Thursday, September 17, 2009

Best of the Bads

Today while on break with Kelli, I found the newest addition to my playing card collection: Disney Villain Cards. This led me to start thinking about who would be my favorite Disney villain of all-time.

But first, let's eliminate some obvious also-rans:

1. Prince John (Robin Hood): Not entirely fair to the Prince, since Robin Hood is more about the team of good guys v the team of bad guys. However, I think Rule 1 of villains should be that they are a fair match for the hero, and since Prince John's defining characteristics are greed and incompetence, I just don't think he measures up. Worse, Prince John gets upstaged by his henchmen, Sir Hiss and the Sheriff of Nottingham, who is so impressive of a henchman that he gets his own henchmen.

2. MAN (Bambi): MAN is scary and destructive enough, and certainly causes enough evil, what with the burning down the forest and killing Bambi's mom and all. However, MAN is portrayed in the movie by a 3-note motif, and I think I'm looking for something a little more corporeal. Oddly enough, MAN didn't make the playing cards. I guess "dun dunnn DUNNNN ::cymbal crash::" was a little too hard to illustrate.

3. The Queen/Witch (Snow White): Probably the most evil of the evil villains, so evil in fact that she has no redeeming qualities whatsoever. I feel like the audience should kind of like the villain and sort of hope he prevails at some point. The Evil Queen hires an assassin to cut out Snow White's heart and bring it back in a golden box. It's just hard to get behind that sort of monster.

So, that leave me with this top five:

5. Cruella De Vil:

Pros: Has a catchy ditty written about her. Friends with the human protagonists. Has hilarious henchemn. Drives a cool car and smokes cigarettes with a holder. Dedicated.

Cons: Wants to kill puppies. You can never cheer for people who want to kill puppies, unless you are an Eagles fan.

4. Jafar:

Pros: Ridiculously powerful. High standing as Vizier, lots of wealth, magic powers, etc etc, making him perfect foil for penniless Aladdin. Friends with Gilbert Gottfried. Gets to say the awesome line, "There is a cave, boy; a cave of WONDERS!" The one villain to survive the movie.

Cons: Not particularly charismatic. No music number. Also, how did he lose? Really. He was already basically running the kingdom, because Lord knows that bumbling Sultan wasn't doing it. I mean, really, he can hypnotize people. Why didn't he just hypnotize Jasmine into marrying him? Or hypnotize whatever dolt she would eventually be forced to marry? Seems there were easier solutions to his problem than seeking out the cave of wonders.

3. Ursula the Sea Witch:

Pros: Runs a legitimate business that takes advantage of saps. Intelligent. Charming to the point of unctuousness. Also contains one of the creepier henchmen, Flotsam and Jetsam.

Cons: Do we ever know what she does with the poor unfortunate souls once she turns them into creepy green plant things? I'm a little bit confused by her tactics.

(Didn't know whether to include Pixar movies or not. If I would have, 3rd place would've been occupied by Syndrome from The Incredibles)

2. Scar:

Pros: Sarcastic, rude, funny, willing to break the rules. Would've been the best uncle ever if it weren't for the whole line-of-succession-based assassination plot.

Cons: Hopelessly overmatched and outnumbered once Simba returns. Plus, he's not...

1. Gaston:

Turns out this was an easy choice, because I decided that Gaston was pretty much right all the way through. Look at the facts:

A. Gaston is successful at everything. He is the best hunter, best fighter, best at everything. He's going to have an excellent life ahead of him. People don't usually get to be liked by EVERYONE by being a jerk. Just sayin.

B. Gaston could've had any woman in town, but he's a one woman man. Sure, he may be a bit superficial, but then, Belle is the heroine for a reason: she really IS the best girl in the village. Gaston merely recognizes this, and, being the best himself, he knows he deserves the best. Even Maurice recognizes this.

C. Belle chooses the Beast over him. I think it's important to remember that the Beast was turned into a Beast because he was the biggest asshole on the face of the planet. And let's not pretend like the Beast was all nice when they met either. She was willing to give the Beast a chance despite the whole imprisoning her forever, but wouldn't give Gaston a chance because he's a bit superficial and not interested in literature? Perhaps she's not so good at looking past the surface herself. In additon, the nice sweet gesture that made her see the good in him? He didn't let her get eaten by wolves. I wouldn't let my least favorite person on the planet get eaten by wolves if I could prevent it. It doesn't exactly take a big dose of empathy for one to stop wolf-maulings.

D. His one "malicious" act is trying to get Maurice committed. As a mental health professional, I'm thinking that if someone were building insane contraptions in their basement that has a tendency to blow up their house from time to time, and even when they work, still involve rickety parts swinging sharp axes at perilous speeds and flipping logs in random directions, they qualify as a danger to themselves and others. So he greased a few palms to get his point across. He at least isn't attempting to murder anyone.

E. As for trying to kill the Beast, I think the larger point that the Beast kidnapped two citizens of the town shouldn't be overlooked. Yes, he let her go, but only when he saw that her father was dying, and the Beast's behavior at best can be called "erratic." Gaston may have gone a bit overboard, but his basic stance, that the Beast could be considered a threat to the town, was valid.

F. And then there's this:

A song and dance number. In 6/8 time. Gaston is the best and the rest are the drips.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

One Song I Heard On the Radio and One Song I Heard on the Radio on a Videogame

Compare and contrast two songs with highly catchy music and lyrics of varying degrees of quality:

"Umbrella," Rihanna:

This song has the dumbest, worst conceived lyrics of any song, maybe ever. They aren't even Jim Steinman-esque Awesomely Bad. They are just terrible, and here is why: Every songwriter and lyricist has to resort to the occasional cliche, just like every songwriter eventually cribs from the Beatles. We understand this. We forgive it.

What we do not forgive is when you have insipid cliched lyric after insipid cliched lyric and don't even bother to make sure they rhyme. Or in some cases have anything to do with each other. Observe the amazing chorus of this masterpiece:

When the sun shines we'll shine together
Told you I'll be here forever
Said I'll always be your friend
Took an oath, I'ma stick it out to the end

Now that it's raining more than ever
Know that we'll still have each other
You can stand under my umbrella
You can stand under my umbrella.

I suppose technically "Forever" and "Ever" rhyme. And they did manage to get that highly imaginative "friend/end" combo in there, I'm assuming by accident. But ever/other/umbrella... that's just not even close. The whole thing is compounded by the fact that "umbrella" isn't exactly an easy word to sing, and therefore Rihanna has to add an extra syllable to it just to get it to fit. My favorite part, outside of the use of the word "I'ma", is that they flat out admit they've got nothing and just repeat the last line at the end.

The wonderful thing is it took 4 people to write this work of art. Good work, all.

"One Step Forward," Desert Rose Band:

You know that story about how Paul Simon wrote "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover" to teach his kid how to rhyme? I'm thinking Desert Rose Band used this song to teach their kids opposites, because I'll be damned if they don't include every set of antonyms in the Songwriting For Dummies handbook. I would like to make fun of it, but I can't, because they fit them all in such perfect rhythm and rhyme over a catchy melody. I mean, you have to respect their dedication to the theme of the song. "We're using opposites, and we will keep using opposites until we have three and a half minutes worth of music." And just to keep us guessing, they alternate the position of the good and the bad one. They even dug deep and pulled out this combo:

You were my fever and my cure
Made me doubt and you made me sure

I mean, if you had me list about 20 opposites off the top of my head, those two sets wouldn't come up, and they fit so easily together.

So, see, Rihanna's gigantic songwriting committee? You can be cliched and not suck. You just have to do it with a bit of panache. That's all.