Dolores Umbridge: Eviler Than Voldemort?
There’s nothing that says ‘evil’ quite as well as “he who must not be named.” Sure, Voldemort is evil and all, what with the red eyes and black cloak and skin the same shade as that of your average Myst player. But he’s no comparison to the evil of intolerance, bureaucracy and insincerity that is Donald Ru… uh, Dolores Jane Umbridge.
I’ve found very few female villains to truly crow about in my time. Indeed, of all the great villains I’ve seen in movies and read about in books, there are few females that truly elicit fear and loathing, apart from maybe the Queen Alien: no Kaiser Soze, no Amon Goeth, not even a Pinhead to be found amongst those lacking the Y chromosome. Two stand out, however: Annie from Misery, and Nurse Ratched from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Annie, played to perfection by Kathy Bates, is girly, insincere, a fan of those nauseating chick trinkets like porcelain kittens and completely psychotic. If you haven’t seen the movie, and you wince every time you kick your shin against something… well, don’t watch it, because the Cruciatus Curse has nothing on that mallet scene. (If you’re reading, Miss Bates, please play Umbridge in Order of the Phoenix, because you’d be perfect.) Nurse Ratched, one of cinema’s great villains, is cold, feminine and cruel. Both characters are based on literary figures, and the portrayals of these roles have won best actress awards at the Oscars before they turned lame.
Dolores Umbridge, then, is seemingly the ultimate mix of these two villains: sickening, fake, manipulative and very capable of inflicting torture. She is like a girl who was in my second grade class: always giving our deaf old bat of a teacher a neck massage during story time, but pinching you at the drop of the hat to get to the front of the tuckshop line. As traditionally evil as Ol’ Voldie is (or MC DLo, as he is known as on the R&B circuit), Umbridge seems to elicit an intensely strong hatred from just about everyone in the series, even though she’s apparently on the side of ‘good’. Even Lupin (the Ralph Nader of the series) spouts off against her. The worst of her is that she is a horrible bigot, who thinks there is nothing wrong with discriminating against people based on parentage or race. It’s something that nearly everyone can agree on: racism is a dirty, disgusting thing, and you can really hate someone because of it.
So why is she such a better villain than Voldemort? Because there really isn’t that much to Voldemort. He’s a bit like Darth Vader: you know he’s evil because he’s the dude wearing black and breathing heavily. Using that logic, a former friend of mine was an evil guy. (He was evil anyway, but the black and stalker breathing just cemented it a bit.) Sure, he had a tough childhood, but so did most of the characters. Simply put, you know what he stands for and you know that he’ll just mess you up ‘old-school’ if you don’t lay down some heavy beats first. But with Umbridge, it’s different. She’s not the stereotypical villain: she’s got that saccharine dislikability that one associates with ‘O‘ magazine subscribers and ‘Touched by an Angel’ fans. That in itself is evil, but it’s the fact that she doesn’t try to make a point by being horrid. It’s very much her innate quality. Though we hardly know her, she hardly seems like someone who’s lived a tough life. While Voldemort may express an almost justifiable anger against the world, Umbridge is motivated by greed, prejudice and ignorance. Sound like someone else we know?
Quite frankly, she’s a way better villain than Lord Voldemort, not just in characterization, but in evil stakes. Even if Voldemort were to assemble a crack team of the world’s most evil people (Saddam, Slobodan, Avril) I doubt he’d even make a dent on Umbridge.
And I’m guessing that in HBP, she’s not going to fade away into obscurity. My prediction is that Fudge & Co. don’t lose the Ministry work. They stick around, declare war, hurt a lot of innocent people and do it in the name of justice. Our Miss Umbridge will be prominent in future volumes, and the damage she’ll wreak will almost certainly rival that of The Dark Lord.