These are my top five weirdly messed-up fictional characters. Be warned – there are spoilers ahead for the characters discussed!!
5. Rumpelstiltskin – Once Upon A Time
“Ah, but I’m a villain… and villains don’t get happy endings.”
In fairytale lore, Rumpelstiltskin was known for stealing children. An unusual character who had hints of great power, he would make deals with desperate people and offer them a price that would cost them dearly in some way… and then got (somewhat justifiably) pissed off when people tried to get out of paying. Once Upon a Time took this basic idea for a character and ran with it, creating one of the more interesting takes on him (at least, until seasonal rot kicked in and the show nose-dived in writing quality).
Throughout Season 1 of the show, Rumple / Mr Gold is this strange character we can’t seem to get a handle on. He’s not a very nice man and clearly knows more than he lets on but even though he’s seems to get on with Regina, he doesn’t actually seem to be on her side either as a villain. He lets the main characters run around and sort out the main plot of breaking the curse, whilst lurking in the background and doing his own thing – and it’s only THEN we find out that he’s orchestrated everything so that he can get back to his son, who’s trapped in a different world. The sheer brilliance of this manipulative bastard makes you want to shake his hand… until you start to spot a pattern in the aftermath. For all his scheming, he can’t seem to get the people he cares about to stick around. In his efforts to get them to stay or to keep them safe, circumstances will always fuck him over, so much so that at the current point, his beloved son is dead, his wife hates him and his newborn child has been literally stolen away from him. He’s a character who always does the wrong thing for the right reasons and each time, for all his brilliance and planning, never reaps the benefits.
4 – Severus Snape – Harry Potter
“Sometimes costs are made to be borne.”
Forget that this character had ultimately good intentions. Yes ~*DECADE OLD SPOILER*~ Snape was always on our side, did everything for Lily, blah blah. Ignore his intentions; look at who he was. This was a man who went out of his way to show blatant favouritism amongst his students, and then bullied and belittled the others – compare how he treated Malfoy to Neville, and do you remember him saying coldly “I see no difference” when Hermione got hit with spell that made her front teeth grow ridiculously huge? THIS IS MAN WHO SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN ALLOWED TO BE A TEACHER.
Snape was never really allowed to move on and heal from his love and loss of Lily; instead, he was kept in a place as a permanent reminder of where he’d grown up with her, and also forced to interact with her son on a daily basis (and Harry probably served as a nice physical reminder that she chose someone else over him anyway and that it was his fault she was dead – yaaay…). It’s not healthy to remain that firmly stuck in your past for 17 years; that’s nearly two whole decades of self-loathing and regret right there and never moving on from it. While he was definitely trying to quietly atone for what he’d done, you do start to wonder if he ever felt he could. He kept Harry as safe as he could but clearly couldn’t stand the kid, he never bothered to make friends or even allies with any of the other staff members and let’s not even go there with the Death Eaters or his family. What was left of him at the end was a man who had absolutely nothing but a secret self-made promise to a dead woman… and let’s be honest, he probably knew he wasn’t going to make it through the war. You do have to wonder what would have happened to him if he’d survived the war; with Voldemort defeated and Harry finally safe, what would he have done?
Snape is ultimately a tragic, lonely character who was never shown the slightest inch of compassion or care in his entire life (baring from one very specific person) and it SHOWS. It’s telling that he so desperately tries to make up for his mistakes to the only person who ever showed him kindness by devoting his entire life to it, but as a person he’s not even the slightest bit likeable. He remained a good man at heart who was brave enough to do the right thing in the fight against Voldemort (even in Cursed Child, he’s still doing the right thing and continuing to lead the losing fight in an alternate universe) but, dear LORD, was he bitter about it. He’s a great example of why good is not necessarily always nice but also why it’s important to show compassion to people, even if they don’t necessarily appear to want or need it.
3 – Peter Pan
“I’m youth. I’m joy. I’m a little bird that has broken out of the egg.”
“Hold on, why is Peter Pan on this list?!” I hear you cry.
This character’s been my favourite since I was a tiny child – as a kid, the idea of never growing up and getting to play, be naughty and have adventures all the time was entirely appealing to me. As I got older, Peter Pan stayed as one of my favourites but for a different reason – with age, I saw another side to the character that childhood innocence blinded me to… and that is that Peter Pan is a raging asshole. He lies about virtually everything, boasts and brags constantly (“Oh, the cleverness of me!!”), and is incredibly manipulative when he wants to be (“You know Wendy, one girl is more use than twenty boys…”). He can also be incredibly cruel – the book casually mentions that he “thins out” the Lost Boys numbers when he thinks they’re growing up too much, and let’s not forget that time he sadistically cut of a grown man’s hand and fed it to a crocodile, and then for good measure, forever taunted the man about it. There’s also a few unnerving hints that suggest he isn’t quite human either; he’s clearly stated to be a child but can imitate a grown man’s voice so accurately that no one can tell the difference, not to mention how in some adaptions, he’s shown with pointed ears (a trait more commonly associated with fairies).
When you’re a child, the full implications of that kind of behaviour goes unnoticed, which is the point – children are innocent because they’re heartless and cruel. And Pan is well aware of this cruelty, but instead of trying to better himself, he determinedly chooses to remain a child because to learn morals would be to grow up.
And despite all this, he’s still the hero of the story. As child, it’s clear-cut. As a grown up… you’re almost not sure who you should be rooting for and you just want Wendy to get the hell out of there instead.
2 – Deadpool
“My common sense is tingling.”
In recent years, it’s become ‘cool’ to rag on people for liking a popular thing… just because it’s popular. Pfft. Deadpool’s awesome – that’s why he’s popular, you hipster.
For me, what I love most about Deadpool is his humour. He plays the fool but that hides the fact that there’s something VERY dangerous about him. I love that Deadpool’s humour isn’t a front to deliberately manipulate people into lowering their guard around him (unlike the next character on his list…) but it’s just who he is. He just happens to also be completely insane and flip flops between if he wants to be a hero, villain or even just chaotic neutral, all whilst laughing to mask that he’s got some real genuine pain, both emotional and literal. Because you can never predict what he’s going to do, it’s always fun to go along for the ride.
1 – Tate Langdon (American Horror Story: Murder House)
“I prepare for the noble war.”
I said “screwed-up” and I think Tate’s pretty much the embodiment of that. I had to limit this list to just one character from American Horror Story because those characters could fill their own list if I let them, so I went with my own personal favourite. He’s the ~*SPOILERS*~ ghost of a high-school shooter who rapes his girlfriend’s mother to impregnate her with the antichrist, but then makes the mistake of developing actual feelings for his girlfriend.
The slow reveal that there was something SERIOUSLY sinister about Tate was one of my favourite parts of this show. As the series went on, we found out more and more about this beautiful, sensitive, brooding teenager and just what he’d done, and each new reveal just made the character all the more gloriously compelling. By the time we finally got the full measure of Tate, we had this unapologetic psychopath who didn’t regret a single thing he’d done but was also equally confused by his love for Violet and had no idea what to do with that. You’re certainly not rooting for them to get together; he’s too far past redemption for that and Violet deserves much better. What I loved so much about Tate was that he was always a villain hiding in plain sight who served as a BRILLIANT deconstruction of the stereotypical ‘tortured, brooding and dark’ character; No, psychopaths aren’t sexy when you’re confronted with what they’ve done. No, they’re not redeemable by love, and NO, you really shouldn’t try anyway.
So, there’s my top 5. What’s your thoughts? Do you agree or disagree with my take on things? And who would be in your top five? 🙂