You know what? The majority of Disney villains are really not that evil.
Disney villains… they’re too poor, too desperate, too lonely, their teeth don’t look right. THEY MUST BE EVIL.
Disney films appeal to young and old. The characters are loveable, the songs are catchy and the animation is beautiful. Most people have a favourite film or character. There have been many criticisms of Disney films over the years, including claims of racism and misogyny. Recent titles like Brave and The Princess and the Frog have attempted to combat these. Tatiana became Disney’s first black princess and Merida refuses the path of marriage chosen by her parents.
In the latest flick Frozen, Disney even attempt to challenge the ‘love at first sight trope’, pointing out how ridiculous it really is. Elsa tells her sister Anna ‘you can’t marry a man you’ve just met’. Anna doesn’t heed those wise words, and Elsa is ultimately proved right.
Despite how heart-warming some of the storylines are, Disney have a bad habit of painting a black and white world. I’m talking about the villains. Why are they ‘evil’? Most of them I wouldn’t describe as evil at all. Most are desperate, lonely or very angry people. Don’t even get me started on their physical appearances. Since when did large (Ursula) (Governor Ratcliffe), old (Claude Frollo) (Yzma), skinny (Jafar) or otherwise different become a visual signifier for evil?
Disney Villains We Actually Feel Empathy For
Yzma (Emperor’s New Groove). She’s been a faithful servant of the empire her entire life. All she wants is a little recognition from spoilt brat Kuzco. What does she actually get? Fired! No mention of a pension, she would probably have to leave the palace, which has been her home for years. Yes, poisoning your ex-boss is a step too far, but you can see why she was so mad.
Hades (Hercules). He’s the god of the underworld. It’s in his job description to want people to die. If everyone lives forever or goes to heaven, then what’s the point of his existence? All the other gods get to party like there’s no tomorrow on Mount Olympus. He gets to spend all his time with dead people and irritating demons. All Hades wants is a slice of the cake and a party hat.
Captain Hook (Peter Pan). Spends his entire life being terrorised by small children and a vicious crocodile. He tries to get on with being a pirate, but is plagued by a selfish little boy who refuses to grow up or take any responsibility. A boy who actively encourages other boys into a life of hooliganism, not to mention never seeing their families again.
‘Evil Queen’ (Snow White). Not even dignified with a name, she’s just THAT evil. Again, poisoning your rivals is not something I condone. But who knows how hard it was for her to come into a new family? Maybe Snow White was an ASBO-worthy stepdaughter. Perhaps the pressures of being a new queen were too much. Yes she’s vain, but she was happy to be ‘the fairest of them all’. When that was suddenly taken away, it would have been a huge shock.
Dr Facilier (The Princess and the Frog). He’s poor and down on his luck, so cooks up a little scam. He’s not out to kill anyone, just wants to get some money and run. He’s in pretty deep with the voodoo spirits, and that’s not a good place to be. I’m sure once he had the money he’d leave Prince Naveen alone to his selfish, careless life. There’s a big difference between evil and desperate.
The list could go on and on. So the next time you watch a Disney film, by all means cheer the heroes and heroines. But consider the villains too; are they really so evil? Do they deserve the fate they’re given? Perhaps ask yourself how they found themselves in such a situation. Rewriting the traditional narrative can turn a good story into a great one.