September 06, 2012 | Brandon Ballard
Brandon’s the kind of guy who’ll pause the movie every five minutes to give you further insight into whatever comic book/fantasy novel/Grecian myth you’re watching — he’s a lifetime ambassador of all things nerdy and awesome. He predicts literary matchups for PostScript. This month: Joffrey from Game of Thrones takes on Nurse Ratched from One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest.
Admit it. Sometimes you like to root for the bad guy. Maybe because they make us laugh (The Joker) or we can’t help but admire their intellect (Hans Landa), or perhaps we just find them downright adorable (Stay Puft Marshmallow Man). Occasionally, we end up liking the bad guy more than the hero! (Raise your hand if you think Luke is cooler than Darth Vader … yeah, didn’t think so.)
But there is one type of villain that we all loathe. Our hatred for them burns so hot that we find ourselves flipping off the screen or yelling expletives at the pages of our book. These jerkwads are usually characterized as nearly all-powerful beings that thrive on the misery of others. Cold and uncaring, they move through the story with no remorse for the pain they are causing or the lives they are ruining. We turn each page, hoping this will finally be the chapter where the hero blows up them up or feeds them to fire ants or whatever, but they just continue to sit in their seats of power with snotty little smirks on their faces, secure in their almighty doucheness. There are plenty of colorful titles we could use to describe one of these assholes (like that one), but let’s just settle for “Evil Tyrant.”
- His ruthless bodyguard is called “Dog” for a reason. Think Cerberus, not the Poky Little Puppy.
- He’s typical spoiled brat royalty. Gets whatever he wants from whomever he wants however he wants.
- Utterly sadistic and completely devoid of compassion (remember, these are “evil” strengths).
- Two words: Mama’s. Boy.
- His family tree doesn’t branch quiet as much as it should.
- Let’s face it. He’s a major character in A Song of Ice and Fire. Things never go well for them for very long.
Nurse Ratched Strengths
- She works in a psychiatric ward during the 50’s, which means she can do whatever horrific thing she feels like doing to her patients and call it “treatment.”
- For her, finding and exposing her patients’ weaknesses is like opening Christmas presents.
- Her ward runs like a well-oiled machine powered by hatred and misery with her at the controls.
Nurse Ratched Weakness
- Doesn’t know what to do with a man who she can neither scare nor humiliate
- All it takes is one wardrobe malfunction to rob her of all control.
- McMurphy’s big ole hands.
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey gives us one of the coldest evil tyrants in all of literature. “Big Nurse” Ratched wields her power over the sad and pathetic patients of her ward with only one goal: control. She doesn’t care if the men gain any kind of rehabilitation or sense of peace. She just wants them under her thumb. She uses all the tools at her disposal to ensure her complete domination over their spirits. Control over the men’s diet, privileges, and medication is one way she maintains this position. She also has full authority to use violence, whether it be at the hands of her three hate-filled orderlies or electroshock “therapy.” Her specialty, though, is humiliation. The real reason she can keep all these men (many of whom are voluntary patients) in her grip is by constantly breaking them down and reminding them of all their weakness and faults to the point that they would rather submit to her than have to face what she has taught them is the truth about themselves. Or, as McMurphy puts it, “Hooowee, I’ve seen some bitches in my time, but she takes the cake.”
Remember that rich spoiled brat at your high school? The one who got wasted and wrapped his brand new Jeep around a telephone pole, only to have his parents buy him a brand new Hummer? And how he pantsed the kid with Down’s Syndrome in the middle of the cafeteria, but never got in trouble because his dad is the softball coach and his mom is on the city council? Now picture that same piece of crap with a crown on his head and an executioner by his side and you’ve got Joffrey Baratheon from George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire.
This little weasel is pompous immorality in a can. When dealing with his subjects of his kingdom, pain is funny and suffering is entertainment. Usually, his choice on whether or not to sentence someone to death depends on how bored he is. No one this vile should be have so much power, but, since he’s royalty, there are thugs in armor and schemers in robes that ensure his position is concrete. Martin really does an excellent job in making us hate Joffrey. At no point in the series do we feel an ounce of respect or admiration for him. Yeah, he had a rough upbringing, but there’s no earth-shattering revelation of “a direwolf ate my hamster when I was a baby and that’s why I’m so messed up” that makes us feel sorry for him. He’s an evil little shit. Case closed.
So, who’s the worst? Which is the evilest tyrant? Would you rather be stuck in Nurse Ratched’s mental ward or in King’s Landing under Joffrey’s rule? It’s kind of close, but I’m going to give Joffrey the trophy for all-time biggest douchebag. While Nurse Ratched is the coldest witch to put on a white uniform, she actually had to earn her position of power. Being a woman (especially in the fifties), she most likely had to overcome a lot of obstacles to get to a point where she would be given complete control over the staff and patients of the ward. She’s definitely a tyrant, but she earned it.
Joffrey didn’t earn squat. He was just born into power and decided to be a jerk about it. And that is perhaps the thing that makes us hate him so much. We are shown numerous times that he’s a coward. He never fights his own battles and rarely gets his hands dirty. He just barks orders and his henchmen carry out his wishes. He’s a despicable human being and if he weren’t sitting on the Iron Throne, his head would be on a spike three sentences into the first book of the series. So the next time your boss yells at you, or the head of your “neighborhood association” complains about your lawn, or someone in the state government makes a completely idiotic decision about just about anything, just be glad you’re not Billy Bibbit or Sansa Stark. (Who? Go read the books, suckers!)
If you love to hate evil tyrants, check out Napoleon from George Orwell’s Animal Farm, The Governor from Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead comics, or Professor Umbridge from J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series.
Brandon Ballard loves his job (teaching), his family (Brooke, Lily and Sophie), and Root Beer Tuesdays. He lives and writes in Birmingham, Alabama.