Beyond the Blurb | Why Can’t Female Villains Get Better Backstories?

Morning all,

Back in 2018, I talked about female leads deserving equal respect as their male counterparts. I loved that conversation. I opened up about an issue I witnessed while travelling through the blogosphere and Goodreads. And I saw how many female readers see the same problem. Now, I want to talk about female villains.

I love them. They give readers a new antagonist who can offer a refreshing storyline. But I often find many them with badly thought out backstories. So if our leading ladies get them, why can’t our villains receive them as well? For my next discussion, I want to talk about that question.

Female Villains’ Backstories Shouldn’t Revolve around a Man

How many series have villains whose backstory depends on a man scorning them? I’ve had enough of this trope. There are plenty of wicked women who don’t need a man to make them who they are. Authors can simply create a stronger reason for why their antagonists are the way they are. Perhaps society still sees that the only reason why a woman will rebel is that a man scorned her. Wrong. So damn wrong, society.


Society Expects More Male Villains, Less Female Ones

I’ve seen several people say that they love this villain but wish said character was a man. Huh? Really, people? Have you forgotten about Countess Elizabeth Báthory, who, according to legend, killed at least 650 servant girls who she tortured? We should give me more respect since she is the person who inspired Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Now just imagine in Dracul was a woman.

But we didn’t get a female Dracul, now did we? No. And unfortunately, people may have forgotten about the countess as well. But people still don’t realize female villains are just as captivating as the male ones. They want to continue to believe women cannot commit such acts. Let me remind you of one thing: they can, they do, and they walk among you all. Either they are scorned bitches, or they’re timid does who need protecting.


Wickedness Isn’t Feminine

I hope you all hear my cackle, all the way from chilly Canada. Villainesses can easily kill a man where he stands. They know the power of poison and a well-formed alliance and the strength of steel. So authors can easily bring feminity to evil. So let’s hope they and readers realize this flaw and wish that they’ll fix it.


Authors/Readers Sexualize Villains, Not Give Them the Respect They Need

I love Harley Quinn and Catwoman. But artists/authors typically sexualize these characters. But they stand on their own. And thankfully, the writers have given them the right to own that sexuality. But that matter still stands though. Now, one villainess who isn’t necessarily sexualized is Bellatrix Lestrange. Again though, her backstory is directly linked to Voldemort. He may look like a snake, but he’s still a man.

Females don’t equate to sexuality though. They’re not exclusive. They aren’t married as one. So readers shouldn’t expect the two to intertwine for all antagonists.


Perhaps We Aren’t Ready for More Villainesses

I hope not. I truly do. One glowing aspect of Victoria Aveyward’s Red Queen, which was steeped in tropes, is the Evangeline Samos. At first, I hated her, but I grew to love her as a complicated, multi-faceted villainess. And does she have a man influencing her life choices? Hell no. Praise the book gods for Victoria pulling off that feat. Even anti-heroes like Mia Corvere from Nevernight is almost a godsend now. And many readers have embraced her. She’s an unconventional antagonist. So we should accept more villainesses.


What do you think about female villains? Have we championed them, or have we hindered them? What are your thoughts on this matter? Let’s chat in the comments.

8 thoughts on “Beyond the Blurb | Why Can’t Female Villains Get Better Backstories?

  1. Love this post!! I definitely agree that we need to put more thought into our female villains (or villainesses)- and though things are getting better, there’s a long way to go!


  2. If we’re throwing Mia in the mix, then Jude Duarte should be considered too. She has an excellent reason for being wicked (and to be honest, she’s much worse than Cardan) and I think she’s pretty fab. Also handy with a dagger and sword. Great post, love x


  3. I really like how you worded this post, especially on villains connected to sexuality because I agree that it’s not wrong of the reader, but totally that it shouldn’t be default intertwined in female villains. I really struggled to come up with bad examples of female villains I’ve read lately. I agree that when it’s a more obvious villain it seems to be guys too often. What I definitely have seen more lately, like you mentioned, is like main characters (often female) on the line between being a hero and anti-hero or good and bad, which is definitely one of my favorites. It’s very often born out of protectiveness of friends or family rather than a full on power grab though, and that would be interesting to see more of. That was what I really wished for The cruel prince series/trilogy, that the main character Jude would go full on villain, but I have my doubts that it would be well received, because I saw a lot of reviews like disliking the first book because of her ruthless parts and I almost feel the author drew back on that a little.

    I had a lot of thoughts on that, apparently, hah! I think female villains has a way to go in how far an author is willing to take it before they become too unlikeable to a broader audience, as we always seem to expect better from the women, especially if it’s an earlier well-liked character. So my wish of a female main character turning into a full blown villain is probably out there, but hard to find


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