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Vader, Voldemort and Other Villains: Essays on Evil in Popular Media
edited by Jamey Heit
McFarland, 233 pages

Vader, Voldemort and Other Villains
Jamey Heit
Jamey Heit, a former teacher at West Chester University, has completed his doctorate at Glasgow University's Centre for Literature, Theology and the Arts. He is the author of a previous book about religious themes in The Simpsons. He lives in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Jamey Heit Website
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Past Feature Reviews
A review by Sandra Scholes

While other books on this subject matter are made for fans of such series as Star Wars, Harry Potter and Twilight, this book is a refreshing change as it has essays based on the characters in the movies that are popular at the moment. This volume gives the reader a deeper understanding of what evil is when it is applied to villains in popular culture, and how it affects us in turn.

It's intriguing for sure, but there are thirteen essays in this book that go into the general villains for many TV and films of the past few years. They delve into what makes villains the way they are, how they come to be that way and whether there is a special formula that creates them. As the reader will know just from reading through, there is always a valid reason for being a villain, even in novels where the villain is particularly nasty.

In Daniel A. Forbes's essay "The Aesthetic of Evil," he explores the reasons of why the more nasty, evil and troublesome characters from such as Star Wars can be more appealing to the reader, and have an influence on them when they are young. He mentions all about his experiences with the Star Wars action figures and how he chose his favourites based on how cool they looked, and how menacing and striking they seemed when compared to the ones of the good guys. Darth Vader for example, is one of the most famous villains in the history of Star Wars bad guys, and his general look and demeanour could be the reason why so many of us got into the film. Forbes doesn't just mention Star Wars in his essay, instead he cites other popular science fiction such as Star Trek and uses them to get his message across that one man's evil is another man's good depending on the context.

"Focus on the Family: Good and Evil Vampires in the Twilight Saga," by A.J. Grant examines evil in the books by the now famous author Stephenie Meyer using other notable vampires from other novels of fiction as well as other modern horror writers who write about vampires all the time. He does have a point with the vampires in Meyer's novels though, as they are very different from the norm.

Bram Stoker's most famous tale of Dracula, has vampires who are evil due to how they look, and act (his vampires have feral eyes, and hiss at everyone who opposes them like alley cats) and care nothing for normal humans other than to view them as a source of food, and the fact they hunt children too makes them more evil in our minds. Their elongated incisors also serve to animalize them, showing others that they are to be feared. Stoker's vampires seduce with their eyes, voice and use their sexuality to lure others into their trap just to take their life blood.

Edward Cullen and his family of vampires want to keep out of the public eye, and exist as other mortals do; the only problem they come across is at school where everyone thinks there is something weird about them that they find off putting, and so do not try to get friendly with them. They can't understand why they feel this way, as far as they are concerned, they just do, but it is their ability to notice that they are in many ways different from them that causes others to notice it too. The Cullens are pale, and have unusual eyes, but they don't act like Stoker's vampires, instead choosing to fit in as mortals even if they can't manage it completely.

From the other's perspective, Bella Swan is the problem from an outsiders point of view as she becomes interested in Edward's kind, and can, if allowed bring vampires out in the open for all to see. What made Meyer's novels different from others was that she had two different kinds of vampires in them; one clan good, the other bad, and more bloodthirsty.

"Wanting the White Witch," by Brian Dove takes the reader to the fantastic world of Narnia to discuss the White Witch in C.S. Lewis's novels. It is the way she is able to appear innocent, kind and helpful to others that makes the unaware Edmund trust her right up until it is far too late for him to react once he has been lured.

Even though she is evil, and does evil and deplorable things to others, some of her subjects are totally taken in by her sweet words and undeniable beauty, ignoring her lies, deceit and the way she has obvious domination over all she has in her land. She does not expect anyone will try to usurp her throne, or her dominion over others, and she doesn't see any sign of rebellion happen.

"I am Your Father: The Villain and the Future Self," by Nathaniel Van Yperen explores the hero coming to terms with his father at last being found out as evil. The subject of it comes full circle to Star Wars again with how Luke Skywalker feels in the last movie when he discovers the most evil man in the galaxy, Darth Vader, who looks more like a robot, is none other than his father. He wants to reach out to him, yet he knows if he tells his friends in the rebellion, they won't understand how he feels about him. Luke wants to control what happens to him, even though he is rather young for a rebel just like Leia. As some avid readers of the Star Wars novels will already know, Luke can't avoid his destiny to become what his father was.

He explains it perfectly in this paragraph:

"These unspoken and unrealized potentialities found resonance with a film series in which a young man sets out to find himself, to discover and ultimately control his destiny. In order to achieve this destiny, the fictional Luke Skywalker must wrestle his own father, the symbol of his own potentiality. In many ways, Darth Vader, Luke's father, is the true subject of the film series."
"Hearts of Darkness: Voldemort and Iago, with a little help from Their Friends," by Ken Rothman uses Milton among others to explain the reason for Voldemort's evil ways from J.K. Rowling's popular fantasy novels. In this, there is a correlation between the fact that good cannot exist without there being evil, as without both, there would be no sense of balance in the world or society. There will always be a hero and a villain in stories and in real life.

Milton's Satan did not start out as an evil entity, he was one of God's children, yet once he wanted to be different, and not live under God's rule, he was cast out and unwanted, this bringing about the change in him to become evil as he did not have his father's approval to lead in his place, just as Padme's death in Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith was the catalyst of Anakin's despair and the evil Darth Vader went in its place. Satan's floor is his arrogance, and need to lead rather than follow, and it didn't help when he decided to lead a band of rebel angels in a battle against God's rule -- this just made his situation worse.

Voldemort is as villainous as it gets in Rowling's story; he is a dark figure, much like a death-eater, and due to his general look, and lack of human facial features, he is reduced to being inhuman, and therefore not to be trusted. He did not intend Harry Potter to live once he assaulted his parents that fateful night he got the scar, and his quest to destroy him is similar to that of Satan's unwillingness to have anyone usurp him.

Vader, Voldemort and Other Villains is an interesting compilation of essays that will thrill readers at just how many hours of research has gone into the separate essays.

Copyright © 2011 Sandra Scholes

Sandra Scholes is busy making Origami flowers and birds, and the occasional plane, but concentrates mostly on writing for Love Romance Passion, Active Anime and Love Vampires.

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