A wise man once said that a hero is only as good as the villain who opposes him. I am all but certain that wise man was captured, tortured to excruciating effect, then blasted into smithereens by one Tom Marvolo Riddle, otherwise known as Lord Voldemort, the most awesome bad guy of all time. For those of you who disagree, I pity you…the best way to incur the Dark Lord’s wrath (which usually involves his gigantic pet snake eating your head) is to fail to recognize his malevolent superiority. Therefore, before he inevitably catches word of your lack of faith (and he always does), allow me to lay bare precisely what makes him so exquisitely evil.
1. WHAT’S IN A NAME...THAT MUST NOT BE NAMED?!?!
Moby Dick. Goldfinger. Lex Luthor. All brilliantly delicious handles for some of film and literature’s greatest heavies. And how do the most powerful wizards and witches refer to the most feared member of their community? They don’t. “You-Know-Who” is the closest they’ll come to calling him anything, which is all the more surprising considering that He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named is actually dead for the first three books. That, dear Muggles, is respect. And how did he amass the incredible street cred to earn it?
2. HE TRIED TO KILL A BABY
Back when this all started, Voldemort’s big move for power—the coup to end all coups—relied on murdering a drooly-faced Harry Potter, who just sat there innocently in his diapers as a large, angry man zapped him point blank with an Avada Kedavra curse. For those of you unfamiliar, this is the magical equivalent of a flamethrower that also launches grenades filled with acid. Onto a baby. Now that’s just cold. Even The Terminator, a robot whose sole purpose was to wipe out all of humanity, understood that while pregnant moms and yippy adolescents are fair game, babies are just plain off limits. So why does Voldemort try to kill Harry, not just as an infant, but repeatedly? What could his nefarious motive possibly be?
3. STRAIGHT-UP HATE
Lots of bad guys are simply motivated by taking over the world. The really special ones have a penchant for ethnic cleansing along the way. While both of these pursuits hold mild interest for Voldemort, what really gets him up in the morning is his hatred for Harry Potter. What’s Voldemort’s nefariously convoluted plan in the first book? Kill Harry. The second book offers an even more devious plot: Kill Harry. By the time the fourth book rolls around, he’s not even trying to disguise it anymore. A villain whose sole purpose in life is to kill the hero keeps his life nice and simple. Sure, there’s a prophecy in there somewhere, but I’m pretty sure it’s just an excuse for Voldemort to concoct a series of elaborate Wile E. Coyote death traps for Harry, only causing him to become progressively more enraged as he’s forced to endure the “meep meeps” of unrelenting failure. And guess what the Dark Lord doesn’t care about?
4. SISSYPANTS REDEMPTION
Sympathizing with villains as young children and then paving the way for their corresponding heartwarming redemption is all the rage these days. Star Wars committed an entire trilogy to young Anakin Skywalker—all for the purpose of helping us understand why he turned to the dark side. Even the Smoke Monster on Lost was a little boy, once. A boy who loved his mommy very much. Do you know what Voldemort thought of his mommy? Me neither. Because he killed her. Technically in childbirth, but who’s to say he wasn’t planning it for the nine months it took him to gestate? Later, when we meet him as a child in an orphanage, Young Tom (it isn’t until later that he must not be named) has already developed an interest in making things burst into flames and leading his friends into dark caves from which they never return. There is no heartbreaking tragedy that led this boy down a path of evil: he was simply born that way. And “redemption”? Please. In order to be redeemed, one must first be capable of guilt…or at the very least, admit to wrongdoing. The only thing Voldemort admits to doing wrong is murdering Harry Potter…and it ain’t for lack of trying. Which brings us to the final and most critical point distinguishing You-Know-Who from his loathsome peers…
5. HE’S, LIKE, REALLY HARD TO KILL
Have you ever considered breaking your immortal soul into a bunch of different pieces and then hiding them so you can resurrect yourself, just on the off chance that you get murdered? No? Well one guess as to who has.
When the Dark Lord wasn’t devising new and inventive ways to kill Harry, the guy actually had the foresight to design his own comprehensive life insurance policy. And here’s a spoiler alert for those of you who haven’t read the books—even this plan ultimately fails. Y’know, because good always triumphs over evil and stuff.
But…it’s hard to tell with You-Know-Who.
So if I were you?
I wouldn’t be so quick to speak his name aloud.