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before and after maleficent: five gothic villainesses

She’s been the evil overlord of them all since she first appeared on paper in the 1600s, and this May 28th the main bitch of fairy tales finally gets her own blockbuster. Maleficent stars Angelina Jolie as the wicked fairy godmother of Sleeping Beauty in a film that tells the story from the chillingly evil perspective of the world’s number one gothic villainess. No doubt Jolie’s dream role, Maleficent was the first character to capture the fierce and ferocious but ultimately fabulous depravity of the cunning, sinister and beautiful femmes fatales of our favourite fairy tales. Without Maleficent, there would be no ice queens, no divas and no anti-heroes as ravishing as the ones we’re about to list. In homage to Maleficent, we give you five gothic villainesses, who owe her their notoriety.

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Text Anders Christian Madsen
Image by ©Disney 2014 ©Disney Pixar 2014 ©Marvel 2014 ©Lucasfilm 2014

disney.co.uk/movies/maleficent

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  • morgan le fay

    Okay, so we didn’t want to be rude to Maleficent, but she wasn’t exactly the first evil mastermind to be female, dramatic and dressed in medieval Gareth Pugh. Since she first appeared in writing in 1150, Morgan le Fay – or Morgana, as she’s sometimes referred to – has been known as the heinous but beautiful fairy-cum-sorceress and half-sister of King Arthur, who, as legend will have it, terrorised her brother and eventually took him to Avalon, which was thought to be located near Sicily. As a result, she gave name to the Fata Morganas that appear around the Mediterranean. In Starz’ short-lived Camelot series, Eva Green gave the character all the evil she could master and looked pretty hot doing it. And why is Morgan le Fay an amazing gothic villainess? Because she was feared by all the knights of the Round Table.

  • the white witch

    There’s a lot to be said for an all-white goth, and C.S. Lewis must have looked to Charles Dickens’ Miss Havisham when he created his perfect White Witch. The iciest queen of them all, Narnia’s most feared felon wears feathered couture and commands the forces and spirits of nature. In other words: this bad bitch has minions, and we all know a villainess without a goon is like a vampire count without a leper. Real name Jadis, the tall and pale beauty claims to be the daughter of Eve (not the rapper), but the people of freezing Narnia will have it she’s really half-giant and half-Jinni, as in the Arab genie myth. Details aside, the White Witch casts endless winter over Narnia, cancels Christmas, and fills up her castle with all the helpless subjects she’s turned into stone. Which is probably the chicest evil power ever. Oh, and Tilda played her!

  • cruella de vil

    “I live for fur. I worship fur,” Glenn Close shrieks in the Cruella de Vil voice she immortalised. “After all, is there a woman in all this wretched world who doesn't?” PETA’s best friend and worst enemy all at once, Cruella embodied the fabulous fashion vixen before she ever existed. Created in 1956 by Dodie Smith, this material girl villainess with the name so cruel and devilish she never lets you forget it, is guilty of the worst crime of all: killing puppies. And Dalmatian ones at that. With her two-tone hair, formidable fur coats, and blood red opera gloves, Cruella is the Duchess of Windsor, Joan Crawford, and Anna Wintour wrapped into one spectacularly frightening and very gothic package with more than a little resemblance to a certain Miranda Priestly. Cruella is the kind of evil you can tell by its spots.

  • morticia addams

    There is no villainess in reality or fiction as immaculate as Morticia Addams. The high priestess of gothic evil, Morticia possesses all the qualities that turn men into mice: she’s beautiful, sophisticated, intelligent, deadly, witty, the perfect homemaker, and a passionate lover. Since she first appeared in Charles Addams’ cartoon strip for The New Yorker in the 1930s, Morticia has inspired fashion, humour, hairstyles, and possibly the entire goth movement that materialised some fifty years after her creation. While her long black dress, grand make-up, tight lace gowns, and medieval features are enough to make any good guy surrender, Morticia has no supernatural powers apart from her persuasive, seductive self. And that makes her gothic villainess number one. “I'm just like any modern woman trying to have it all. Loving husband, a family. It's just, I wish I had more time to seek out the dark forces and join their hellish crusade.” Swoon.

  • magica de spell

    A self-proclaimed descendant of Circe of Greek Mythology fame, Magica de Spell is Duckburg’s very own gothic villainess, although she’s way too fabulous to actually live there. Magica prefers the slopes of Mount Vesuvius where she’s constantly conjuring up new ways of getting her hands on Scrooge McDuck’s Number One Dime. Inspired by Morticia Addams, Carl Barks first created Magica de Spell in 1961 as a dangerously seductive counterpart to the evil but ugly sorceresses who already existed in his universe. With shiny, black hair and a bombshell body in a black dress, Magica is every bit the sinister siren – even if she’s still a duck. Like a villainous vampiress, she teleports, flies, and turns herself into animals, and she even has a magic wand to complete her cruel cool. Spellbound!