I am delighted to welcome Reverie author Ryan La Sala to the site today to celebrate the publication of his dazzling new contemporary YA romance, Be Dazzled, which just released from Sourcebooks Fire yesterday! Before we get to Ryan’s absolutely hilarious and marvelously on-point post, here’s a little more about the book:
Raffy has a passion for bedazzling. Not just bedazzling, but sewing, stitching, draping, pattern making–for creation. He’s always chosen his art over everything–and everyone–else and is determined to make his mark at this year’s biggest cosplay competition. If he can wow there, it could lead to sponsorship, then art school, and finally earning real respect for his work. There’s only one small problem… Raffy’s ex-boyfriend, Luca, is his main competition.
Raffy tried to make it work with Luca. They almost made the perfect team last year after serendipitously meeting in the rhinestone aisle at the local craft store–or at least Raffy thought they did. But Luca’s insecurities and Raffy’s insistence on crafting perfection caused their relationship to crash and burn. Now, Raffy is after the perfect comeback, one that Luca can’t ruin.
But when Raffy is forced to partner with Luca on his most ambitious build yet, he’ll have to juggle unresolved feelings for the boy who broke his heart, and his own intense self-doubt, to get everything he’s ever wanted: choosing his art, his way.
And here’s Ryan’s post, an unofficial ranking of queer villains! Take it away, Ryan!
As persistent as the fatiguingly masculine stalwart hero is the trope of their devious counterbalance—the bad guy who is effeminate, dramatic, and sassy. Wickedly fashionable. Prone to monologues. And, of course, queer-coded to hell. That’s right! Today, we’re talking about the Queer Villain.
A lot, and I mean a LOT, has been written about queer villainy. Its toxic recurrence as lazy storytelling shorthand in narrative arts, its destructive repercussions on the psyche of queer youth, and so on. That’s all good and well and important, but I’d like to take a brief break from the discourse to approach the subject from a different point of view—one of glorious appreciation.
You see, I love queer villains. I practically am one myself, what with all the velvet capes and cackling behind large paper fans. Growing up, I saw these characters not as destructive stereotypes but as answers to the question society kept asking little gay me: How will you survive a society that won’t accept you? What does an intolerant world deserve?
Queer villains answer this in their every action and inevitable yet fabulous failure, and I often root for them. When you understand a villain as queer, a lot of what they do to undermine the status quo starts to make a lot more sense. And so here I go with my unofficial ranking of my top queer villains.
1. HIM (The Powerpuff Girls) — The undeniably BEST queer villain is, of course, HIM. Flamboyant, powerful, and constantly high-kicking in thigh-high spiked heels, HIM is an aspiration in red, a demonic Santa Claus in satanic satin. My personal hero, and the tippity top of my queer, villainous Christmas tree.
2. Ursula (The Little Mermaid) — This is a no-brainer. Ursula is quite literally based on Divine the drag queen. Because of her, for years, I begged my dad to buy me a birdbath (which is what I thought Ursula’s cauldron looked like) so I, too, could trick pretty girls into depending on me for bad boy advice and potions. And never have I forgotten the importance of body language, ha!
3. The Grinch (The Grinch Who Stole Christmas) — I think the Grinch is queer. I really do. Disagree? Well then, riddle me this: Have you ever seen a straight person stitch together an entire costume just to center themselves at a holiday party? That’s what I thought. Oh, and let’s not forget the emblematic image of the Grinch plucking bobbles from a Christmas tree using those long, furry fingers. That wrist looks preeetty limp to my little gay eye.
4. Mystique (X-Men) — Mystique is canonically queer, but who needs the canon when you are quite literally the icon of shapeshifting disguises, gender fluidity, and a swept-back hairdo dyed lesbian crisis red? Plus, she has the one power every little gay boy is drawn to: absurd flexibility and a fighting style that incorporates senseless gymnastics.
5. Azula (Avatar: The Last Airbender) — Reading Azula as queer was a personal choice right up until she decided to give herself asymmetrical bangs. Then it was canon.
6. Bugs Bunny — Stylish, annoying, and cross-dressing for theatrical antics, Bugs was an early model for the infinite ways we, as queer people, may outsmart and belittle those who invade our spaces in the name of the hunt. Was Bugs petty? Yes. Iconically so. And that’s why they’re on this list.
7. Team Rocket — Messy, dramatic, and constantly in costume, Team Rocket is the queer found family we all make fun of but are actually a part of. I mean, Jessie’s mullet defies gravity, and James never misses a chance to get into drag. And the gayest thing of all? They take orders from their cat.
8. Rita Repulsa — Is Rita queer? I have no idea. Do I unflinchingly embrace the daydream in which she’s my lesbian aunt who brings her roommate over for holiday meals and buys me Sailor Moon action figures even though my parents insist I’ll grow out of my “doll phase” soon? Absolutely.
9. Jafar (Aladdin) — Jafar is adored, yet I still believe he’s deserving of more credit for all he’s done for queer villainy. We need to talk about the wingtip eyeliner. And the perplexingly eccentric choice to imprison Jasmine in a kitschy hourglass. And the fact that the moment he got ultimate power, he gave himself a beefy chest and black acrylic nails. I would make all those choices too.
10. The Trunchbull (Matilda) — Olympian, educator, chocolate lover. The range of this butch icon goes on and on, much like the children she catapults into the sky. Somehow, that feels a little gay too. I’m still not sure why.
11. Yzma & Kronk (The Emperor’s New Groove) — This duo is everything a queer duo should be. Fashionably costumed, theatrically incompetent, and rife with miscommunications that get people turned into llamas.
12. Lady Deathstrike (X-Men) — If you were in the theater with me when I saw Lady Deathstrike bare her indestructible nails, you watched my life change. Sure, she probably is not queer herself, but there is nothing gayer than using your adamantium manicure to skewer Hugh Jackman. Quote me on that.
13. Cheryl Blossom (Riverdale) — I knew Cheryl was queer from episode one. I’ve never known a straight person to combine ambition, charisma, and tartan skirts so well. And, spoiler alert: Cheryl has since been treated to a lesbian love story on Riverdale, and I’m happy for her.
14. Gaston — Bi. Bi as hell. If Gaston isn’t bisexual, explain the brandishing pectorals furred in hair. Explain the flourish of pride when he sings “I use antlers in all of my decorating.” Explain how he instantly knew how to use that gay little hand mirror to telephone our hound-face hottie, the Beast? I have talked to Gaston on Grindr, and he is not nice. But he is queer.
15. Shego (Kim Possible) — I don’t know if you know this, but Shego, the very cool and very bored nemesis of Kim Possible, received her powers when she was exposed to…a rainbow-hued comet. So. There you have it.
16. Barbara Covett (Notes on a Scandal) — Okay, here we have a literal queer villain. I won’t say much because you need to hear it all from Barbara yourself. Her acidic wit, her shrewd fixation on Cate Blanchett, and the fact that she is unrelentingly writing to you through a diary should be all you need to know to seek out the movie Notes on a Scandal or the book it’s based on by Zoë Heller. I highly recommend both.
17. SpongeBob SquarePants (SpongeBob SquarePants) — Don’t laugh. Don’t you dare laugh. It is absolutely undeniable that SpongeBob is chaotic evil. He ruins everything, compulsively. And anyone who pretends their nose is a piccolo in their theme song? And lives in a pineapple? SpongeBob may just be the scariest person on this list.
18. Scar (The Lion King) — Big goth kitty with a smoky eye and a large following kept in line by witty retorts they have no hope of understanding? And the affected accent? We never see Scar with a love interest, but I have more than enough evidence to fortify my head canon in which Scar summers in Andalucía with another male lion named Marc.
19. Skeletor (Masters of the Universe) — Look no further than Skeletor’s fashion if you’re wondering why he’s on this list. A harness…with a hood? A loin cloth….over briefs? Knee-high boots…with a sensible heel? This sort of describes everyone in the Masters of the Universe universe, which is all the more reason for me to keep on believing Skeletor is my eventual final form.
20. Jareth (The Labyrinth) — What can be said about Jareth that hasn’t already been said by David Bowie’s prominent pelvis presented to a crowd of puppets? It’s offensive to even ask me to explain Jareth’s inclusion.
21. Dr. Frank-N-Furter (The Rocky Horror Picture Show) — I’m shivering with antici…patory fear that adding Dr. Frank-N-Furter to this list is going to get me in trouble. But I must! There’s a lot to overlook, yes, but if it means I get to appreciate a sissy in STEM who pulls off a lab coat and pearls, it will have all been worth it.
22. Maleficent (Sleeping Beauty) — There is a STRONG case for Maleficent’s queerness. Firstly, her best friend is a bird. Second, I’ve never seen a straight person successfully pull off purple and neon green. And lastly, I truly cannot think of anything gayer than showing up to a straight baby shower bearing the gift of curses and then the curse itself is along the lines of “I’m going to give your child a fascination with old-timey sewing machines.”
23. Every other Disney villain — I have a hard time thinking of a single Disney villain that isn’t, in my gay little head, super queer.
24. Every villain from Sailor Moon — That’s right. All of them. Even the weekly monsters. I can’t quite explain why, but there’s something SO self-explanatorily queer about a monstrous, sexy vacuum lady. And the sexy pegasus carousel man. And the fact that every person in Sailor Moon, except for the sailor scouts themselves, gets to use dark magic while wearing couture.
25. Sinister (X-Men) — Often overlooked but absolutely deserving of a spot on this list is Sinister, a baddie who wears a cape made out of ribbons and hasn’t quite found the right foundation to match their icy undertones. And if you want to know Sinister’s power, they themselves will tell you that it’s “overthrowing tyrants and being absolutely fabulous.”
26. Xerxes (300) – When I first saw Xerxes, I had no idea what to think other than “this movie is about the wrong person.” I like the whole hero journey, but if given the choice between a buff guy with airbrushed abs versus a person who shows up to war wearing every accessory they own? I’m going with the warlord who just pillaged Claire’s. Sorry.
27. Snow Miser (The Year Without Santa Claus) — Anyone who makes you watch a whole dance number before agreeing to help you is, by definition, a queer hero, but technically, Snow Miser is kinda bad. I guess. But the little hat! The gleeful pride in being “too much!” We should be encouraging this.