Having a good group of villains adds a lot to the story as it can increase the audience’s engagement with the conflict, and the new She-Ra reboot has hooked me with its spectacular rouge gallery. But how does She-Ra pull it off, what is the common thread between its cast of villains that make them so enjoyable to watch? What I hope to do is go through each of the villains in She-Ra and analyze their character and then find a common thread between them to understand what makes a great villain
Case 1 Scorpia
The thing about Scorpia is that she didn’t really choose the side she was on, like Adora she was born into the horde and has never really had any reason to leave. Despite being on the side of her conqueror, she is not an evil person; in fact, she is very helpful to everyone around her. She is also not the brightest when she is easily duped and confused by the workings of those around her. However, when push comes to shove, she can be seen to do the right thing like when she destroyed a crystal that was causing a bunch of technology to rampage to save her friends. It’s this general good personality that makes her so likable to watch and what causes her to pair up nicely with another character who is generally affable
Case 2 Entrapta
Part of what makes Entrapta so interesting is that she can pretty much end up on either side of the conflict while she can maintain a consistent character. Entrapta is a pretty amoral form her first appearance only really caring about advancing her scientific knowledge. Like Scorpia she is a generally nice person who gets along with everyone even those who are on the opposing side of the conflict, this is because she doesn’t really care about the battle for Eternia and is only interested in seeing how far science can develop. Entrapta’s fatal flaw is that she doesn’t really pay attention grander situation she is a part of. This is why she assumes that her friends left her behind joins the hard and doesn’t pay attention to the more significant harm her work is doing. But despite the destruction, she creates its hard to hate her due to her enthusiasm and friendly personality.
So between Scorpia and Entrapta, we can see that one way to make a compelling villain is to make them likable. You can do this by giving them the personality that a typical hero character would have but just plant them on the opposing side. What’s important though is to provide them with an understandable reason to stay on the side of evil. For Scorpia it’s just that she doesn’t have anywhere else to go and for Entrapta it’s that the Hord is the one giving her the supplies to continue her research. But now onto the villains that are not quite as affable.
Case 3 Shadow Weaver
Shadow Weaver is a manipulative and ambitious villain who Tries to maintain absolute control from those under her and remain in her superior’s favor. Her desire to maintain control puts her at odds with Catra who often shuns her authority. This controlling personality also makes her obsessed with recapturing Adora after she left the Hord. But the one thing that defines Shadow Weaver is fear, she fears to lose control and losing her position in the Hord. She puts on a strong front, but she is incredibly frail as she is utterly dependent on her ability to manipulate others to maintain control. Once she loses that control over Adora and Catra, she finds herself without any powers and is deemed a failure by her superior. This fragility is what makes her so complexing as a character because the audience sees how quickly she could lose everything she worked to control. The audience can empathize with the struggle of putting on a strong front to others and the fear of losing control.
Case 4 Catra
Catra is the star of the show. Catria is conniving and manipulative and cynical to a fault, only staying with the Hord because she believes it’s the best way to move up in the world. Due to Shadow weaver’s cruel upbringing, Catra is starved of affection and found the only source of friendship within Adora. Adora then leaves and becomes She-Ra fighting against the Hord and causes Catra to feel betrayed. She never gets over this feeling of betrayal, ultimately leaving Adora to die in a way to free herself from her past so that she can advance in the Hord. What makes Catra such a compelling villain is that despite all of her scheming and manipulation, she is still trapped by her need for affection and validation from those around her. She is always vulnerable to both the manipulation of Shadow Weaver and the hurt that she experiences from when Adora left the Hord. It is this vulnerability that makes her so compelling to watch as the views know she is trying just as hard as the heroes to improve herself, It is just that her path for self-improvement is twisted due to the years of abuse she experiences under shadow weaver. And it is this vulnerability that allows shadow weaver and Catra to be so engaging as an antagonist because in some twisted way we can emphasize with their struggles.
So those are a couple of ways to make engaging and empathetic villains, vulnerability, and a good personality.
Are there any other qualities to a good villain? What are some good villains that you know of and what makes them work?