The home page for author Eric J. Juneau

Slytherin is Best House?

Slytherin Wallpaper

Here is an article about how Slytherin is the Best Hogwarts House (and Not Actually Evil) that I’m posting to try and justify to myself how not to be depressed that I was sorted into Slytherin.

One thing I realized, one of the first things they do to convince you that you’re not doomed is citing the good wizards that graduated from the snake pit. But… really the only one they can come up with is Merlin. The rest are from the Potterverse and while their evilness may be up for debate, they are certainly douchebags.

Horace Slughorn is a harsh elitist. All the rest were turncoats — Regulus Black, Severus Snape, and Draco Malfoy. They all pledged allegiance to evil characters until something didn’t go their way. Something that affected them personally BTW. It wasn’t like they saw a bunch of innocents get killed by Death Eaters and realize that maybe they were the bad guys.

The closest to goodness was Black, who converted when he saw how Voldemort treated Kreacher when using him to hide the locket Horcrux in the Inferi pond. Of course, him trying to do the right thing resulted in his death, but…

Snape became a double-agent when his childhood crush was killed and Malfoy just wimped out. But the common thread is all these guys used deception and manipulation to achieve their goals. Using evil to fight evil. Not sure how much credit you get for that.

I do agree they have a pretty nice logo and color scheme though.

The Lure of the Dark Side

dark vader gangsta dark side

In 1989, Batman came out. The first to show a superhero living in a world that took things seriously. As serious as you can when a man falls in acid and can’t stop laughing.

Now what I didn’t get, being a sociopathically lawful good paladin, was why everybody loved the Joker so much. You can’t *like* a bad guy. That’s just not done. He kills people.

Over the years, I’ve learned the appeal of bad guys. It’s because giving into your dark side lets you release the frustrations and feelings that are not so good to do in real life. I think that’s one of the reasons why so many people claim the dark side of the force. It’s easy to see people giving into their impulses and say “I want to do that”. (Just as long as you don’t call it “magic”.)

That brings me to Kylo Ren. It seems the world is split in the opinion that he is either a emo white male with so much privilege that he has temper tantrums when he doesn’t get his way. Or he’s a good kid raised in bad circumstances, and that if he had a loving mother and father and no force sensitivity, he’d be fine.

I, in particular, like Kylo Ren, maybe a little more than I think I should, because I identify with him the most of the new Star Wars characters. People expected great things of him, but things went wrong for one reason or another. Like all of us, we think we’re going to save the world, become president, do great things. No doubt Kylo Ren suffered from this. Saddled with being the son of not one but two of the galaxy’s saviors, and taught by the third because he was discovered to be proficient in the magic power that won the war in the first place. Talk about expectations.

Now I don’t know why Ren has an affinity for Vader, who was pretty much the Hitler of the rebel alliance. I believe that must have come after his turn to the dark side, but time will tell. In either case, that’s another legacy he’s got to live up to. Is it any wonder he feels entitled to rule the galaxy?

This is the person Anakin Skywalker should have been in the prequels. And he was, up to a point, but when the galaxy is clean and utopian, it just amplifies his whininess. Ren’s whininess is still there, but less annoying. Because he’s not a complainer, he’s a doer. Someone fires a blaster at you? Freeze it in mid-air. Someone’s not giving up information? Yank it out with the force. Woman you were interrogating escaped your torture chamber? Wreck the place with your unstable lightsaber.

We live in a world of moderation. You always have to be nice. You have to be civil. No tantrums. No killing anyone that annoys you. No drinking too much or too little. No going too fast or too slow. Everything’s gotta be just the right amount. Problems with your boss? You can’t just whack him upside the head and say “leave me alone, you idiot, just let me do my job”. You can’t shove moron cars out of your way with the Force.

Maybe that’s why so many Star Wars fans embrace the dark side powers and characters. It revolves around power and fear. Its effects tend toward the short term or immediate. Light side revolves around healing and knowledge. It takes time to figure out how to use it effectively, and what to do once you’ve used it. Kylo Ren satisfies our darker impulses. It works on a more personal level.

I can’t remember where I saw it, but each villain in the trilogies applies to our fears at the time. Episodes 4, 5, and 6 – a faceless dictator. Episodes 1, 2, 3 – a government plunging us into a distant war to gain power. For 7 (and presumably onward) an angry white male with a lot of power and entitlement issues.

Analyzing the Disney Villains: Ratigan (The Great Mouse Detective)

ratigan great mouse detective

Or Professor Padraic Ratigan to his friends. Of which he has many. It’s pretty easy to have a good villain when you’re simply lifting one of the greatest, already existing antagonists in literary history. But adding mouse ears and Vincent Price’s voice goes a long way towards making this one of the most underrated villains in Disney canon.

Motivation: Ratigan doesn’t want money — he already has a bunch — nor vengeance nor escape. He wants power. Why? I’m not sure, other than it would be cool to put on his resume. He seems to have a problem with his lot in life — a mastermind condemned to the sewers because he’s a rat big mouse.

And on the plus side, he’s not a one-dimensional Lex Luthor — he has a backstory with Basil, the Sherlock Holmes expy, and we know his past crimes have made headlines. It’s just too bad we never get to see any of that. But kudos to Disney for extending the story to something that exists outside of what’s presented.

Character Strengths: Not only can he play a classy harp, but he’s obviously an analytical genius. He can extrapolate, deduce, and predict with the best of them. It’s really too bad he’s stuck with cartoonish flights of fancy, because he could really do some damage to the human world.

He’s really quite well-liked in geek circles and I didn’t know why until I saw the movie. Then I figured it out: he’s the Joker. A criminal talent whose prone to fits of psychosis, maniacal laughter, and displays of grandeur. Just like the Joker he knows he’s the bad guy and he loves that.

Evilness: Good marks here too. On the surface, he’s got charisma, style, and a track record. Make one mistake and, after a near psychotic break, he’ll calmly call for his “you have failed me for the last time” henchcat, Fluffy. Which, to a tiny mouse, would be the equivalent of summoning Cthulhu at the ring of a bell.

Plus he has one of the best villain songs I’ve ever heard. All his characterization takes place in that one number. And not just from telling, but from showing.

You can tell Ratigan is a different villain from Maleficent from their animations alone. Maleficent is always very stiff, like a pillar or a wall. Her facial expression rarely changes. But Ratigan is all over the place — dancing, swishing that cape, making faces that make his eyes bug and his teeth gleam. Also, did that song say something about drowning widows and orphans?

Tools and Powers: Ratigan’s got a lot in his pocket — a gang of thugs and lowlifes, the whole of the underworld in his palm, a bat with a nightmare-fueled voice — but I think most of his game is all talk. Sometimes it works — he made a great ploy to lead Basil to his death trap, but then he does the Bond villain thing where he fails to kill the hero, monologues, then leaves.

He talks a a big game about his most “fiendishly, diabolical, clever plan yet”, but it’s to replace the mouse queen with a robot (a robot for 1897) that will name him as the new all-powerful ruler. And it’s not even him inventing the robot — the toymaker he kidnapped is doing all the planning and implementation. I’m not sure whether this characterization is intentional or not, to show Ratigan’s real impotence. But for what it’s worth, it’s good villainy.

Complement to the Hero: I don’t think I should give as much credit here as one should, since this isn’t based on original material. Yes, there’s a great yin/yang here, but it’s really no different than what occurred in Sherlock Holmes, even with the personality shifts. However, I do like what Disney did by adding the more calm Basil to the raging Ratigan, especially during the climax.

Fatal Flaw: And to that end, the divergence of personalities is what’s responsible for Ratigan’s downfall. Although I’m not sure what he was thinking with creating a steampunk dummy of the queen. I mean, seriously, no one was going to question this? The thing’s wired into a loudspeaker. It can’t move. Ratigan’s schemes come with a heaping dose of mad scientist that never bodes well for success. The design of his big, thick death trap is composed of several smaller death traps. Which is the very thing that allows the hero to escape. Any one of those implements would have done the trick.

Method of Defeat/Death: With his plot foiled, Ratigan escapes via pedal-blimp to Big Ben. Basil pursues him where they have a harrowing chase through the gears to the clock face outside. By this time, Ratigan’s worked up such a rage that he resembles a tiny Incredible Hulk. He furiously claws Basil with violence unprecedented in a Disney movie, pushing him until he hangs off the minute hand by a hand.

Ratigan rears up for the final blow, following all the cliched camera shots, as Basil’s friends in the balloon hover nearby to catch him, Ratigan strikes… And it works. Even Ratigan can’t believe it. Except Basil’s hanging onto the crashed pedal-blimp, just as the clock chimes and Ratigan falls off. But not before grabbing onto Basil’s pants. They both tumble into the smoky London night, screaming their last.

Except Basil, who was still clinging to a bit of the blimp’s propeller that he uses to float back up to his friends.

Cinematically, not bad. I like playing with the tropes, the homage to the original Holmes/Moriarty final battle, and Ratigan’s animalistic psychopath moves. However, there’s something to be said for the ultimate cause of death. Mice can climb up walls. I find it hard to believe Ratigan’s sense of balance is that bad he could fall from the bell ringing. I know it’s supposed to be a callback, but it just doesn’t work. It’s not related to character or events. Plus, how hard would Basil have to pedal to get his helicopter back up?

Final Rating: Three stars

Analyzing the Disney Villains

Disney villains table

Hooray! It’s the new year. How about a new series? Since I’m done with Featured Fan Fiction, I gotta have something else to write about.

You know what I love? The concept of good versus evil. What makes someone evil? What’s the definition of evil? If someone steals food to feed their family, is that evil? Are the heroes so good even though they’re constantly trying to kill the bad guy?

dastardly villain snidely whiplash

Remember this gem that circulated the net about a year back. A famous television listing by Rick Polito for The Wizard of Oz: “Transported to a surreal landscape, a young girl kills the first person she meets and then teams up with three strangers to kill again.” Or Scalzi’s offering for Star Wars: “Disaffected farm boy destroys military installation, killing thousands.” (Find more gems here) The empire is just another government and these rebel separtists are trying to constantly usurp their objective of galaxial unification. Every good guy is someone else’s bad guy.

A hero is only as good as its villain. Everyone remembers Darth Vader, nobody remembers Luke Skywalker. Hannibal Lecter had four movies of awesomeness all about him. And he’s the bad guy! Mr. Potter, Norman Bates, Hal 9000. Sometimes you don’t even need to see the villain, like the xenomorph from Alien, the shark in Jaws, and Man in Bambi.

Disney villains

Disney’s famous for characters — heroes, villains, and secondaries alike. The heroes and heroines have been analyzed quite a bit, especially princesses — is Ariel a lovesick ditz or headstrong adventurer? Why are the princes such lifeless duds? Is Mushu racist? Where is Pocahontas’s nose?

And villains are fascinating to begin with, because they all represent our dark sides, which we all have if we get too much power. Think about it — if anyone got the powers of Superman, they would go just like in Megamind. So what do you get when you combine nostalgic Disney movies with a love for the theme of “good vs. evil”? You get “Analyzing the Disney Villains”.

I’ll be judging each Disney villain from their trove of animated movies, and evaluating what makes them good, what makes them bad, and giving a final rating. What sort of criteria do you use for that? I couldn’t find much online so I made up my own.

Motivation – What does he or she want? This includes the stakes for losing that thing he/she wants, and the root cause of that motivation.

Character Strengths – No bad guy is completely lacking of good qualities. At least they shouldn’t be. Two-Face is a good lawyer. Verbal Kint was a good storyteller. Moby Dick is good at… being a whale. This category will also include anything they might enjoy that doesn’t contribute to their greed or malice, but their character.

Evilness – On the opposite end, how bad are they? What do they do that defines them as evil? Do they eat kittens? Run a Ponzi Scheme? Double dip the chip?

Tools – What powers does the villain have? What are the tools at their disposal? How does the villain stop the hero from getting what he/she wants?

Complement to the hero – A good villain should be the other side of the hero’s coin. That just makes the hero’s journey that much harder. Draco Malfoy is everything Harry Potter could have been, if he’d sided differently. Batman and The Joker. Robin Hood and the Sheriff of Nottingham. But sometimes you get villains that float out there, like Lex Luthor or any James Bond villain.

Fatal Flaw – Heroes don’t win because they were faster with a sword or dumb luck. They win because evil brings about its own end. Like Julius Caesar’s hubris or Jack Torrance’s blind alcoholic rages. A good fatal flaw is the key to a villain’s downfall.

Method of Defeat/Death – This one will be more or less objective. I’ll be rating on the cinematic-ness of the villain’s death. Some will be harder than others: Jaws’s head blows up by gas tank, Jaws bites a power cord and gets electrocuted, Jaws’s head blows up again by grenade, Jaws gets stabbed by a ship’s prow. All look pretty good on screen, but Jaws was cinematic to begin with. Meanwhile Count Dracula usually gets killed by sunlight, where he either crumbles to ash, kind of explodes, or disappears in a puff of smoke. Sometimes he’s staked or stabbed which often leads to a milder climax. And sometimes he’s just sort of… killed ambiguously.

Final Rating – And finally, I give a X out of five star rating. Consider it the seal of approval for either using a daguerrotype of this villain in a story, or a villain that could use some improving on.

disney villains

Final note: I WON’T be doing EVERY animated Disney movie, for a few reasons. One is that some of them simply don’t have villains: Fantasia, The Many Adventures of Winnie-the-Pooh, and Dinosaur (which was just a shill for CGI and a rip-off of The Land Before Time). Likewise, I won’t be doing any of the cartoon compilation movies like Fun and Fancy Free or Saludos Amigos (with one exception). And I won’t be doing any of the movies I haven’t seen and refuse to see. These are the bombs that were made after the Disney Renaissance in the 90’s. Those include Treasure Planet, Brother Bear, Home on the Range, Chicken Little, Meet the Robinsons, and Bolt. Maybe you love them, maybe you think the list is complete without them. If that’s the case, write your own analysis.

So now as the magical negro Jiminy Cricket says, on with the show!

Jiminy Cricket

Prince Hans (Frozen)
Shere Khan (The Jungle Book)
Aunt Sarah (Lady and the Tramp)
Yzma (The Emperor’s New Groove)
Percival C. McLeach (The Rescuers Down Under)
Ichabod Crane (The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad)
Lady Tremaine (Cinderella)
Governor Ratcliffe (Pocahontas)
Pinocchio’s Villains (Pinocchio)
Sykes (Oliver and Company)
Alameda Slim (Home on the Range)
Rourke (Atlantis: The Lost Empire)
The Evil Queen (Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs)
Ursula (The Little Mermaid)
Dr. Facilier (The Princess and the Frog)
Gaston (Beauty and the Beast)
Willie the Giant (Mickey and the Beanstalk)
Hades (Hercules)
The Queen of Hearts (Alice in Wonderland)
Jafar (Aladdin)
Shan Yu (Mulan)
Man (Bambi)
Clayton (Tarzan)
The Horned King (The Black Cauldron)
Mother Gothel (Tangled)
Cobra Bubbles (Lilo and Stitch)
Cruella De Vil (101 Dalmatians)
Madame Medusa (The Rescuers)
Captain Hook (Peter Pan)
Amos Slade (The Fox and the Hound)
Madam Mim (The Sword in the Stone)
Claude Frollo (The Hunchback of Notre Dame)
Scar (The Lion King)
Prince John (Robin Hood)
Edgar (The Aristocats)
Ratigan (The Great Mouse Detective)
Maleficent (Sleeping Beauty)