In which I admit that I like bad guys. And girls.
By Alisha Giampola (Actor)
When I was about ten I spent every Tuesday and Thursday from June to August in a summer children's theatre group doing kid-friendly acting games, wearing really basic costumes that fit over my regular clothes, and taking regular breaks for snacks. The course culminated in a short play that we presented for our parents, the kids who took the Monday/Wednesday class, and probably a lot of press and important critcs and maybe some talent agents. All I knew was that I was super excited for that show- it was an updated, "hip" kids' version of Cinderella, and I already had my costume all planned out. When it came time to cast, the really sweet middle school drama teacher who had been directing us all summer asked me if I wanted to play Cinderella. I wasn't even a little bit flattered. "No thank you," I replied. "I would really prefer to be the evil stepmother."
I wish I had a picture of that production to show you, but suffice to say that I played the Stepmother as a cross between Norma Desmond and Paris Hilton. Finally a childhood spent studying the subtle body language of Ursula and the minute eyebrow gestures of Jafar had paid off. Villains were interesting. Their motives are simple expressions of unadaulterated selfishness and I loved watching their intricate plans crumble.
Recently Daniel and I have been marathoning old James Bond movies. We began at the beginning; Dr. No is the first Bond film, and one of only two (Goldfinger being the other) that is named for its villain. Immediately audiences were introduced to the idea that the bad guys in these movies were going to be the reason for watching. 007 might look fantastic drinking a cold martini, but no one but a Bond villain can pull off a full beige futuristic pants suit or steel teeth. Bond villains are the ultimate villain's villain. I started keeping track of their motivations for my own entertainment. Most of the first films are haunted by the incredibly complicated evil group of superevil, SPECTRE (the SPecial Executive for Counterintelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion). Besides having patented the most awesome company name ever, these guys specialize in creating crazy expensive elaborate plots to do relatively simple, or even vaguely unnecessary things.
"We are going to use radio waves to...wait for it...INTERFERE WITH AMERICAN MISSILE TESTS!! .... No that was it. That's the whole plan."
"I will make all the gold in Fort Knox RADIOACTIVE so that the only gold in the world will be MY gold...well at least for the next 58 years, until the gold isn't radioactive anymore....but 58 years is SOOOO LONG FROM NOW MUAHAHAHAHAHAHA!"
"I will make the Russians think the AMERICANS captured their rockets and the Americans will think the RUSSIANS captured their rockets and CHAOS WILL REIGN BWAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHA!"
"I have a virus that will make all your crops and livestock die so....yeah you really don't want to mess with me....also I have all these women. They're really pretty. Sooo... I guess I'm going to laugh again. BWAHAHAHAHAHA."
Bond villains live in elaborate compounds, the overhead of which costs extravagantly more than the money they will surely gain when their evil plot succeeds. (And my obsession with secret underground lairs far pre-dates my love of James Bond movies...I was a childhood fanatic of The Phantom of the Opera.) Their lairs are disguised as volcanic lakes, boulders with one cacti growing on it, or undersea kingdoms. They have awesome accessories like deadly hats, cats with real diamond collars, voodoo scarecrow surveillence cameras, tiny one-man submarines, and fancy prosthetic arms.
Bond might be able to unzip a woman's dress with a small magnet in his watch, but the Bond villains have complicated buzzsaws and lasers and swimming pools full of sharks that they would much rather use to kill people with than something straightforward, like a boring old knife or a gun, I mean YAWWWWNNNN. These villains lose their prey so often, that the entire plot element has become a familiar trope parodied in such films as the Austin Powers series. Villains have all the coolest and most expensive stuff and always get to say the best lines.