So What’s Up With Evil Sorceresses?

I swear whenever there’s a female villain, especially in video games, it’s always some sort of evil sorceress/enchantress. Seriously? What is the deal with that? It’s irritating to me for a variety of reasons, starting with the fact that I’d like to, for once, see a sorceress or enchantress who is 100% not evil, scary, or mysterious-dangerous to the protagonists. Usually the best you get is some sort of good-neutral enchantress who is fickle and may totally destroy the good guys but will probably just give them a relic or a hint or something.

I mean, I’m totally down for a good evil sorceress but for evil’s sake, can we tone it down?

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The Naughty Sorceress from Kingdom of Loathing; they get a slight pass since it IS satire on everything.

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Cia, Hyrule Warriors

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Ultimecia Final Fantasy VIII

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…you know the Evil Queen from Snow White, right?

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And Mother Gothel from Tangled?

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The Enchantress, Shovel Knight

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That snake? It’s an enchantress. Who is the villain.

Look there’s a ton. And I didn’t even try super hard to think of non-video game examples.

Half the problem I have with the evil enchantress is the possible subtle symbolism that comes with her. I’ll talk about that in a moment. Part of it, I already mentioned. I want the sorceress to be able to broaden her horizons. But in a way, that ties into the subtle symbolism. And part of the problem I have is that the actual trope isn’t evil sorceress, it’s vain sorceress – which again, is part of the symbolism.

So what’s this symbolism?

What are the elements of a sorceress, and how is she different than a witch? As magic users and the differences between them tend to be fairly ill-defined, I believe most people would suggest a sorceress is more powerful than a witch as their main difference, and they might suggest that a sorceress is more beautiful than a witch. And while I might normally discriminate between a sorceress and an enchantress I don’t know that a lot of people would, or really do, and if they do, it tends to be minute differences in magic use. So, here, I’m just gonna use them indeterminately.

So the traits of a sorceress is that she’s very powerful and very beautiful. They’re, as I mentioned, at best, helpful if you please them and your end if you tick them off, but very often, they want to take over the world, even if they suck at it.

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I haven’t finished Rune Factory: Tides of Destiny yet but I’m feeling confident Pandora isn’t remotely the villain, even if she is an “evil” sorceress.

And, according to TvTropes, beauty is a really important part of the whole sorceress gig – so important that she might suck it out of someone else if necessary. If you look at the first three examples, you’ll notice that these ladies are scantily if not exotically clad. If you aren’t sure about the stick figure, it’s in her descriptions that she’s sexy; here’s some fan art of her:

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Artist Naska, picked up from pendakocafe.com/kol.html

Of course the Disney characters aren’t scanty; they’re Disney characters and also it wouldn’t make sense for their time period. But even Pandora in the friendly, cuddly Rune Factory is wearing something that is supposed to be flattering and The Enchantress might be covered but you can see the girl’s got curves.

So, one: these women are beautiful, they may be vain, and they are evil. That’s the trope. I’m. Not really okay with having a hand-in-hand quality like “vain” and “evil”. I mean, “pride” and “evil” are hand-in-hand qualities and I don’t like that either, but you see such a broad range of pride and hubris in many characters that I can shrug it off. Vain is a bit different because of the unique position women are in relating to their physical appearance.

You see, we are constantly told that we need to be pretty, care about how we look. But we also can’t be shallow and vain by caring about or liking how we look. We’re told to love ourselves and our bodies, but also that our bodies aren’t good enough, and also if we like our bodies, we’re shallow and vain. Do you see? And just, to have vanity be an obvious “evil” trait that just goes automatically with a certain type of villain is not helping. To have a trope that shows ethereally beautiful women, way prettier past the norm, very often be vain and evil, that’s sending a really awkward message. Beauty and vanity don’t go hand-in-hand. Vanity isn’t a good trait, but our society appears to not really understand what vanity is since women who like what they look like are called “vain”. That’s not vanity. And becoming offended when someone insults your appearance isn’t automatically vanity either, although again, our society often calls it as such. It’s the idea that you can really get a girl going by insulting her looks because she’s vain. But let’s not forget that insulting her looks is, after all, an insult, and insults do hurt. Besides that, when we’re in a place, as women, that we’ve been told our sum total worth is in our beauty (and we are) then when you insult a girl’s looks, you’re insulting her sum total worth. That’s not vain at all, that is a huge deal!

So I don’t like the vain sorceress because of this subtext. It’s entirely possible to attempt a vain sorceress who isn’t a symbol; she’s just a sorceress who is pretty and vain. And that’s fine. I never want to tell you you can’t do something; I just want you to be mindful. If you want to have a vain sorceress, though, please make sure she is actually vain. It has to be more than just that she’s beautiful and she knows it. Heaven forbid a woman can recognize she’s pretty. It has to be self-absorption, or even self-obsession.

But there’s something even more sinister to me about sorceresses, and seeing as this post is running a bit long, lemmie talk about it tomorrow.

 

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About Rii the Wordsmith

An aspiring author, artist, avid consumer of storytelling medium, gamer, psychologist (insomuch as one with her bachelor's is a psychologist), wife, mother, DM, Christian, a friend to many, and, most importantly, an evil overlord.
This entry was posted in Female villains, Making Villains (Making Villains la-la-la!) and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to So What’s Up With Evil Sorceresses?

  1. I like how you mention making sorceresses and enchantresses that aren’t evil because my main characters are enchantresses 🙂 And for ones that are evil, I agree that vanity in the way it’s used with evil sorceresses is ridiculous. I prefer my villains, be they male or female, to have a goal that is good but the way they go about trying to attain it are bad. That makes for a much more interesting villain than just saying, she’s vain because she’s beautiful so she’s evil. Another great post!

    Liked by 1 person

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