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It’s So Good To Be Bad: What Drives the Disney Villain Fascination?

Cruella De Vil, Maleficent, Ursula, Captain Hook, Hades, Jafar...

by
Chris Queen

Bio

July 6, 2012 - 9:00 am

The beauty items in the collection contain descriptions of the villains as: “Devilish Diva” (Cruella de Vil), “The Real Fairest Of Them All” (The Wicked Queen), “Original Goth” (Maleficent), “Forever Young” (Mother Gothel), “Fashion’s Wild Card” (The Queen of Hearts), and “Stylish Sea Witch” (Ursula). Ursula gets a svelte makeover, and each villain steps out in the finest fashions. Clearly, Disney has designed this extensive collection to appeal to adult women much in the same way that the Disney Princesses and Fairies appeal to young girls.

Now, as a guy, I can’t identify with nail polish, porcelain dolls, or writing journals with glamorous images of villainous divas on them, but I can understand the lure of the baddies. Something about the bad guys appeals to Disney fans, but what drives it?

From the very beginning, Walt Disney made it abundantly clear that good would always triumph over evil in his studio’s films. The classic Disney protagonists have always been easy to love. They embody goodness, heroism, and innocence, and viewers of all ages can root for them or emulate them without any compunction. But let’s face it: to many Disney fans, the villains are just…well…cooler.

The artists who played the villains understood this fact quite well. Lucille La Verne, the forgotten theater legend who voiced The Wicked Queen in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, hammed it up to the max, taking her false teeth out to play the Queen as a witch. Eleanor Audley, who voiced Lady Tremaine in Cinderella and Maleficent in Sleeping Beauty — as well as Madame Leota in The Haunted Mansion — embodied villainy so perfectly that she put on the air of an evil diva in personal appearances.

And it’s not just the ladies. The male villains come across as more suave and debonair. Captain Hook is far more dashing than Peter Pan any day, and he’s good for more comic relief. Jafar carries himself much more smoothly than Aladdin does — even with the Genie’s help. And Gaston has a way with the ladies that the smelly old Beast can only dream of.

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