Happy Halloween, readers! I am once again returning to the world of Disney villains for this year’s Halloween blog.
One of the nice things about Disney animated movies is that we know who to route for. Protagonists are good. Antagonists are bad. We know that no matter what happens, good will triumph over evil. We are well conditioned to align with the heroes & heroines in their journey. Here’s the thing about that: not all of the villains are wrong. Some actually have real and valid reasons for their nefarious deeds. So today we are going to look at three ‘villains’ who aren’t wrong.
First is the villainous butler in “The Aristocats”, Edgar Balthazar. Edgar, motivated by greed (and unfortunate math) decides to get rid of the family of cats standing between him and a fortune. He drugs and ‘catnaps’ Duchess and her kittens which starts the main plot of the film and places him firmly in the role of villain. Here’s the thing. He’s not really wrong.
I have always thought that people who leave vast fortunes to pets are a little misguided. There are plenty of ways to ensure the well being of a beloved pet besides leaving them money. If Madame had left the money to Edgar with the stipulation that he care for the cats, he would have been quite devoted to them. Also, Edgar never tries to kill them outright. He tries to lose them. He could have saved himself a great deal of time and effort by simply throwing them into the river. Instead he takes them out of the city where there is a reasonable expectation that they could find a home at one of the nearby farmhouses. Not a kindness, but a practice people still use today. So, while Edgar is labeled a villain, he’s just not that bad.
Second, we have Jafar. The evil vizier from “Aladdin” fits much more comfortably into the villain description. He is cruel, manipulative, and ruthless. He uses his power to further his own ambitions no matter what. His goal is to take over the kingdom and rule either behind the scenes or as sultan himself. And while his methods are unethical, he has a point.
The Sultan is unquestionably terrible. He pays no attention to his kingdom. He sits in his palace playing with toys, while the city outside his gates is falling apart. The guards are out of control. Nobles are abusing the citizens with no consequences. Regular citizens are taking the law into their own hands. Children are literally starving in the streets. The Sultan’s biggest concern? Finding a prince his daughter is willing to marry. One could very easily see how removing this man from power was a heroic choice rather than a villainous one.
Finally, we have Yzma. Like Jafar, she is an adviser to the ruler. Unlike Jafar she seems content with her role until she is unceremoniously fired by Emperor Kuzco. While she has a secret lab and appears to be a gifted mad scientist, there is no evidence that Yzma has any designs on the throne at the beginning of the movie. Her plan to kill the Emperor is a direct result of his behavior. In fact her plan is so haphazardly conceived that it goes through several different iterations for reasons as varied as wrong potions, misplaced bags, and postage. While she is motivated by personal gain, she is not wrong that the kingdom needs a change in leadership.
Kuzco is an even worse ruler than the Sultan. While the Sultan is an apathetic ruler seemingly unaware of the realities outside his door, Emperor Kuzco is not only aware of the problem but the cause of many of them. He is self-centered and cruel. He takes what he wants when he wants it. He is rude to his people, expecting each person he meets to indulge his every whim. He takes people’s homes for his own uses without a thought of the impact on their lives. He casually has an elderly man thrown to his death for interrupting the rhythm of his life. It is implied this is not the first time that has happened. Kuzco is a despot and tyrant. It is little wonder that Yzma moves easily onto the throne after Kuzco’s apparent death. People are glad to be rid of him. Yzma has done them all a favor.
Methodologies aside, all three of these villains were right in their goals; trying to right a wrong or change an imbalance of power. With a slight shift in focus and a little less murderous intent, these stories could have been quite different. Do you agree? Is there a misunderstood villain I missed? Let me know in the comments.
*Cover image from Wickedpedia: The Disney Villains Wiki http://disneyvillains.wikia.com/wiki/Disney_Villains