- The Simpsons is apparently turning 30 this year. I used to be a huge fan of the series in middle school and high school, but lately, I’ve basically given up watching TV. Shows like The Simpsons and Family Guy are funny, but because they are also offensive, I started to feel kind of slimy from liking them and laughing at the stupid jokes. My husband and I watched the entire first season of Disenchantment (same creator as The Simpsons), which we found funny, but again, watching it was a slimy experience. I suppose those shows are my guilty pleasure.
- At my job, there has been a small push for people to start putting their preferred pronouns in their email signatures. Rainbow-colored lanyards were distributed for the Transgender Day of Remembrance (I’m still not clear on exactly what that is). In a word, things are getting more “progressive.” If they are as truly “inclusive” as they say they are, they won’t force me to conform.
- For some reason, I got re-obsessed with Bella Morte, a gothic band that I used to like when I was in college. They did really good covers of “Earth Angel” and “My Heart Will Go On,” as well as The Smashing Pumpkins’ “Soma,” which was how I found out about them in the first place. The lead singer’s voice is probably one of my favorite male singing voices. I don’t know exactly what it is about it that I like.
Sunday’s episode of The Simpsons was very relevant to writers. It featured fantasy author Neil Gaiman as one of the guest voices (he played himself). After finding out that young adult literature is nothing more than the product of many overworked lit majors and a made-up author persona, Lisa grows very cynical. Homer and Bart believe that a random group of people can write a book, so they enlist Gaiman, Principal Skinner, Moe, Professor Frink, and Marge’s sister Patty to be co-writers. They come up with a story that’s pretty much Harry Potter, but with trolls instead of witches and wizards. Lisa plans to write her own book to prove that books can be written by just one person and not a conglomerate, but she gets caught in the web of procrastination and doesn’t write a thing, proclaiming, “Writing is the hardest thing ever!”
Eventually Homer and the gang finish their book and submit it to a publisher, who accepts it immediately – but on the condition that there must be a fake author. That author ends up being Lisa, who becomes enamored with the idea of fame without having written a word. Sometime during the publication process, the troll premise is changed to vampires and the creators are indignant. They suddenly become attached to the story that was formerly just a means to become rich and famous.
I felt like the episode did a good job of portraying writer’s block and procrastination, while poking fun at the publishing industry and trends in YA literature. But it was the “pride of authorship” element that really got to me. Once we spend so much time with writing a book and going through multiple drafts, developing characters and putting our hearts and souls into the writing, we become attached. We’re reluctant to change our story, even if it might be for its own good. It’s almost like being overprotective of a child or a pet, but sometimes we have to let go and realize that we must “murder our darlings” in order to turn the book into the best it can be.
If villains are written right, they are often more fascinating (at least to me) than the protagonist. Strangely enough, I find myself sympathizing with the villain in most stories. Usually, something horrible happens to the villain at the end and I feel somewhat disappointed. There’s nothing more irritating than a villain who is evil “just because.” So here are my top 7 favorite villains.
1. Leland Gaunt (from Needful Things by Stephen King) – Posing as a harmless old shopkeeper, Gaunt slowly reveals his dark side to the citizens of Castle Rock, Maine. He seduces the ladies, charms the children, and befriends the men, only to turn them all against each other, as a good villain should.
2. Jafar (from Disney’s Aladdin) – I had an odd obsession with Jafar when I was a little kid. I had a small action figure of him that I carried around all the time. I preferred Jafar to all other Disney characters. Why? I’m not sure. I was only four years old. Maybe I liked his hat. Or his cobra staff. Or his wisecracking parrot.
3. Judge Doom (from Who Framed Roger Rabbit) – Hands down, one of the creepiest “cartoon” villains out there. Doom’s cry of “Stop that laughing!” has never ceased to haunt me – the guy’s totally devoid of any sense of humor. No wonder he’s such a tool.
4. Aohila (from Knight of the Demon Queen by Barbara Hambly) – Aohila’s the typical “I’m-gonna-steal-your-man-with-my-magical-powers” female villain. She’s infuriatingly beautiful, seductive, and powerful. She’s queen of the demons, too, so she’s got minions.
5. Hannibal Lecter (from The Silence of the Lambs [and others] by Thomas Harris) – I don’t know if it’s the character himself or just Anthony Hopkins’s portrayal of him, but this guy freaks me out. He eats people, for heaven’s sake. But even though he’s a class-A creep, he’s still sympathetic. That’s the mark of a great villain.
6. Sideshow Bob (from The Simpsons) – He’s obsessed with killing Bart (my least favorite Simpsons character), so that makes him awesome in my book. And Kelsey Grammer’s voice is music to my ears.
7. Randall Flagg (from The Stand and The Dark Tower series by Stephen King) – Might as well end with a Stephen King character since I started with one. Flagg’s scary because he’s the mastermind behind the destruction of the world. And he goes by the moniker “Ageless Stranger.” Anyone with that title would be freaky.
So who are your favorite villains?