and that bothers me.