Black Super Villains and Why They’re So Darn Refreshing

I’m sure I’m not the only one who has noticed this, but black characters in “white” television shows, movies, cartoons, and comics have undergone a drastic transformation. After spending years being mystical negro sidekicks who save the hides of their plucky, white protagonists, black “good guy” characters have still been forced to take a back seat to the white good guys. They are usually very safe characters too–sensible souls who have survived the dangers of their past and other hardly mentioned but indirectly referenced-to stereotypical problems that urban black people deal with, yadda, yadda. Yes, ok. The histories of these characters can be pretty flexible, but the point I’m trying to make is that these characters are always depicted as having a good head on their shoulders, a strong stance in what they believe in, and are essentially meant to be labeled as “underrated” without actually being labelled as so by fans. So what’s so bad about this? These characters are obviously well-liked and help to soothe the severe lack of important/semi-important black characters in traditionally white media.

This is true. But in these characters I see a vague racist-not-racist attitude on the part of the writers. They always tend to hold back on making these characters dynamically human (a.k.a flawed) perhaps because they fear the racist label that is so commonly thrown about these days.


Look at her… Being all reasonable and crap.

My question is why? Why does every character have to be a thoughtful Susie Carmichael? Rugrats’ Angelica was always God-awful as a personality. And while kids may not immediately align themselves with the obvious foil to Tommy Pickles’ adventures, I’ll bet all of my money that even if she wasn’t a good person she was a good character. Even Kimi, the Asian character that was added way later in the series had more of an identity than Susie, who was barely featured. I would even argue that little Carmichael was a little too old-souled and sensible for her age…and her audience.

When I first began watching the series Static Shock I was extremely excited because not only was there a sudden influx of ethnic characters to discover, but Virgil—the main character—could occasionally be a boastful asshole. Just like us human-people!  But what I loved more was the fact that there were black villains!

(Shout out to Rubberband Man.)

But oh no! Wait! Isn’t that wacist?!?111 No. Go home.

If anything it was the most un-racist thing I’d ever seen as an eight-year old. After Static Shock, I hadn’t really gotten the opportunity to see more black super villains. I noticed that black heroes like Storm were growing a larger fan base (as she is essentially the comic book world’s Beyoncé) but writers were still a little iffy about not making completely righteous, comically gifted, humble black heroes. That is, until I caught a glimpse of the 2005 horror flick, The Skeleton Key. Just to be totally blunt, in the end (total spoiler alert) it turned out that the bad guys were a voodoo-powered black couple who had been living the thug immortal life by sucking the life out of unsuspecting white folk for years.

No wait…Yeah, that’s basically it.

And even though it was almost a total reverse of the mystical negro thing it was still a great twist. Why? Because those writers spent the entire movie making you think the bad guy was the evil Kathy Bates look-alike only to prove to the audience that they weren’t too “politically correct” to develop a pair of black villains with less than noble intentions.


The look of four thousand dead puppies…

Let’s look at some more recent sightings of the black villain, shall we? The third season of American Horror Story interested me because of the way they played up the stigma between white witches and black witches. While they ultimately failed by dropping the ball a little too early in the game, there was one successful product from the zany, gothic series. Marie Laveau (as played by Angela Basset) was awesome for quite a few reasons. One, those Senegalese twists. Two, for her ruthless personality and guerrilla-like zombie attack scene. And three, the fact that, like every other wrong-doing character, she had to pay her debts.

Then we get to Vee, the sadistic veteran inmate from the newest season of Orange Is the New Black. She was evil enough to give Red a run for her money. Red! A character that, for the majority of the first season, was depicted as an invincible powerhouse. She also pushed some of the other black characters to their limits, making the small group of once stereotypically wisecracking, good-hearted, side character inmates question their morality as they went along on Vee’s wild drug trade ride. Generally adorable personalities like Taystee and Crazy Eyes were forced to be seen in a new and much more unflattering light, and while most of the girls found the right path at the end, it undoubtedly forced viewers to think more about their characters. And that’s what I want.

Years ago Black America cried out for more representations of well-educated, successful, and level-headed black characters in fictional media. We received this wish through characters like Olivia Pope, Susie Carmichael, and Valerie from Josie and the Pussycats. But now Black America (or maybe just me) let’s just totally pretend that I represent all of Black America needs to see more interesting black characters. And I believe that it is totally possible to create a well-developed black villain, or even hero, without being racist.

And if you don’t think it’s possible… you’re probably racist.

Lauren About Lauren
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