Villains…ah, so many
awesome bad ones. A tough decision…but, I’ve eventually settled on Ravenna from Snow White and the Hunstman (2012), not because of the movie (which I thought was only so/so) but because of her being so memorable, undoubtedly overshadowing the protagonist. In fact, she’s all I really remembered of the movie before re-watching last night. Oh, and then there’s the fact that she is pure evil. And the well-known villain of the timeless Snow White story, in whichever form it is presented.
If you click the link of Ravenna (the actual character and not Charlize‘s name) on IMDB you’ll be taken to a long list of “a.k.a” entries relating to films, series, video games and other footage – isn’t she just something? Notice, however, the title entry: Evil Queen. Now that’s what it comes down to. The Evil Queen. The one that comes to mind when I think of fairy tales. For me, the epitome of an Evil Queen, just like Cinderella‘s step-mother is The evil stepmother (let’s overlook the technicality that both are step mothers).
Ravenna as played by Charlize Theron (or possibly, Charlize Theron playing Ravenna) takes the character to a new level. As we all know, the Evil Queen wants to be the fairest of them all…that’s what drives this particular story. But, to be so utterly consumed by this need, that is Ravenna. Her obsession drives her beyond all morals, beyond all regard for anyone and anything (yes, anything: “So poisonous was the reign of Ravenna that nature turned on itself and people turned on each other. The land died and with it, hope.”*). What villain has such an influence? Such absolute power? She’s a nasty piece of work, isn’t she?
She’s also a beautiful piece of work though. On the outside. Inside she’s totally revolting. But, we may just need to understand her (no, it is no excuse for her actions and I don’t support her at all) as she does justify her actions and need for beauty. Ironically her outer beauty caused her inner vileness. On her wedding night she tells Snow White’s father that “I was ruined by a king like you once”. She continues that “Men use women. They ruin us when they are finished with us. When a woman stays young and beautiful forever, the world is hers”. And thus she does everything in her power to keep achieving that state. Her painful experiences clearly don’t just occur with kings but men of all classes as she tells the son of one of her prisoners that “There was a time I would have lost my heart to a face like yours and you no doubt would have broken it”. But, as it is the nature of greed, she takes it too far with the Mirror/Mirror Man himself asking “Is there no end to your power and beauty?”. Hmmm…isn’t he a villain too? In some way? Unintentionally? We don’t know if he is compelled to tell the truth (I suspect so), but he urges Ravenna on with his revelations as to the fairest of them all.
To digress, Charlize is the perfect beauty for this role. And what I like is that she’s one of the few blonde renditions of this character. Admittedly, in my mind, my version has always been black haired. I thoroughly enjoy her temper tantrums and power kicks while keeping her elegant pose. Ooh, she’s just great (rubbing hands in a villainous glee here).
Ravenna‘s quest to remain beautiful knows no limits. From bathing in milk**, eating animals’ hearts to literally sucking almost all life/youth out of young girls. Yet this is not enough. She constantly needs the reassurance of both her brother and the Mirror which, it turns out, only she can see. Most villains seem to need this support from someone or something. Would she really be able to stand on her own? As it is, her sanity seems to be borderline. And then again, is this her mother’s doing? She’s the one who told her that her beauty is the only thing that can protect her. Ravenna is in some serious need of therapy.
I enjoyed watching her costumes subtly reflect her approach to the climactic showdown in that they become darker and darker as the movie progresses. And that disgustingly beautiful scene where she has just returned from giving Snow White the poison apple. She has traveled in the form of ravens and they literally “splotsh” through the roof onto the floor in a pile of black-goo of what looks like oil and feathers. Out oozes Ravenna. What villain could look better in a slick of sludge than Charlize? Ah, on to the ravens…
While the name Ravenna can be either an extension/rendition of Raven or from the city of Ravenna in Italy, naturally in this sense it is the former being referenced. She is surrounded by them. Her throne, her jewellery, her clothes, her animal form. They appear in so many different cultures and because they tend to feed on carrion, are mostly associated with death, war and such i.e. the scavengers of the battlefield (although note that not all myths and legends have a negative connotation of these clever birds) and also associated with Odin, god of war and death (and wisdom) among other things. Let’s face it, when you see a Raven or Crow, especially in movies, you tend to think along the dark lines. We’ve been conditioned that way so what more fitting name for a villain? One who brings war, death and destruction across everything she rules?
As with most villains, even she shows a brief moment of humanity every now and then. At her wedding I’m not sure if she has a moment of remorse as to what she is about to do? She also sheds a tear when she thinks of her mother.
Ultimately, she’s plain evil and one of the opening comments sums this up perfectly: “What devil spawned this army?”. I exhaled a huge breath of relief when she finally met her end.***
* Quotes from watching the movie
** Apparently bathing in milk had great beauty benefits. Various queens were known to believe in this.
*** Let’s ignore the fact that there is a sequel about to be released which I haven’t seen. I’m going purely on Snow White and the Huntsman for this blog.