I think it is not too far fetched to say that we love openly evil villains, but hate leaders, like prime ministers for example, who are actually evil but pretend to be otherwise.
There is romance and drama in the tale of ‘honest’ villains like Shakespeare’s theatrical take on England’s Richard, Duke of Gloucester, or Richard III as he was later crowned, and the Great Bard’s play thus named.
He was an open villain who wears his evil heart upon his sleeves, and though to the characters in the play he was duplicitous, he was ever honest of his nature to the audience, cheated by “dissembling nature” as it were and left to the nefarious means of the night as others prettier than him pranced in the sun.
There is much pizzazz and musical attuned jazz in Disney black hearts like Cruella De Vil, and sundry evil queens and stepmothers. And much sexiness too in the recently single Angelina Jolie’s Maleficent, though her brand of jilted-betrayed lover’s malevolence is of the slightly more complicated kind.
There is a certain charm to Disney’s Jaffar’s evil vizier, or even failed adventurer-turned-villain Charles Munzt in Pixar’s ‘Up’.
Probably why Arnold Schwarzenegger’s evil Terminator became the mainstay of the movie franchise of the same name, despite the hero of the tale actually being that other guy, what’s his name?
Everyone loves a good villain, so to speak.
There is reason why a good open and shut honest villain has been the staple of storytelling since the Brothers Grimm and even beyond that, till today’s films and tales.
It makes things easy for it colours firmly between the lines between black and white.
The easier it is to draw the line between good and evil, the easier it is to set the narratives.
The easier it is to draw the battle lines, dig in, put your foot down and fight, to the bitter end if needs be.
What people don’t love and what makes it complicated to tell stories about are villains who cloak themselves in robes of propriety and skullcaps of piety.
Villains who play the daft smiling do-gooder fool when it serves them but can turn around and slash the very hands that helped them up the precarious steps to political power in the first place.
Villains who, like naked emperors, surround themselves with charlatan tailors and word spinners who convinced him that he is clothed and tell him that all is well.
Villains turning into the hero of the hour
Or Universal Pictures’ ‘Despicable Me’ and its second iteration notwithstanding, villains who suddenly had a change of heart and turned into, God forbid, the hero of the hour against the forces of a naked emperor and his queen.
Such are complicated things, evil PMs who pretend to be good, or evil PMs who now decide to play hero. Though perhaps it is good that they should tire or topple each other off the throne, in the process of bashing each other up, so that others of better fit can come into office instead.
Though perhaps it is better if those coming in to replace these despicable leaders do not cut their vestments from the same invisible imperial cloth or learn the trade at the feet of the self same old despots.
O, what a tangled skein have we spun.