Created By: Alrune on March 26, 2010

True Evil Is Male

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This is a mostly unspoken characterisation trope that is more often than not subtexted rather than clearly played. It is the logical outcome of Closer to Earth as well as The Unfair Sex, to an extent.

If you look up the ratio of female BigBads in comparison to that of males, major antagonists are Always Male. Less noticeable in series that are specifically aimed at a female audience, yet it is not uncommon to see the actual Big Bad as male in such series as well.

Additionally, it appears that most female baddies are either Mooks - thus eligible for the infamous High-Heel–Face Turn - have rather petty goals or are Ineffectual Sympathetic Villains. If not, they often have a Freudian Excuse to explain their evil. In comparison, most Complete Monsters and Übermensch are male and generally have no other excuse than being downright evil and selfish to the marrow of their bones.

As said above, women being Closer to Earth and automatically less evil than males, only men seem to develop enough ambition and selfishness to actually let go of any compunction they may have had and cross gleefully the Moral Event Horizon right into Neutral Evil. Also, as said above, evil men are more often than not bombastic in their goals, evil women are generally more subdued. Strangely, Beauty Equals Goodness doesn't matter since even ugly villainesses are still less of a threat than their male counterparts.

In return , it seems female heroes, even when not being the main character, can be just as good-hearted and virtuous as their male counterparts, sometimes just as Badass and efficient. Closer to Earth applying here as well, they can even be the most virtuous of the party.

This assumption about men's inclination for evil and violence is so deep-rooted and pervasive it is also subtexted in heroic types such as the Byronic Hero, Heroic Sociopath and Anti-Hero which are overwhelmingly cast as male. Likewise, healers, Shrinking Violet, Morality Chain and other caring and generally unfamiliar with violence or evil are almost always female.

This trope is made even more egregious when you know that Most Writers Are Male. Maybe this view comes from their own assessment of their gender or maybe they don't feel as much animosity towards females than towards males. Still, it is clearly a Double Standard that supports two Unfortunate Implications: a) Males are inherently more evil than women and are driven by selfishness even when they are on the side of Good. b) Evil women are not evil enough to pose a real threat to a Five-Man Band or a Nakama.

Can be considered as the Spear Counterpart to Closer to Earth.



  • Many male superheroes only have males as their arch-enemies.
    • Spider-Man has only males in his Rogues Gallery. Only the villainesses Shathra and Donna the Symbiote were actually dangerous but neither had goals beyond confronting him.
    • Daredevil's villainesses are generally evil in a smalltime way. Even the dangerously psychotic Typhoid Mary is not evil because she chose to be, but because Daredevil inadvertently incurred her madness.
    • Iron Man counts one aversion in the person of Madame Hydra and, in a way Sunset Bain. Yet the latter, for being utterly amoral and manipulative, is still mostly a mere annoyance due to being a rival in his day-to-day business.
    • Batman's villainesses all have a Freudian Excuse.
    • X-Men's villainesses are less prone to this but, up until the creation of Cassandra Nova, no female was actually dangerous enough to be taken seriously. The recent surfacing of Selene has subverted it by giving her a true God complex which is still rare for evil women.


  • James Bond is one of the few films averting this.
  • Most films feature a male antagonist, even if the protagonist is a female.

Manga & Anime

Live Action Tv

Community Feedback Replies: 8
  • March 26, 2010
    I would like to point out that it's not unrealistic in most settings. Most people in high political office are male, most serial killers and other violent offenders are female, and military forces tend to be entirely or overwhelmingly female. Males are more aggressive than females. So it's generally Truth In Television for shows centered around violence. Female Big Bads tend to crop up a lot in series and stories where the basis isn't combat.
  • March 26, 2010
    Totally averted in Elf Quest where Winnowill outbads them all, even the human warlord Grohmul Djun. Maybe because the co-writer/artist is female.
  • March 26, 2010
    Sure it's not unrealistic as for violence. But then again, even female Big Bads are always less evil or less threatening than their male counterparts. That's the point.
  • March 26, 2010
    Only, you've just listed combat-based series and one set in a male prison, where the males would be more threatening than females. Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty, Nurse Ratched from One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest, Pamela Voorhees from Friday The Thirteenth, The Wicked Witch of the West, Annie Wilkes from Stephen King's Misery, the Alien Queen from Aliens, Glory from Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Alex Forrest from Fatal Attraction, Lilith from Hebrew mythology, Baba Yaga from Slavic folklore, Snoop from The Wire - all female complete monsters.

  • March 26, 2010
    Inverted in the Narnia series, where the most threatening and memorable villains are female.

    Largely averted in the Disney Animated Canon, where there is no reliable correlation between a villain's gender and their motivations, threat level, or hamminess.
  • March 26, 2010
    Alright, but let's look closer.

    Sleeping Beauty and The Wizard Of Oz are more aimed at a female audience and, as I said, this trope generally doesn't apply in female-oriented media. Pamela Voorhees is a case of Samus Is A Girl. Snoop is a Psycho Lesbian, hence inherently evil just like the Depraved Homosexual. The alien queen is a non-human hence doesn't count.

    So the only complete inversions I see so far are One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest, Misery, Glory and Fatal Attraction. Included the Baba Yaga.

    Lilith has been subverted into a Straw Feminist icon of women's emancipation and refusal of submitting to men. The original one still has the excuse of just wanting to be treated equally as Adam.
  • March 26, 2010
    You really want this to be a trope.

    The Wizard of Oz isn't a particularly girly movie. I'll give you Sleeping Beauty because of the princess, but I'm not backing down on Oz.

    Snoop was never established as a Psycho Lesbian (and she seemed to want to be seen as attractive by men - "How my hair look?"), and your insistence that being a Psycho Lesbian somehow disqualifies her from this category of female villains is illogical.

    Samus Is A Girl is a similarly arbitrary disqualification. So they have to be a known female force from the very beginning to qualify.

    Lilith is still a Complete Monster in the original story due to Values Dissonance, and the mass murder of infants and the spawning of demons to torment all of mankind is a bit of an overreaction in anyone's eyes.

    This trope is now:

    1) Has to be a villainous woman

    2) Has to be straight (not a Depraved Bisexual or Psycho Lesbian, because they're not real women or something) - A more generous interpretation: she can have no other factors involved in the villainy, such as belonging to an Always Chaotic Evil race.

    3) Has to be human. (good one, actually)

    4) Has to be evil, menacing, with no real excuse.

    5) Can't be in a girly movie.

    6) Has to be a known and apparently female force the entire time.

    7) Has to be pure evil according to modern values.

    7) No Heel Face Turn.
  • March 26, 2010
    Fine if you want to go that way, I don't demand this to be a trope.

    Actually I was trying to find the logical outcome of Closer To Earth.

    And to answer your list:

    1. Villainess. OF COURSE! It's about evil people.

    2. I'll pass on this. My point about the Psycho Lesbian is that true lesbians are often seen as evil or lambasted in mainstream works.

    3. Human yes, because Aliens have always been assessed on a different scale.

    4. Yes. Selfish and/or evil to the bone.

    5. Media aimed at girls are to feature female villains because of Designated Girl Fight.

    6. Not necessarily. I'll pass on that.

    7. No High Heel Face Turn.

    8. Has to be the primary Big Bad. Not a Mook.

    But if you believe that it's not a trope, then fine. After all, I put it here so as to know if it was a trope indeed or not.