A female baddie with a chilly disposition and more than a touch of the dominatrix about her. In Darker and Edgier versions, this will often mean a love of (other people's) pain and suffering. Softer portrayals reduce this to a fervent militarism and devotion to the ideals of whichever totalitarian bunch she works for. Naturally, she'll usually be seen sporting a German or Russian accent, along with either a natty military uniform or something black and form-fitting. Whether or not she's vulnerable to good-guy seduction and subversion is highly variable. However, she's invariably attracted to power (which the hero lacks and the Big Bad has).
Baronesses tend to come in one of two flavours: Sexpot or Rosa Klebb.
The Sexpot is, as you'd expect, young-ish and sexy. Her sadism or (in milder versions) fervent militarism is presented as at least a bit enticing to our (male) hero, who she's likely to be attracted to despite herself.Her ice-queen facade is pretty likely to crack a little before the story is over. Her chances of surviving the story are variable to good, depending on how much she lets herself fall for our hero. Most sexpot Baronesses like to Whip It Good.
The Rosa Klebb (named for the James Bond villain) is middle-aged and very much not attractive, but is more likely to be the Big Bad herself rather than just working for him. She is immune to the hero's charms, and ominous emphasis is placed upon her utter asexuality, or upon hints that she likes the ladies. Bond-type heroes will be horrified by her, like she had three heads. No matter what, she will be dead as a doornail before the credits roll. No exceptions.
(If, as with the Bond film and novel From Russia with Love, you find the two types of Baronesses in the same plot, expect to find the Klebb character with an unrequited crush on the Sexpot.)
Is this trope laced with sexism and homophobia? Of course. It hails from mid-20th-century spy and adventure stories like Ian Fleming's Bond novels, which are full of that sort of malarkey. However, in these surroundings, the Baroness will almost undoubtedly also be the coolest female character in the whole story.
The stereotype of the implausibly attractive Communist or Nazi female officer, and her counterpart, the threatening, mannish sadist, is common in campier WWII and Cold War stories. The Russian example has some basis in fact, as the Soviet military did include more female officers than the US military (permitting women to fly in combat in WWII — a couple of whom became aces), but really, that just meant that they had a few more than none.
The Sexpot type of Baroness can sometimes overlap with The Vamp, but most examples of the Baroness, sexy or no, have too much self-respect to use sex as a weapon. She's more about hurting men than pleasing them. See also Those Wacky Nazis or Dirty Communists, for the kind of co-conspirators she usually works with, or Dragon Lady, for the Eastern variety. Is very often the Woman in Black.
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Anime and Manga
Aversion: The "Baroness" in Scrapped Princess is in her sixties, and not evil so much as in a different faction.
Yuno Gasai from Future Diary, who is a blend of both the Sexpot and Rosa Klebb types. She's young and attractive, and yearns for Yukiteru. Yuki himself though is downright terrified of her, but she kills herself to let Yuki live.
Balalaika from Black Lagoon is actually a blend of both types with her statuesque build and her massively scarred body and face. She is described by the main characters as one of the scariest women on Earth...and they probably aren't exaggerating. Head of the Roanapur chapter of Hotel Moscow, ex-Soviet Afghanistan veteran, and Olympic-level marksman (if the Soviet Union hadn't boycotted the Olympics that she was planning to participate in). Only two people in the entire series has crossed her/gotten on her bad side and walked away with everything still intact.
Further proven by what she did to Hansel, a dissonantly serene child who's an Ax-Crazy killer himself. Does Balalaika give a shit? Weeell... "I said KNEEL!"
Her mere presence is enough to make Chin tremble in fear after he tried to kill the Lagoon Company. He goes out with a bang, as she ties him up and has her men fill the room with gasoline and explosives and, as an added bonus, waits until she has Dutch on the radio before flipping the switch.
Haman Karn from Zeta Gundam and Gundam ZZ is a badass Lady of WarAce Pilot, powerful Newtype, and the leader of the Neo Zeon fascist military group in the Universal Century Continuity. Despite her ice queen exterior, she carries the torch for Char and, later on in the story, is clearly attracted to and attempts to seduce Judau Ashta, who is much younger than her.
Rosamia Badam, also of Zeta has this as her exterior. On the inside she's actually a frightened child, terrified that the sky is going to fall on her. The contrast is stark.
Gihren's secretary, right-hand woman, and aide de campe, Cecilia Irene is also an example of the trope. Coldly efficent, she's able to intimidate the General Staff with her mere presence, handles most of Gihren's black book operations, and is completely devoted to him to the point where many people assume she has to be his mistress.
Mobile Suit Gundam Wing's Lady Une is a DID sufferer, with a nice side (that's all about peace and love and tranquility) and a hardcore militaristic side that would probably spook Rosa Klebb herself. She serves as Treize Khushreneda'senforcer throughout the show; unsurprisingly, she has a crush on him.
Gestapoko, the first "Punishment Councilor" from Kekko Kamen.
Olivier Mira Armstrong, iron-fisted queen of the Briggs fortress, is very much a Sexpot Rosa Klebb, being a young, nice-looking lady with immunity to Mustang's charms (deeming him weak and foolish), and not a single instance of using her looks to get what she wants. Subverted in that she is, at her worst, a NeutralHero Antagonist. She cares about her men and, unlike most of the military leaders, isn't tempted by promises of immortality. While ominously ambitious, she readily lays her own plans aside to save her country from Father.
Modern depictions of Superwoman, the evil Wonder Woman counterpart of the Crime Syndicate universe, usually go for a strong dominatrix vibe. (This is part of her characterization as Wonder Woman's perfect opposite. Wonder Woman is implied to enjoy being tied up, Superwoman is implied to enjoy tying other people up.)
Combine that, and you get High Octane Fetish Fuel
The Valkyrie, aka Liselotte von Schellendorf, who debuted in Air Fighters Comics vol. 2 #2 (November 1943). By all appearances, she was modeled on Veronica Lake (but with black hair) and her costume consisted of jackboots, riding-breeches, and a top incorporating what may well have been the most generous décolletage of any Golden Age lady. This leader of the Air Maidens, a group of female German fighter pilots, first tortured Airboy and then fell in love with him, starting a pattern of heel-face turns that had her alternate between being a foe and an ally to the teenage hero.
Gerta Gasch in Garth Ennis' World War II comic parody Adventures in the Rifle Brigade is an over-the-top example of the Nazi sexpot version of this trope.
Cassandra Nova from the X-Men is a Rosa Klebb-type and also one of the most dangerous adversaries of the team. She is Charles Xavier's Evil Twin, made all the more threatening for being elderly, unattractive, and bald.
Madame Hydra, a.k.a. The Viper, is a sexpot variation of the trope and one of Captain America's most prominent foes, being one of the primary leaders of the villanous organization HYDRA. Madame Hydra has also had a run-in with Wolverine, along with several other heroes.
It's worth noting that when Hasbro approached Marvel about doing a G.I. Joe comic book, they simply dusted off an unused proposal for a Nick Fury vs HYDRA series and changed the names. Thus HYDRA became COBRA and The Viper became The Baroness. The only significant difference between the characters is the color of their leather bodysuits. Black for the Baroness, green for Madame Hydra.
And their hair (same colors).
Madame Masque from Iron Man was one of these, a leader in the Mafia-esque Maggia operation. In a rare twist, she was obviously of the sexpot variety (given her typical superheroine knockout figure), but her face was horribly scarred, thus leading to her adoption of the metal facemask from which her moniker derives.
Kaptain Natashikov in Rogue Trooper has the appearance of the sexpot, and seems to be in a relationship with General Hoffa, but otherwise generally acts like Rosa Klebb. She tortures Helm to death before being killed by Rogue.
DC's Blackhawk comics of the 1980s (set during WW2) featured Domino, a Nazi femme-fatale who wore form-fitting black leather from head to toe (including gloves and high-heeled boots), apparently so that nobody would suspect she was a spy.
Mai Shen from Scion: a mysterious woman who joins the Raven Kingdom in their fight against the Heron Kingdom, but has an agenda of her own. She gets cozy with Prince Bron and eventually reveals that she's part of a race of super-powered beings. Not only does she assist Bron in assassinating his father, the king, but she gives Bron powers of his own. Generally favors tight black leather and can be quite seductive when required (she gives Bron his powers through a passionate kiss while they're both naked in a hot tub!).
Dutch comics The Adventures of January Jones and Agent 327 feature Dritta Reich, Hitler's private pilot, who wears form fitting uniforms and is quite the femme fatale. She survives WW2.
The Tom Strong books had Ingrid Weiss, a Nazi fighter pilot squadron leader in bondage leather.
Ingrid Weiss is something of a deconstruction, though, in that she's portrayed exactly as creepily as she would be in real life, with everyone finding her more or less equally revolting due to her political stance. It's ultimately revealed that she drugged and raped Strong, producing a child raised in the Nazi ideals. Strong is absolutely horrified at this, but when his black wife, Dahlua, arrives and learns what Weiss has done, the resulting Curb-Stomp Battle ends only because Weiss tearfully begs not to be killed in front of her son. Dahlua's attitude during this reveals streaks of a heroic version of this trope.
Nth Man: The Ultimate Ninja has Colonel Vavara Novikova. Despite being the head of the KGB's Spetsburo (Assassination Bureau), she spends much of the series running around in a low-cut evening dress and high heels...neither of which reduces her lethality one iota.
Sin City has an organization for assassins called The Guild. There are three women who fit this mold: Mariah, Blue Eyes, and Maxine.
Mariah wears skin-tight outfits and seems to enjoy torture. She seduces a teenage boy in one part of the story and, in the climax, threatens to make the hero star in a Snuff Film.
Blue Eyes is a seductress that uses her sexuality to lure her targets in and kill them (she seems to be at least somewhat caring, though.)
Lady Luger, the ace saboteur of Adolf Hitler, in Femforce.
Ilsa: She Wolf of the SS, a 1975 exploitation film, and its sequels. An exception to the typical rules surrounding sexuality (as per the subject), she's much more inclined to use the men she gets her hands on in any fashion possible - and then castrate them if they don't measure up.
Inspired by real-life SS Aufseherinnen (female concentration camp guards and overseers) such as Irma Grese, who was incredibly sadistic with the prisoners of her camp, especially the women; and Ilse Koch, who infamously had gloves and lampshades made from the skin of the prisoners of her husband's concentration camp. The film conveniently ignores the fact that no woman was ever the commandant of a Nazi prison camp.
Colonel Doctor Irina Spalko in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, "Stalin's favourite scientist". And man, being a Dirty Communist, she's a fox (Cate Blanchett, ladies and gentlemen). She tends to the Klebb area of things, although her outfit suggests one could call her Irina Spanko. Indy plays the "guess the accent" game and correctly pins it down to Eastern Ukraine.
Ni Chang from The Forbidden Kingdom has this down pat, complete with white hair (hellooooo The Bride with White Hair!) and a bullwhip, albeit, she's a pre-Qing Chinese version.
Baroness Kessler from The Ninth Gate is the Klebb style to a T, even being an actual Baroness. Nicely subverted from the usual, however, in that the crabby, old, wheelchair-bound, Satanic lesbian is actually one of the most sympathetic and helpful characters in the film.
The Man Who Knew Too Little plays with this trope. Upon learning from his captors that he's going to be interrogated by Dr. Ludmilla Kropotkin, Wallace Ritchie replies, "The evil torturer lady? Bring her on!" After escaping, Wallace runs into a septuagenarian dominatrix (don't ask) and assumes that she is Dr. Kropotkin. By contrast, the real Dr. Kropotkin looks like a schoolteacher—though she certainly has the personality of a true Baroness.
Faora from Man of Steel. Another mixture of the types, she's got the looks of the Sexpot Baroness, but the personality of a Rosa Klebb-type Baroness.
In Matilda, the Big Bad is a sadistically evil, authoritarian, and athletic monster of a headmistress named Trunchbull. The work may hint that she's a Psycho Lesbian too.
Viper from The Wolverine, even fitting the old Communist stereotype as the actress is Russian.
Miss Hardcastle (aka "the Fairy") from That Hideous Strength. She's the head of the NICE's police force and a Sadist. That's right, an evil policewoman who gets excited by burning female suspects with cigars, in a book by C.S. Lewis.
The Contessa Maria Sinistre - or just the Contessa - is this in H.I.V.E. She has a habit of changing sides - she starts off as a teacher at H.I.V.E., then she betrays Nero to Cypher, who promised her a continent, is recruited by Number One/Overlord to run H.I.V.E. while Nero is imprisoned, then does a Heel-Face Turn and a Heroic Sacrifice to stop the Reapers from killing everyone - including the children - in H.I.V.E. She ends up remembered as a hero, which is unusual for a villain.
Colonel Irena Sedova, a.k.a. 'Bubushka', from the Young Bond novels Double or Die and By Royal Command is a sterling example of the Rosa Klebb variety.
Taylor from Animorphs, who would be perfectly at home in a Bond movie.
Bellatrix Lestrange is the magicalversion of this. She's mostly the Rosa Klebb type, although she's very much not a lesbian and is strongly hinted to have an unappreciated crush on Voldemort. The attractiveness part is played with. She was very beautiful during the Back Story, but she's gaunt with a skull-like face in the present day due to her years in Azkaban. This didn't happen inthe movies, where she's played by Helena Bonham-Carter (though she does have rotting teeth in the films, at least). Fanfiction, naturally, frequently makes her more like the sexpot type.
Dolores Umbridge would count as a Rosa Klebb (she's got the sadism, the apparent asexuality, and the utter lack of sex appeal), but she tries to cover it up under a sugary sweet, kindergarten-teacher-esque veneer.
Doctrine of Labyrinths's Kolkhis. She buys small children, trains them as thieves and assassins, and, when they hit puberty, sometimes starts having sex with them— and doesn't take no for an answer. Then there's that little matter of her alliance with an Evil Sorcerer. Pretty enough (despite being significantly older than the protagonist) to qualify as the Sexpot, but definitely with the attitude of a Rosa Klebb.
Live Action TV
Darla of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the classy, sadistic, and ruthless dragon to the Master. This actually applies better in Angel, but only for a short time in season 2 and during flashbacks.
For a given definition of "class", perhaps. She looks and acts as though she rents by the hour.
Well, she was a late-1500s woman-of-the-town who was dying of a vicious STD before the Master turned her. She seemed to begin to revert to this whenever her will wasn't being enslaved to the sheer monstrousness of her would-be childe.
Admiral Cain from Battlestar Galactica (Reimagined) is not of German or Eastern European descent, but she does manage to be both types of Baroness at the same time. She's attractive, but has no romantic desires and her ruthlessness repulses Adama.
Servalan, the Big Bad in Blake's 7, is a military commander, and swans about in luxurious frocks and is about as ruthless and as sexy as you can get.
Diana from V is the Sexpot variety. She's beautiful and sadistic, although those who know that she's an evil reptile underneath her human skin are understandably disgusted. She proves herself more extreme than any of her comrades and ends up as the primary villain.
Restac, the Silurian military commander from "The Hungry Earth" and "Cold Blood", shows signs of being a Sexpot Baronness (beautiful, fiercely militaristic, etc.) but with a Rosa-Klebb-like lack of sexual tension, since she is a different species from the hero and very bigoted.
Madame Kovarian, the Big Bad of the sixth series in the revival show, is a Rosa Klebb, especially considering her predatory behavior toward Amy.
Tasha Lem from "The Time of the Doctor" could qualify as a Sexpot, considering that she's a domineering and sensual woman who flirts with the Doctor and demands that he appear before her naked. Unusually, she's one of the good guys, but she's not an entirely trustworthy ally and at one point ends up fighting the Doctor when she disagrees with him.
Isabella Gisbourne from Robin Hood. Her Character Arc took her from one type of Baroness to the other: Sexpot to Rosa Klebb.
Commandant Grayza from Farscape has a gland implanted in her body that secretes a substance that lets her "influence" males.
Niem, Scorpius's personal Torture Technician in his first couple of appearances, also fit the bill.
Irene Adler from Sherlock is a straight-up sexpot. She's literally a dominatrix, and also, she falls in love with Sherlock.
GLOW's Colonel Ninotchka. For bonus points, by GLOW standards she was actually pretty good in the ring too.
In The Navy Lark, a played for laughs version appears in the form of Natasha Snogitoff, a spy for the Commieland nation of Forbodia.
Unknown Armies has a few canon NPCs that fit this mold, mostly of the Rosa Klebb variety. Notable examples include Dr. Kaiyo Atsui, a psychiatrist working for the New Inquisition who likes using rather controversial experimental treatments, and Angela Forsythe, one of the leaders of the Sleepers, who has used magical brainwashing to turn her bodyguard into an utterly devoted slave.
In Werewolf: The Apocalypse, female Shadow Lords tend to have this vibe, which flavor depends on what the player is aiming for.
The Black Spiral Dancer signature character Zhyzhak also carries certain elements of this mixed with the general batshit that is the Black Spiral Dancers — she's attractive (if bedraggled), wears bondage gear (while seemingly unaware of the sexual overtones), will kill with no provocation, and seems to be "running hot" all the time (to the point that she has a derangement that leaves her unintentionally shrieking most of the time).
Popular NPC Laori Vaus can be seen as a subversion. She's Lawful Evil, she can fight, she runs around in form-fitting armor, and, as a high-ranking cleric of the Hellraiseresque god of pain, she even provides a touch of sadomasochistic subtext - but she's Affably Evil and really rather cheery.
The Dragon Age expansion Dragon Age: Origins – Awakening has...well, The Baroness. She's one of the very few characters in the game whose name is never mentioned, even though she is one of the bosses.
Knight Commander Meredith from Dragon Age II is very much of the Rosa Klebb variety, especially after the events during the game cause her to place Kirkwall under military rule. She appears 50-something, and while she is fairly attractive she has no hint of any sort of sexuality, sadistic or otherwise.
The SiN series features Vamp / Baroness combo Elexis Sinclaire.
Countess Crey (usually just "The Countess"), in City of Heroes. Unusual in that she manages to be the Baroness and a Villain with Good Publicity at the same time; in fact, she's the only one who ever manages to damage your heroic reputation, though, in practice, this doesn't affect anything much outside of its own arc.
Ferham from Mega Man X: Command Mission fits the sexpot example perfectly, showing a sadistic loyalty to her commander, using a whip, walking on stiletto high-heels, and having a design of a harpy. She even has an attack that hurts all of the characters and herself, making her comment, "That felt good!"
Morinth is a combination of the two archetypes. She's physically attractive, has a lust for power and dominance, and initially gives off a Dating Catwoman vibe. Despite that, personality-wise, she's a Rosa Klebb, who is ultimately immune to Shepard's charm and has no sympathy or regret for any of her actions.
Killian Qatar from Tiberium Wars is hinted to be this. She definitely shows the conviction to be one. She is also a surprisingly sympathetic example of this trope.
Meg from Rule of Rose fulfills surprisingly many requirements for this trope, probably by accident: her fervent loyalty to the authority of the Aristocrats, which is embodied by her pseudo-romantic attraction to Diana, and her status as the group's Torture Technician. She even has the round glasses and the title! The main distinction from the standard examples of thus trope is that she isn't even in her teens yet.
Bayonetta is an inversion to this. She does have some Rosa Klebb attitude.
Amnesia: The Dark Descent has Justine Florbelle, a wealthy aristocrat who was put through a series of psychological experiments by her father from an early age (and eventually killed him) before setting up her own torture experiments on her three suitors, which involved mutilating and imprisoning them. The game opens with a young woman waking up in one of her "experiments" and having to work through a series of torturous tests, and at the very end of the game the player turns out to be Justine herself, having given herself amnesia as yet another test. For bonus points she's named after the title character of a novel by the Marquis de Sade himself.
Franziska von Karma from the Ace Attorney series is usually like this, although she becomes more sympathetic over the course of the series.
Arguably, the same could be said for mob princess Viola Cadaverini.
Rider from Fate/stay night has aspects of this, despite the fact that she's Greek, not Eastern European. She actually has more disdain for her Master than her enemies and, more than once, considers just offing him, despite the consequences to herself.
Umineko no Naku Koro ni's Beatrice fits most of the personality aspects of the sexpot to a T, with an emphasis on the sadism.
Vriska Serket from Homestuck is only thirteen, but she's established as a domineering sadist from the very start: killing countless trolls, crippling her Love Interest while mocking his dream to fly, and blinding her (former) partner, and generally being an all-around creeptastic Manipulative Bitch. This is all before her first appearance. She's even descended (well, cloned, sort of) from the Marquise, another noblewoman title. She's almost invincible with her luck powers and mind manipulation, even before achieving God Tier— introduction to John and later Heel Face Door Slam aside, after which she started becoming less of a backstabbingAttention WhoringJerkass and more of a particularly hardcoreAnti-Hero.
And God help you if you harm any of the children she is charged with caring for.
Agatha's mother, Lucrezia Mongfish, fits this trope to a T, especially since she is the "Other". She is also known to revel in her dark side.
Funny that those two characters were mentioned so close together...it's quite likely that they share quite a few genes, if not nearly all of them.
The origin of Von Pinn is revealed at last. It turns out to be impossible. On the other hand, she, as we know her, is a product of Lucrezia's experiments.
Butterfly of Collar 6 is called "The Sadist from Hell" and is, so far, the closest thing the strip has to a Big Bad, and in a society where consensual BDSM is the norm, she's seen as sadistic and evil for not getting the consent of her partners and using Mind Rape on them. To top it off, she's also a literal baroness from Eastern Italy.
Meiko in Strange Aeons is overtly this, possibly to a parodic level. A chain-smoking, whip-wielding dominatrix type in service to the Nazi Big Bad.
In The Gamers Alliance, the half-elven mage Shyralis holds King Marcus under a tight leash, going so far as to mindrape him if he tries to break free from her control. Vaetris also shows a rather sinister and kinky side when she is revealed as the demonic Duchess of the Eastern Horde.
Lady Hydra of the Whateley Universe, who fits this trope so tightly it turns out that, in-universe, she is the inspiration for the Baroness and didn't take revenge for such a slight because she had already retired.
5. While seduction has its place in my vast arsenal, I realize that "evil" and "skanky" are not mutually inclusive. Royal Dressmakers unable to realize this fact will be flayed alive in the presence of their replacements.
10. Sex is certainly a weapon at my disposal, but then so is a blaster. If it is not clear which weapon I should be using, I will opt for the blaster.
Madame Rouge from Teen Titans. She's not ugly, but not supermodel pretty, has the sexpot body type more or less...and is a dangerous, brutal fighter who takes great pleasure in pounding Titans and their allies into the dirt. She will not be falling prey to any hero's charms, thank you very much. Oh, and she has a Russian accent. She'd get along just fine with Viper and the original Baroness.
Rozalia Zemlachka, Russian Civil WarCommissar, was this before it was cool. Definitely a Rosa Klebb before there was a Rosa Klebb. Presided over a bloody purge of ex-White officers and just unfortunate poor schmucks in Crimea in 1920, and played an important role in the better known Great Purge of 1937-39. Died peacefully in her bed of old age.