How to Execute the Deformed Villain Trope Wisely

“I have a realistic grasp of my own strengths and weaknesses. My mind is my weapon. My brother has his sword, King Robert has his warhammer, and I have my mind… and a mind needs books as a sword needs a whetstone, if it is to keep its edge. That’s why I read so much, Jon Snow.”

– Tyrion Lannister, A Game of Thrones

Although he is not a villain, Tyrion Lannister is a good example of a character whose disability and personality are woven together in a logical, humanizing way. Often, writers, especially writers of Young Adult fiction, create protagonists who are physically beautiful and antagonists who are ugly or deformed, perpetuating the notions that one must be beautiful to be good and that ugly people are bad. These notions are false, and writers should use their writing to challenge them.

It is OK to include a “deformed villain” in your fiction.  In fact, creating an antagonist whose behavior can be traced to societal rejection and persecution on the basis of their disability sends a mature, realistic message to readers. People with disabilities are often rejected by the societies in which they live, so the reaction of rejecting society in return should be enlightening to readers. Attributing a character’s villainhood to experiences of oppression and rejection highlights flaws in our society that we should be aware of, and fiction is an appropriate medium to call attention to these flaws as long as the relationship between the character’s experience and behavior is made clear.

On the other hand, a writer should NEVER create a character who is deformed simply because that character is an antagonist, thereby enforcing the false association between physical beauty and goodness.

Ideally, writers should create complex characters who may be antagonists, protagonists, or something in between whose experiences with disability cause readers to evaluate their interactions with ability and disability and recognize the value of tolerance and solidarity with people of all body types and levels of ability.

Post submitted by Jacob.

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