Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Show or Tell?

There was a whole mess of time spent in the car this past weekend. So, naturally, conversation eventually focused in on the only question it could: Who is the scariest cartoon Disney villain?

There was a lot of thought given to this, but the general consensus in the vehicle was that The Lion King’s Scar held the title. The reason for this was ultimately very simple – we watched Scar do his evil.

A lot of the other villains were known to be evil. We knew that Cruella de Vil liked to skin puppies, but we never actually saw her skin any puppies. Maleficent called herself the “Mistress of All Evil,” but I’m going to have to take her word on it because the worst we ever saw her do was turn into a big dragon and leave out a spindle that makes one particular girl super sleepy.

Jafar’s fairly sleazy and has the whole mind control thing going. Plus we know he has the authority to put people to death. So, there’s some power there. But all that really plays out on screen is that he likes to manipulate people and really wants the lamp. Gaston’s an entitled goofball who never once indicates that he has the brains to beat Belle or sufficient brawn to take on the Beast.

All of these villains have grandiose evil plans that, if successful, could have made them contenders for being truly scary. But therein lays the rub. They’re not successful. They’re thwarted time and again.

Then there’s Scar. We don’t just hear rumors that he’s not really a nice guy. No, we watch him kill his own brother – a character who we first spend time with and grow to love (because seriously, who doesn’t love Mufasa?). But even that’s not enough. Scar then convinces a little boy that he is responsible for the death, runs the kingdom straight into the ground with his hyena stormtroopers, hits on his dead brother’s wife, and then tries to fight the adult Simba to the death. Sure, he loses in the end, but we get to see him have a bunch of victories first. Each evil moment was played out on our television screens.

The only other Disney contender who really comes close to Scar in my mind, in terms of evil playing out on screen, is The Hunchback of Notre Dame’s Judge Claude Frollo. If you haven’t already, check him out. Dude’s terrifying.

Why are these characters so much scarier than the Maleficents and Jafars? Because we’re not told they’re the villains, we’re shown. And those are the scenes that stick with us after the credits roll.

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