Why Dolores Umbridge is the Scariest Villain in Modern Literature
I did a little field research over the last week (AKA asked my friends on Facebook) about villains throughout history. Disclaimer: Most of my FB friends are fairly intellectual beings who respond thoroughly, unlike the responses I might get in this recently-gone-viral group.
I had initially thought to post a question about everyone’s favorite villain in literature, television, or cinema because I needed inspiration for a book I’m writing, but I was pleasantly surprised at the level of analysis some folks brought forth.
My dog-mom heart totally agrees. This is similar to that phenomenon where, when we watch a human die on a TV show or movie, it can be sad, but when we watch a pup die, it basically tears out my heart and destroys my soul.
Let’s be for real: they are innocent little angels in furry disguise sent from heaven to snuggle away our despair. Damn you, Cruella, damn you. How can you even think about harming a sweet little face like this?
I guess it’s because you have a face like this. Understood.
Side note: you people complain about violence in video games and shit, but you let your kids watch this? Those eyes and flared nostrils would have given me nightmares for weeks.
What I noticed, however, was the amount of folks who mentioned Dolores Umbridge as their favorite/most feared villain — and the reasons given.
Stephen King once described her as ‘the greatest make-believe villain to come along since Hannibal Lecter’, and that man knows a thing or two about horrifying characters. (Pottermore)
When Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix opens up, we are already pretty anxious because… well… lots of shit went down in Goblet of Fire. I don’t know about y’all, but during all of Goblet I was still mourning the loss of Lupin as DADA professor. Moody didn’t do much to fill that hole, and then Phoenix throws this evil cupcake of a woman at us.
We’ve all had the odd old-lady teacher in school with the puff-paint cat sweaters and the perfectly-preserved 1985 floral curtains. Sometimes she was sweet and reminded us of our grandmothers, but at other times, her horns and tail poked through and you wondered if a giant cauldron full of stewed children lay hidden in her detached garage.
Either way–there was something horrendously jarring about Dolores Umbridge’s sickly sweet facade-gone-bad. I thought, okay, this bitch is going to be super annoying and thwart the dynamic trio at every turn. I expected her to be the obnoxious baby boomer who stood up for the Ministry and denied progress for the sake of tradition all while mocking millennial wizards drowning in student loan debt.
But then… BAM! Harry’s detention turns into this sinister and vile demonstration of corrupt authority that almost makes you sick to your stomach. I must not tell lies. You feel violated. Trapped. Helpless. Just like Harry, and with tiny kittens watching over as if they’ve just betrayed you, too!
I mean… damn. Did anyone see that coming? That is some Criminal Minds stuff. Snape had his moments, but at least he never disciplined students with tactics out of the BTK handbook.
That being said, I have to agree with many of you — there’s something unnervingly real about Dolores Umbridge. Something that just hits a little too close to home.
What do you think? Is Umbridge a little more unrealistic than I’m making her out to be? What other HP-verse villains made you shake in your booties? Not a HP fan but have another fictional character that makes you leave the light on?