Are you an Emily Thorne or are you a Victoria Grayson?
Well, hopefully you’re neither. But if you’re hooked on Revenge, as I am now that Netflix is instant streaming the ABC nighttime soap’s first season, you know which of these diametrically opposed women you’ve found yourself aligning with. If you haven’t seen the show yet, here’s what you need to know: Two characters, both alike in dignity, in the fair Hamptons where we lay our scene. One, Emily Thorne, is the white witch. She uses her fabulous wealth and ridiculous beauty and wily brain to put wrongs to right (sort of). The other is the dark witch, who put all those wrongs to wrong in the first place, and has just as much wealth, just as much beauty, and just as many wily braincells of her own.
Turns out I am a Victoria Grayson. Played by Madeline Stowe, a woman for whom the word bodacious was perhaps invented, Victoria Grayson is my absolute favorite villain of the moment (not including politicians, of course). She slinks about her Hamptons palace being viciously backhanded, slandering her friends and neighbors, and launching positively Machiavellian plots against anyone who dares to cross her. I adore her down to her ridiculously pointy heels.
Maybe it is because she has been drawn with a decent backstory. Maybe it’s because she looks so good in her luncheon chair (why don’t I have a luncheon chair?). Maybe it’s just because I love my villains like I like my lawn decor: campy.
Or maybe, it’s because she’s so perfectly well-matched in her rival, the blonder, younger, less-sullied version of herself, Emily Thorne. For just as a villain must be worthy of her hero to make a story work, the opposite is absolutely true. A villain isn’t interesting unless she brings out the best in the hero and speaks to the worst in us. And the absolute best villains are drawn with just enough humanity to creep into our hearts and make us wonder… could this be us? In any universe could I be Victoria Grayson? (and if I were, would I get to keep the chair?) So that when the hero does take her down–and she will take her down, that we know for sure from the moment she first crosses the stage–we feel a pang of recognition for that little part of us that wishes we too could be just a teensy itsy bit wicked.
So far in my writing, I haven’t created any villains. I don’t know many villains in real life, and those I have met are too real to be good fun to write about. But one day, I am going to come up with someone as deliciously perfectly evil as Victoria Grayson. And when I do, I just might let her win.