amwriting, writing tips

June Twitter Chat! Sex & Villainy #villainsleepover


Anyone want to join in a new weekly/biweekly twitter chat #villainsleepover?

If you do, follow the hashtag (if not, mute it!) as we will kick off in June with discussions around sex/sexuality and ‘villainy’.

A few of us who enjoy these kinds of chats and especially love talking about the darker side of human nature wanted a cozy space to do so, so we came up with the tag to introduce the villains in our own work and to bounce ideas off each other. The idea to open it up to a bigger discussion in the online writing community stemmed from there.


#VillainSleepover Thoughts

I was thinking about this a lot during my Goth is [Not] Dead blog post series [link is to the first post] on Gothic Fiction as a genre, where the over-sexed, unhealthily-repressed and/or sexually-transgressive villain is a key part of Gothic Horror Bingo.

Looking at other genres, especially Dark Fantasy (in many ways a subgenre of the Gothic, with lots of Gothic Fic tropes imprinted onto High, Epic, Sword&Sorcery and other fantasy worlds), villains present in similar ways. Disney villains tend to be queer-coded, which might have something to do with it – sexy costumes, lush aesthetics, jazzy numbers, sultry makeup… but the ‘sexy villainess’ and ‘predatory villain’ also appear in Romance and Historical Fiction genres too, attempting to thwart the path of True Love and Destiny.

You also get the Sensible Heroes/Skimpy Villains trope, Evil Is Sexy trope, and the subversion of this (seen in a lot of Kidlit, especially Roald Dahl) Unattractive Is Evil/Evil Makes You Ugly. See also Kate Brodock’s post (2013) on how women are portrayed in video games.

When heroes can be ‘average-looking’ [however that is defined] and ‘relateable’, what stops us from having more villains who look like the person next door?

Is this a cultural thing, or is that we’re afraid of villains who could be … just like us?

Does that make us uncomfortable? How and why?

Are we as a culture uncomfortable with self-examination or is that an individual thing, or … what?

That’s the kind of thing we’ll be chatting about in June’s #villainsleepover. 

We will start by asking what the differences are between villains & antiheroes and which people prefer (if they have a preference) to read, watch and/or write. EDIT: Also Anti-Villains! A character who goes about achieving villainous goals in a good/heroic manner. The opposite of an antihero, who has ‘heroic’ goals but goes about them in a morally questionable way and may do ‘villainous’ things.

Some questions in advance to get you thinking – there are 5 questions and 5 Sundays? Posts will go up in GMT+1 around 11am, but the thread will stay open for anyone to drop in through the week.

The cards are below, questions are as follows:

0. (Intro card, ‘Let’s Talk About Sex’)

1. Thinking along the lines of the over-sexualised trope, what part does sex play in your conceptualisation of a villain/antihero? (We’ll be using ‘antihero’ as a gender-neutral term here, if you have a better neutral one please suggest it).

2. The second question came about after looking at ‘queer-coded’ Disney villains. How is sexuality/gender identity used to code ‘villainy’ over other (personality or physical) traits? How can this be avoided or subverted?

3. Are villains/antiheroes ‘allowed’ to have healthy attitudes to sex? Why/why not? (Or, to rephrase:: What happens if their attitude to sex is healthier and/or less repressed than the hero’s? Can villains who enjoy healthy consensual sex and not be dicks about it still be villains or does this tip them into ‘antihero‘/’anti-villain‘ territory? If they can, why are they rare? Must a villain be sexually selfish to be a villain? Why is this often emphasised over traits?)

4. How do you write believable female villains/anti-villain/antiheroes without capitalising on/perpetuating negative female stereotypes?

5. Following on from this and thinking especially about the ‘man-with-boobs’ image of “strong female characters”, also the strong association of villains-present-in-masculine-ways trope (warrior-babe, man-with-boobs, anti-feminine-but-also-sexual-predator), what are the potential problems of writing a non-male-presenting villain or antihero? [how is ‘male-presenting typically defined?] Eunuch stereotypes would also come into play here especially in Fantasy/SpecFic, see Tucker Lieberman’s book Painting Dragons on this topic!


**I will come back to this post and link up the threads/add more questions and their corresponding graphics as they get posted.

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