“‘Rotten?’ said Uncle Andrew with a puzzled look. ‘Oh, I see. You mean that little boys ought to keep their promises. Very true: most right and proper, I’m sure, and I’m very glad that you’ve been taught to do it. But of course you must understand that rules of that sort, however excellent they may be for little boys--and servants--and women--and even people in general, can’t possibly be expected to apply to profound students and great thinkers and sages. No Diggory. Men like me, who possess hidden wisdom, are freed from common rules just as we are cut off from common pleasures. Ours, my boy, is a high and lonely destiny.’”
And what does Diggory think? “As he said this he sighed and looked so grave and noble and mysterious that for a second Diggory really thought he was saying something rather fine. But then he remembered the ugly look he had seen on his Uncle’s face the moment before Polly had vanished: and all at once he saw through Uncle Andrew’s grand words. ‘All that he means,’ he said to himself, ‘is that he thinks he can do anything he likes to get anything he wants.’” And we agree with Diggory. Uncle Andrew is a rotten person, who thinks that he can do whatever he wants. Which we know, he can’t. We aren’t frightened by him, really, and we certainly don’t admire him. Probably we are more frustrated and annoyed by him then anything. Uncle Andrew is certainly no supervillain.
But Uncle Andrew is not the only villain in this story. Have you ever heard of the White Witch? She enslaves Narnia, makes it winter for a hundred years, turns people into stone at will. She certainly has the makings of a supervillain. And when Diggory is angry that she has destroyed everyone else who lived on her planet--killed everyone she ought to have known and loved with a single word--she gives herself a rousing defense.
“‘I had forgotten that you are only a common boy. How should you understand the reasons of State? You must learn, child, that what would be wrong for you or any of the common people is not wrong in a great Queen such as I. the weight of the world is on our shoulders. We must be freed from all rules. Ours is a high and lonely destiny.’”
“Diggory suddenly remembered that Uncle Andrew had used exactly the same words. But they sounded much grander when Queen Jadis said them; perhaps because Uncle Andrew was not seven tall and dazzlingly beautiful.”
And that’s the point. We are quick to recognize wrong when it is cowardly and looks like a mop walking around the wrong way up. We don’t struggle with romanticizing the person who copies off of our homework or cuts us off in traffic. Rarely do we give a second thought to the people on TV who are arrested for felonies. But what about when they are seven tall? Dazzlingly beautiful? When they do their work on a large scale with a great deal of confidence. When they swagger and have witty comebacks. When they unleash their nefarious plots with presentation? What do we do then? Nobody wants to wear a t-shirt that says “Uncle Andrew kept on rubbing his hands and bowing.” But a haughty queen riding atop a hack cab, her hair flowing as she beats policemen off with a iron bar? In a minimalist design that would make an epic t-shirt. But when it comes down to it, what is the difference between Uncle Andrew and Jadis?
There is nothing super about a “super” villain. Jadis is only Uncle Andrew with more power. No amount of careful costuming and tragic backstories can make a Villain into a Hero. When we are watching or reading the “Greats” of Bad, we need to remember that the faults we see in ourselves and those around us are not sanctified when they are committed by “supervillains.” Learn the same lesson that Diggory did. Just because it sounds grander when Jadis says it, doesn’t mean that it is grander. Wrong is wrong, no matter who does it--or why.
Is there a villian in a book that drives you crazy? A villian that you think gets way more sympathy then they deserve? I'd love to hear all about it in the comments below!