Villain Names: So Evil, So Stylish
My nine-year-old daughter approached me with a naming dilemma. She'd come across an appealing name in a book, but it was attached to a not-so-appealing character. Really, quite an unappealing character. As in horrifying and diabolical. Did that make the name off-limits for nice characters in stories, or future children?
The name in question was Jadis, the White Witch of Narnia. I had to hand it to her, that's one snazzy name. And unlike, say, Voldemort, I think you could get away with using it. The fact that the character Jadis is most often referred to by other titles helps, but the biggest factor is the name itself. Jadis is a tidy style synthesis -- Jada+Paris -- that sounds almost classic. Voldemort, meanwhile, falls wide of the fashion mark. (Vlad the Impaler + rigor mortis?)
In fact, parents do use the name Jadis at the rate of about ten baby girls a year ian the U.S. Do those parents not know or care about the villainy, or could the wicked vibe actually be part of the name's appeal? The number of baby Jadises rose with the release of the Narnia movies, which does point to a positive White Witch influence. There's plenty of precedent for such diabolical name sources. "Demon spawn" from horror movies, for instance, are reliable trendsetters.
Perhaps evil just has a distinctive sound and style, a tantalizing edge of danger imbedded in the name.
Unlike real-world bad guys, fictional villians are named with the job in mind. You'll find some deliberately innocuous choices, like Annie Wilkes of Misery. You'll also find plenty that are gleefully over-the-top, like Mister Sinister or Snidely Whiplash. But in-between lies a realm of names with just enough wickedness to give a thrill, without laughs or revulsion.
Take a look at the list below. All are prominent fictional villains with unusual names that have shown up in recent years' baby name records. Do you think the names themselves show a villainous kick?
(Note: In some cases the name has additional cultural associations, but none that spurred a significant U.S. naming history. I've skipped morally ambiguous characters like Anakin and Elektra, and names like Lucifer and Loki that pop up in too many villainous contexts to pin down. And before you ask, yes, there are babies named Lucifer.)
Auric (Goldfinger/James Bond)
Ganon (Legend of Zelda)
Kraven (Spiderman, Underworld)
Thade (Planet of the Apes)
Thanos (Marvel Comics)
EDIT - Per a reader suggestion, let's add Bellatrix (Harry Potter). That one's a particularly rich brew of attraction and danger: the belle of the ball crossed with a dominatrix.