Hi Ho everybody! Christopher Starr here—your emissary of wickedness, your host of hostility—THIS is Mayhem of the Mouse! I know I’m early for American Idol but I felt like channeling a lil Ryan Seacrest. Anywhoo, yes, we’re still behind; yes, I’m still working through some Real Shit; and yes, I fully plan on getting things back to where they belong. As you know, I tend to be pretty honest here at the Crooked Letterz blog so you have to know that when I say it’s “real shit,” I mean it.
But I owe you something and this installment is about our happiest villain ever: Hades—from Greek god infamy and the Hercules movie.
Every culture has some version of the devil and, for the ancient Greeks, Hades is it. You know that’s my thing. The version of the Devil you and I know is banished to Hell for showing his ass in Heaven. Hades, though, is the victim of a trick by his brother, Zeus. Hades, Poseidon and Zeus overthrow their parents, imprison them in the ass-end of Earth and divvy up the spoils, right? Zeus gets the Heavens, Poseidon gets the seas, and Hades gets Detroit.
You’d be pissed too.
So the version of Hades we see in Hercules is a jaded, scheming, James Woods with a flaming pompadour who is determined get his brand of justice. Since he spends eternity surrounded by death, why not share the wealth? The plan is to release the Titans (his parents, who are gonna be little upset) and, as a personal dig at Zeus, kill his son, Hercules
Well, damn, right?
For all his valid rage and justified revenge, Hades fails on execution: he leaves the heavy lifting to Bobcat Goldthwait. I don’t know about you, but my man sounds like he has some kind of syndrome—he’s like a cerebral palsy Jack Bauer (yes, I know I’m going to hell for that). These two clowns, the demons Frenzy and Panic, not only fail to actually kill Hercules, they neglect to tell Hades they fucked up. So what happens? Hades’ 18-year plan becomes unhinged because Hercules is still breathing.
This is the point where the movie stops being a kids’ movie and moves into bow-chicka-wow-wow territory: Hades figures the best way to bring Hercules TO HIS DEATH is by a woman. Do you get that? For 60 years, Disney been telling us that folks live happily ever after if the princess can get her prince, then we get a freaking demigod—an immortal with unlimited strength—and him falling for this woman is gonna kill him?
And then it does!!
Hercules actually sacrifices his soul for this woman—the same chick who dogged him and damn got him killed, Hercules trades his soul for hers. There is a fundamental piece to Hades that makes this dynamic kinda deep: Hades understands humanity. He understands that a man will not resist a willing woman, even to his detriment. And he understands that, at base, we’re all self-centered. Hades exploits these fundamental pieces to the point he nearly succeeds in his plan. The only thing that hampers him is that Hercules decides to be more than human and be self-LESS.
Like Magneto, Hades is not all bad: he got a raw deal and is itching for justice. His machinations, though, are for more devious than anything we’ve seen so far: he uses humanity against itself by exploiting our inherent weakness. That he chooses that approach makes him foul; that he knows them at all is what makes him scary.
So, still trudging along (we are gonna catch up, Promise!) next in the Mayhem is Mother Goethel from Tangled!
“Like Magneto, Hades is not all bad: he got a raw deal and is itching for justice.” I think this is my favorite type of villain, because his world view is completely understandable. He’s rational even though to be the villain he’s taken it a step further, into one-track goal-oriented ape-scat insanity. I tend to root for these guys, especially when the heroes they’re fighting are nearly flawless/boring.
These are scariest types of villains to me–the ones you can rationalize and even agree with. I think what makes a villain a villain is taking it that step further. The dangerous make you care about what they think.