When watching movies or reading books, most villains we come across are men. It is quite unlikely that the main villain could be a woman. Mostly men are not only the villain, but the hero as well. It is an eternal battle: The good guy defeating the bad guy, trying to save the woman he loves. We are not able to picture it the other way around. A woman, fighting a male hero? This picture appeals to us as very unusual. But why is that so? Why do we always find the bad and the good character to be a man?
The fact that women are not particularly seen as evil is a matter of evolution. Men have always been regarded as the strong gender in contrast to women, which were seen as the weaker one. Back in times before Christ and before an established society men were responsible for hunting and protecting their family members from wild animals, while women took care of their children. It is a hierarchy that did not change much until today. When we take a look at the stereotype of a woman as the loving, forgiving mother and caring housewife, we recognize an image that is still fixed in our community. There are indeed men who stay at home and take care of the offspring while their women go to work, but has this change of rolls not yet reached literature and is not as approved in our society as the home staying mother and the working father. Imagine a female villain trying to kill the female hero that wants to protect her man; that is a very unlikely picture. The man would be seen as weak, an image that is not accepted by society, by film industry, by writers and by men. And how would we feel, if we had to protect our boyfriends and husbands, while wandering around the streets at night. Don’t we feel more comfortable with a man by our side, knowing that no one can harm is as long as he is near us? All in all, are men still seen as the strong gender: Men are the persons in charge, the CEO’s at companies; they usually earn more money, get promoted more often and are physically in better conditions. I am not arguing that this is fair; women staring the happy housewives in commercials, whose aim it is to offer her family the best living conditions by using the best washing powder; but it is a constructed image that is still promoted and accepted by our society. From an early age our mother is the person that symbolizes love and care, while our father, who goes to work and is handy with crafts, symbolizes strength. That does not mean that I see my mother as weak, but we grew up, without knowing that the stereotype of the loving and caring mother is stuck in our head. Living in a world full of dangerous threats like war, terrorism, famine and existential fears, it is good to know that we can always return to our mother’s homes. Our mother balances the evil in this world. We cherish our mother and unconsciously women in general, as the good ones, which protect us from the demons. Further, did Luther’s reformation force the mother to care for her family and the father to be the exclusive representative of the order. Germany became the country of authoritarian fathers. Women were required to display the gracious and powerless mother. Throughout this, mothers created an ideal and warm world for their children, which differed from the cold world their fathers exposed. (Brückner, 122.)
Concerning the Harry Potter series, Bellatrix Lestrange is the best example of the female villain. But what exactly makes Bellatrix Lestrange that evil? She is without a doubt the most dangerous female character of the Harry Potter series. Torturing Neville’s parents Frank and Alice Longbottom is just one of the evil deeds she takes credit for, but it is probably her most significant crime. Her brutality and insanity let her appear to be more dangerous than the Harry Potter male villain: Lord Voldemort. Beside her cruel, inhuman and crazy character we need to analyze why she is more threatening than he is. She devoted her life completely to Voldemort and is his most powerful ally, only doing what she is told to do. Her name already marks something threatening about her character as the “name Lestrange bears association with the words ‘strange’ and ‘enstranged’ and clearly marks Bellatrix out as Other. At the same time her first name is Latin and translates ‘female warrior’ “ (Flotmann, 250.). A further threatening feature about Bellatrix is that she “does not display the motherly feelings commonly associated with women” (Flotmann, 251.) which becomes clear as she would not spare innocent children; she tortured Hermione and tried to kill Ginny during the final battle of Hogwarts. Furthermore, did she kill her own cousin Sirius Black (Rowling. 2003. 710-711.). It does not matter that they both had different opinions and that they were not close – they were part of one family, they were related. She does not even hesitate in murdering her own family members. This act shows that Bellatrix does not know any boundaries, emphasizes her brutality and shows how unpredictable she is. She endured a long time in Azkaban, survived and escaped from it, never lost faith in Voldemort and never gets tired of stressing how she devoted her life to him; especially in comparison to other Death Eaters:
“ ‘He’d have me!’ said Bellatrix passionately. ‘I, who spent many years in Azkaban for him!’ […] ‘While I endured the Dementors, you [Snape] remained at Hogwarts, comfortably playing Dumbledore’s pet!’ “ (Rowling. 2005. 32.)
Bellatrix is vulnerable. In comparison to Voldemort who made himself immortal through his horcruxes, is she indeed able to die. She knows that and still does she not refuse giving his life for him. This subjugation is more a dependence. Bellatrix is not able to live without Voldemort, she admires him. She believes in everything he does without daring to question any of his actions. She acts like his slave; she kills people in his name and she has fun in doing it. Bellatrix is a quite passionate character concerning murdering, destroying and torturing. She is not even respected by Voldemort: He and the other Death Eaters mocked her and the Malfoys for their cousin Nymphadora Tonks being married to the werewolf Remus Lupin. (Linzer, 148.) Still she devoted her life to him, not caring that she is not valued and appreciated. Then why does Voldemort still want her in his force? Her family members are regarded as betrayers; but she does not doubt his actions, she does not question his orders and she is brutal - An aspect Voldemort appreciates a lot. Bellatrix admires him in such an obvious way that this is the only time one is able to see her feminine side. Even after Draco Malfoy was chosen to kill Dumbledore, and Narcissa is quite worried about her son, Bellatrix does not show any hint of emotion and even told her sister to be proud and that “if [she] had sons, [she] would be glad to give them up to the service of the Dark Lord!” (Rowling. 2005. 39.). Even though she does not have children; the fact that she would willingly give her hypothetical children to Voldemort, not worried that they could get killed by trying performing his orders, shows how less humanity and femininity she owns. Her imaginary children do not mean as much to her as Lord Voldemort. One could argue that she does not need to worry about hypothetical children, as she does not have any, but she does not even care about her nephew, who could get harmed or even worse, die in the attempt of killing Dumbledore. All that counts for Bellatrix is the Dark Lord, what he wants and what he believes in. That her family is affected by it or her own life is on the line, does not matter at all. She would probably be proud to die for her master. If it were not for Bellatrix’s devotion for Voldemort, she would not have any sign of emotion or empathy at all.
As few female villains we can find in literature and in movies, even in the Third Reich the number of active female participants is quite low. It counts up to ten percent. Around ten percent of the employees at the KZ’s were women (Schwarz, 221.). Most of them were employed as doctors or nurses. Only a few were salaried as wardresses. One of the well-known doctors was Dr. Herta Oberheuser; she was the only female doctor who has been called in front of a court and condemned for crime against humanity. In 1940 she applied voluntarily to be a doctor in the Kz Ravensbrück. According to Oberheuser it was her only chance to practice surgery (Schwarz, 211.). She chose randomly patients that got operated. Those prisoners were not suffering from anything; they were used by Oberheuser so she could practice experiments on human beings. After the surgery did she neglect every patient on purpose so that they would die from infections (Schwarz, 211.). Nurses in the KZ Ravensbrück were actively involved in enforced sterilization at young Romani girls. Erna Boehrer, one of these nurses, later at court described the circumstances at the KZ’s hospital: many patients died from hunger, the smell was so unbearable that one was not able to breathe and the doctors and nurses left their patients up to four days all by themselves without checking on them; most of them died within this period (Schwarz, 213.). A further method of killing was the poisoning of patients.