Pam Webb

a writer's journey as a reader

Debatables: Scariest Villain

Hi all, and welcome to Debatables, a new semi-regular column where literary questions of sometimes deep,

and often frivolous nature, are mulled over, pursued with flair, and debated in a spirited manner with commentary from readers.

My cohost and regular debate opponent is the personable Mike Allegra. Well-known for regaling humorous

tales of family, as well as encounters with home repair, his other talents include editor, doodler, and writer.

His newest chapter book series is under the pseudonym of Roy L. Hinuss, aka Prince Not-So Charming.

Mike is really, really funny. Check out his blog and you’ll see why.

On to Debatables:

Here are the ground rules: Each Debater is allowed one brief argument (fewer than 300 words) on a
previously agreed-upon topic. These brief arguments will then be followed by a briefer rebuttal (fewer than

150 words).

Today’s Topic: Who is the scariest villain found in juvenile literature?

Cricket is nominating Cruella de Vil from Dodie Smith’s classic 101 Dalmatians.

Mike is suggesting: The cat from Dr. Seuss’s The Cat in the Hat (haven’t we been here before?)

Mike’s Argument

Many of the most evil villains in history have one trait in common: they pretend to serve the best interests
of others. Hitler was elected on a promise to lift Germany out of its economic crisis. Lenin and Stalin
promised to give more power to the Working Man. And The Cat in the Hat promised an innocent boy and
girl a little fun on a rainy day.

What the Germans, Russians, and Seuss Kids ended up with, however, was far different than what they
were promised.

Yet The Cat in the Hat is sneakier than the other villains mentioned above, for he has a talent for charm and
charisma—personality traits he uses to mask his villainy. The Cat is so skilled in this regard that many
readers fail to notice (or are happy to overlook) this felonious feline’s evil acts!

(Mike says Sally is being clotheslined–not exactly pictured)

“Oh, The Cat isn’t that bad,” some might say. “After all, he did clean up the house at the end of the book.
Shouldn’t that count for something?”

No, it shouldn’t. And here’s why.

In only 64 pages, that cat racks up a long list of terrible deeds. He breaks into a home, destroys property,
abuses an animal, abets assault and battery (via The Things), and endangers the welfare of two children.

He does it all with a smile on his face.

And he gets off scott free!

The Cat’s cleaning machine might erase the physical damage he created—but consider the psychological
damage. The Cat’s amoral actions would terrorize any child—and would almost certainly result in lasting—
perhaps lifelong—repercussions. His victims could end up suffering from recurring nightmares, anxiety,
trust issues, and clinical depression. That’s a lot of damage, and The Cat doesn’t have a machine to clean
that mess up, does he?

Cricket’s Argument

While I am amewsed Mike chose the Cat from Dr. Seuss’s The Cat in the Hat,villains are a serious business
and dog gone it, selecting the scariest villain in juvenile literature leads to the one and only Cruella de Vil.

Before Disney catapulted her to fame as the diabolical dalmatian-kidnapper, Cruella de Vil held her own
in Dodie Smith’s 1956 story of Pongo and his attempts to save his fifteen puppies from becoming Cruella’s
newest fur coat. Right there, the fact that this woman wants to slaughter puppies to wear as a fashion
statement should make you twitter up a rage post.

Villains are aptly named. Dodie gave her readers a big hint: Cruella de Vil? A spin off of “cruel devil.”
Although Disney’s portrayal of Cruella is transfixing, Dodie defined her pretty well in the novel. Here are
the facts:

  • eats everything with pepper and tastes like pepper (found out when nipped by a puppy)

  • drowned dozens of her Persian’s kittens

  • her family home is called Hell Hall

  • her fireplace fires are as hot as (see above)

  • her house interior is prone towards red

  • she drives a zebra-striped car with the loudest horn in England

  • expelled from school for drinking ink

  • her London flat was originally purchased by Count De Ville, an alias for Dracula

Here is an extra tidbit: ranked 39th on the AFI list of villains

A megalomaniacal tyrant with a streak of narcissism, she is a cruel devil of a woman who even
contemplated skinning the kidnapped puppies alive. Double yikes! This scary villain has found her way
into all sorts of popular culture, from song lyrics to movie lines to Lady Gaga’s choice costume. Puppy
stealer, kitten drowner, pepper eater, and related to Dracula–this is a way scary villain. Plus she is a terrible
driver. Lock up your puppies and stay off the roads if she is about.

Look at this illustration from the novel. Yikes!  

Check out this song:

Mike’s Rebuttal

Cruella is evil. Very much so. But she wears her evil like a badge of honor, advertising it to everyone. Her
very existence is a harsh warning to stay away.

Now, if I may quote Kaiser Sose, “The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he
didn’t exist.”

The Cat is the devil we didn’t know existed. He can hide his evil behind false innocence and a perceived
eagerness to please. This is the M.O. of the most effective predators: the fellow in the park “looking for his
lost dog,” or the friendly stranger who kindly offers “to give you a lift home.”  

The Cat is cut from a similar cloth. Once he wins over his audience with a smile and a tip of his hat, he
becomes an agent of chaos. And, like The Joker from The Dark Knight, The Cat delights in the horror he

Cricket’s Rebuttal

Mike implies Cruella wants people to stay away from her and that she advertises her evil like a
well-deserved medal. This assumption would mean she cares about what people think of her. Truthfully?
She could care l
ess what people think of her. Her actions indicate she doesn’t care about anybody except
herself. All the havoc she creates from personal insults to animal abuse is because she is self-centered with
a hateful regard towards others. Her devilish behavior doesn’t require an audience like Seuss’s Cat.
Cruella’s evil deeds are not beguiling antics that are mischievous or even ambiguous in their intent.
Cruella is all about villainous, malodorous mayhem. She doesn’t care who she hurts and doesn’t try to be
charming—she is and will always be Cruella, Cruella de Vil.
If she doesn’t scare you then no evil thing will.

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81 thoughts on “Debatables: Scariest Villain

  1. I can see that Mike has been permanently damaged by a cat sometime during his childhood. And Cruella? Well, she might be evil, but she never scared me. So, neither of these arguments has convinced me. Now—the Wicked Witch of the West and those flying monkeys? Terrifying. Still terrifying….

  2. Just to clarify, Cricket. I’m not suggesting that Cruella cares what people think of her. What I meant is that Cruella is such a caricature of evil that it should come as no surprise when she’s does something evil. The Cat’s evil, on the other hand, catches you by surprise.

  3. Puppy killer. No argument.

  4. I think a distinction needs to be made here, between scariest villain and most evil villain.

    The Cat in the Hat may be EVIL, but he does not SCARE his audience, because (as Mike astutely pointed out), he hides the true nature of what he does behind a smile. This handicaps his ability to actually be frightening, at the same time as it exponentially increases his ability to create chaos.

    Cruella de Vil, on the other hand, both sets out to scare her audience AND succeeds in the attempt.

    (Now, as far as ‘evil’ goes, I would argue there’s a difference in both kind & degree between the Cat’s motives and Cruella’s motives. The Cat aims for chaos . . . and he hurts people along the way, but kills no one. Whereas Cruella explicitly aims to kill, and carries out at least part of that goal. [the Persian kittens])

  5. Are we doing The Cat again? 😀

    I feel inexperienced to vote, having not had the pleasure to read the 101 Dalmations book. Aside from that, Cruella is a clear-cut winner. She’s smoking, murdering animals, and ignoring road laws. She’s scary enough to give cats and puppies nightmares.

    Really, this is no contest. I’d even go as far as saying I think CricketMuse cheated a bit and might have picked less of a shoe-in for villain.

    • Mike chose the cat—unbelievable right? As it’s been pointed out the Flying Monkeys are probably scarier than Cruella; however, they’re technically henchmen of a villain. Yeah, the WWW would have been the totally obvious choice. Thanks for the vote. Cruella’s reputation does precede her.

      • She’s a great villain.

        I don’t even think I’d go with The Wicked Witch as a better choice, though. I like how you’ve picked unusual characters to consider for the contests in the past (like, the audacious suggestion of Winnie the Pooh as tribute).

        So, as Mike picked The Cat perhaps you could have chosen the mouse of If You Give a Mouse a Cookie…. (just a random suggestion).

      • The Mouse as villain? *gasp* Mice are heroes. Well, except for Rattigan. Ooh, now that could have been a choice. Yet, Cruella is far more interesting.

      • Had I thought of it, I woulda gone with flying monkeys. I hate monkeys sooo much! They’ll rip yer face off as soon as look at’cha.

  6. Pingback: Debatables: The Most Villainous Villain! | heylookawriterfellow

  7. Seriously??? Mike… haven’t we had this conversation before? It is absolutely Cruella HANDS DOWN! There is nothing evil about the Cat in the Hat in my opinion. He provided some much needed fun on an otherwise boring, rainy day. Since I am having a boring, rainy Monday, I would welcome some Cat in the Hat fun!! LOL! Sorry… Cricket has my vote again! 😉

  8. Dr. Suess’s cat in the Hat??? aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahahahahhahahaha *cough cough* aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahahhahaha!!!

    No way!! And Cruella? no either. Now I have to agree with the flying monkey lady up above and add to that The Abominable Snowman from Rudolph’s story. Scared the beJEEBIES outta me!!

  9. Apparently the post text is not behaving. Maybe Mike’s Seuss Things are trying to sabotage my brilliantly convincing argument.

  10. Personally I find the Cat In The Hat more obnoxious than scary. Sort of like most men. (Sorry, I digress). Cruella on the other hand, pure evil. Evil scares me 100% of the time.

  11. The MOST villainous villain? Voldermort. Utterly irredeemable, right from the first moment we meet him when Harry is 11

  12. Good comments. Although Cruella is outwardly evil, the Cat is a schemer and evil in a psychological way — fare more dangerous to me. Good psychological point, Mike. Always had a hard time with that book. I will have to go with the Cat.

  13. Oh yeah? Hmm, what will your cat choice be, I wonder.

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