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From Kylo Ren to Kanye West to Kenya Moore to Krang, we all have a soft spot for that character from the dark side. What villain are you not sorry to stan?

Sheeva Azma – Lex Luthor in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

“Books are knowledge, and knowledge is power, and I… what am I… what was I saying. No. The bittersweet pain among men is having knowledge with no power, because that is paradoxical.”
—Lex Luthor

Lex Luthor is Superman’s archenemy. Luthor’s portrayal by Jesse Eisenberg in the movie Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is quirky and charming. Eisenberg, who also played Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network, makes being a supervillain look incredibly stressful and anxiety-inducing. Despite the fact that Superman is my favorite superhero—we both write during the day, and fight evil at night—Batman v Superman’s Lex Luthor is amazing.

Michael Maiello – Ric Flair

He’s the “dirtiest player in the game,” and the leader of the legendarily dangerous Four Horsemen. Some call him Slick Ric, most call him The Nature Boy (Naitch for short). He’s the jet plane flyin’, limo ridin’, kiss stealin’, wheelin’ dealin’ sonfoagun. As he aged, he called himself Space Mountain because people still line up for miles for the oldest ride in the park. He once told an opponent, beloved by teenage fans, “When you’re through with those 16 year olds, call an 18 year old and she’ll tell you I’m the 60 minute man!” His suits were custom, his Rolexes shiny and his shoes? Alligator. Wooooo! Because “Whether you like it, or you don’t. Learn to love it! Diamonds are forever, just like Ric Flair!”

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Sydney Walters – Danny Rayburn from Bloodline

With slicked back hair and a never ending cigarette hanging from his smirk, he just had the look of a shady guy. Danny did a lot of messed up stuff to get back at his family. He was devious and conniving, yet cunning and very organized with his blackmailing, drug running, and police encounters. I think he made the perfect sociopath, and his tragic backstory sort of guaranteed villainous behavior, so I stan.

Jillian Conochan – Queen Admira

With the benefit of hindsight, many villains of fiction, like the Wicked Witch of the West and Meredith Blake from The Parent Trap, have had their comeuppance. So why isn’t anybody talking about The Hugga Bunch Movie’s Queen Admira?

What’s that? Because nobody’s heard of The Hugga Bunch Movie? Oh, okay, well the Hugga Bunch dolls were to Cabbage Patch Kids what Parks and Rec was to The Office: a worthy near-contemporary inspired and fueled by the success of the original. In the case of the Hugga Bunch dolls, they got their own movie, which I just learned, earned a Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Visual Effects. Outstanding indeed, as the movie climaxed with the movie’s protagonist VERY MEMORABLY tripping back through her mirror into reality, unfortunately spilling the magical youngberries she procured from the enchanted Huggaland. NOW DO YOU RECALL THIS MOVIE??

Long story short, the villainous Queen Admira who possessed the youngberry tree is my skincare hero. She was under no obligation to share her ‘Botox in a berry’ with Bridget and her grandmother—sorry, not sorry peasants.

Erin Vail – General Kirigan

While I have defended my love of Kylo Ren before and will do so again, I will use this space to stan another dark haired, strong jawed, morally questionable villain: the Darkling, aka General Kirigan from Netflix’s Shadow and Bone series. These are also a series of books (which I have read) and when the show premiered in April, folks on the internet were arguing about how it was problematic to stan the Darkling, because yes, he’s a mass murderer who is super manipulative; only wants to be with Alina, our protagonist, for her power; is generally a horrible person, blah blah blah. To which I say: the Darkling is fictional. He’s also played by Ben Barnes, one of the most handsome people to currently inhabit the earth. We like to stan villains because they aren’t real and we don’t have to deal with any of their real world consequences. And because of their dark haired, square jawed, manipulative charisma and sex appeal, BECAUSE THEY ARE BAD and we know it’s wrong. I’M NOT SORRY.

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Josh Bard – Aaron Burr

Look, I’m not going to sit here and defend Aaron Burr, sir. But I do think we see him through 1 of 2 ways. Either as the crackpot we learned about in the 90s Got Milk? commercial (P.S. Did you know it was directed by Michael Bay? I’ll bet you didn’t.) Or we know him as the obvious villain in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton. It’s hard to defend a guy who shot another guy because of ego and a deep rooted inferiority complex manifesting in a failed run for president. But I do think that the audience does not get enough of the Burr backstory to really understand the guy. We know Burr was also an orphan who was frequently slighted and driven and scheming, like Hamilton. But I’d be willing to bet (and pay to see) that if Lin-Manuel Miranda wrote another musical about Burr’s life, even one that culminated in the same duel, we’d see him less as a bad guy and more as a nuanced character who was pushed to the brink by his foil, and a system.

Sarah Razner – Wilhelmenia Slater

A mean and the snark queen, the villain I stan is Ugly Betty’s Wilhelmenia Slater. When I first watched the show, I wouldn’t not have classified myself as a fan of Wilhelmenia. Most of the time, I was ticked off at her for her rude, sometimes downright cruel treatment of Betty. After a few years and a few more watches, though, I understand her more, and at times root for her.

Portrayed masterfully by Vanessa Williams, you can understand as a viewer why she wants to take everyone in Mode down. She worked her entire life to take the editor-in-chief spot and was passed over for the young, inexperienced publisher’s son. Who wouldn’t be pissed? I see no hands.

Does she go too far sometimes, of course? But it is her recognition of that as she evolves into a kinder, bolder, and more vulnerable character that makes her all the more compelling.

Kelaine Conochan – Killmonger

I feel some sort of way about writing this. And I know the ghost of the late and truly great Chadwick Boseman frowns down upon me for feeling this. But I have to speak my truth: I was rooting for Killmonger.

In Black Panther, Erik Killmonger sought to avenge the death of his father by dethroning his cousin and becoming king of Wakanda. He was unreasonable, defiant, and violent. You can’t tell him nothin’. He stole, murdered, and showed no mercy or empathy toward the people of Wakanda or his own family. Some might think he had an insatiable thirst for blood and power, but beneath all that hysteria was an all-consuming grief and a desire to free all people of African descent of their oppression. I kinda fuck with that.

It’s no coincidence or surprise that Marvel cast the impossibly beautiful Michael B. Jordan in the role. We’re intended to feel conflicted about the life and death of T’Challa’s greatest foe and rival. I wanted him to live. I wanted him to learn. But in his death, Killmonger got what he wanted and deserved: justice.

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Marybeth McDonough – Lady Macbeth

I’m taking it back to 1606, because we gotta get behind Lady Macbeth. No rewrites or splashy Ryan Murphy miniseries needed; I’m just suggesting you do a closer read of Shakespeare’s tragedy, especially if you were a lazy SparkNoter in high school (yeah, I said it).

Is the Lady ambitious? Sure, but take it from a Slytherin: ambition isn’t the worst thing. Does she summon dark spirits to take away her womanhood in order to plan a regicide? Yes, but she does so for her “dearest partner of greatness,” in fact, she never once says the word “queen.” She’s all about lifting her husband up. Your girl’s also been through a lot: she definitely lost a child, she misses her dad, and she pulled off hosting a royal dinner party with little notice. Given the right courtroom, she could probably get Charles Manson acquitted with her gift of rhetoric. Instead of vilifying Lady M., let’s give her a spa manicure to scrub all that metaphorical blood off.

Karen Gilmore – Ursula

Sorry for the childish answer, but schools are closed here, so we’ve been watching a lot of Disney+. I hadn’t seen The Little Mermaid in at least 25 years and found myself baffled as to how Ursula is considered the villain. What is she guilty of, really? Working tirelessly to overthrow a patriarchal, despotic ruler? Teaching young Ariel a much-needed civics lesson about reading the fine print? Trying to achieve singing greatness by any means necessary? (So did Florence Foster Jenkins!) Vehemently opposing child marriage? (Ariel, disturbingly, is sixteen.) Living unapologetically as an octo-woman that isn’t afraid to embrace her power and take up space? Being a style icon, whose hair walked (swam?) so that Meryl Streep’s in The Devil Wears Prada could run? The feel-good moment of the movie for me was Ursula briefly growing to majestic heights and towering above them all. Alas…

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Eric Mochnacz – Jason Friggin’ Voorhees

Bullied as a kid.

Left to drown because Claudette insisted on playing with Barry’s fishing lure—if you catch my drift.

And then he was forced to witness his own mother’s decapitation by a pot-smoking hippie camp counselor.

The guy just wanted to enjoy Crystal Lake… and Manhattan… and even space… by himself.

But no—a bunch of horny teenagers invade HIS backyard—playing their rock and roll music, smoking their dope, and fornicating before marriage.

ON Friday the 13th.

I’d be pissed too. Just let me sit in my ramshackle shed and pray to the alter with my mom’s mummified head on it in PEACE!

Honestly. The youths had what was coming to them.

And when he wraps the woman up in a sleeping bag and slams her to death against a tree a few times—that was AWESOME.

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Mr. Joe Walker – Magneto

I started collecting comic books in grade school. My favorite series to horde was Marvel’s main X-Men title and the original X-Factor.

Today my collection isn’t quite what it used to be, but I’ve held on to a few gems. My most coveted comic is the second act of a 2-part edition of “What If…?”; the first chapter being “What if Cable Destroyed the X-Men?” and, my favorite, it’s chilling final act, “What if Magneto Conquered the United States?”

Master of magnetism Erik Lensherr, the best friend and arch nemesis of Professor X, was persecuted for being both a Jew and a mutant. For years he fought the violent bigotry of homo-sapiens by all means necessary.

In this “What If…?”, the circumstances that failed the X-Men allowed Magneto to strike with opportunistic devastation. He seized the moment to overthrow a nation that caused his people generations of grief. And I rooted for him.

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