I don’t have sob stories like all of you. I could sit her and complain how our mom liked Zuko more than me. But I don’t really care. My own mother thought I was a monster . . . She was right of course, but it still hurt.
-Azula, Avatar: The Last Airbender, Episode 3.05: “The Beach”
After quite the hiatus, Villainography continues! Today we’re speaking with ASV Game Editor Brian Pham, who’s going to tell us what qualities he believes makes a good villain, and why he’s superior to me in every way, resulting in Dad loving him more.
Philip: WHAT UP BRO?
Brian: hi . . .
Philip: WELCOME TO VILLAINOGRAPHY.
Philip: IT IS. *breathes heavily*
Philip: So, who is your favorite villain?
Brian: I choose . . . Azula! *slams table* From Avatar: The Last Airbender.
Philip: Not from Spongebob Squarepants?
Philip: Oh. I was hoping we could do this entire interview with Spongebob quotes. I don’t think it’s possible though.
Brian: THAT’S WHAT YOU THINK, BUT IT’S NOT OVER YET!
Philip: No! It’s not! In fact it’s just getting started. So, tell me about Azula.
Brian: She’s like the perfect villain, because of how ruthless she is. In the context of the show, she’s the first real threat. She can bend blue fire, and is the first to lightning-bend. She really raises the stakes.
Philip: So she’s basically the opposite of that loser Mako.
Brian: Yup. And her personality, her character, is a perfect foil to the main character Aang’s, because she controls her friends with fear, whereas Aang has friends because of his compassion.
Philip: M-hm, m-hm.
Brian: And she has the awesome villainous breakdown at the end, too.
Philip: Oh yeah, that was strong stuff.
Brian: Villainous Breakdown is a trope, by the way.
Philip: *exasperated sigh* Noted. Okay, so what would you say to a person who thought that Azula was just a washed-up goody two-shoes?
Brian: She’s not?
Philip: Fair enough. WHAT’S THAT?
Brian: Huh what?
Philip: Nothing, I got distracted. How would you defeat Azula?
Brian: Well, in the show, she was beaten by stripping away her friends and companions.
Brian: So I would befriend her friends and turn them against her. I’d defeat her with Friendship.
Philip: What would you say sets Azula apart from other villains?
Brian: Like I said, probably her ruthlessness. You don’t really know what she’s capable of doing. Kind of. Kind of you don’t know how far she’ll go. Or maybe, it’s that she’s willing to take that extra step that others wouldn’t. Like for example, in Season 1 of Avatar, the Big Bad was Admiral Zhao, and he was kind of a caricature. You never got the sense that he was going to do a huge amount of harm to the main characters. He was there as an antagonist, but he was just a playground bully.
Philip: Right, remember that this is a “kids” show on Nickelodeon.
Brian: Yeah. And then Azula comes a long and you can just kind of feel that this person means business, that she is a person to fear. She’s not typically a character you’d find in a “kids” show.
Philip: Do you think that a villain needs to be feared in order to be “classified” as a villain?
Brian: I don’t think it necessarily has to be fear. I think that’s how Azula did it. I think it’s anything that makes shit fall on the protagonist. And if you’re the cause of that, you’re a villain.
Philip: That’s hot.
Philip: Why are villains better than heroes!?
Brian: I see what you did there.
Brian: Villains make a story?
Philip: Ooh, and heroes don’t?
Brian: Well. Well no, actually. There was a quote . . . something, something, happy people . . . happy people are happy in the same way, or something like that. It was Tolstoy or something ####### <—(He starts to mumble here and I’m not sure what he’s saying). Basically, happy people are boring.
Philip: I have one more question. Is “heroship” and “villainnessness” a matter of perspective? Because from Azula’s point of view, her dad, the Firelord was a hero, and the Avatar was the villain.
Brian: I’m not sure that was her thought process, though. I think she just delighted in being the bad guy.
Philip: What a gal.
A bright flash of light
Nature roars her dominance
Reclaiming her child
-Brian Pham, about Azula, from Avatar: The Last Airbender
FEATURED IMAGE CREDIT: “Azula” by lychi, on Deviantart.