The successful re-boot of Dallas started me thinking about an aspect of soaps that I truly love – the ability to create a villain that fans actually can’t help but love, even though they are evil to the core. Let’s face it, Dallas was JR, and most of us old enough to remember the original series probably didn’t even recognize Dallas as a show until someone shot JR. That’s when we started caring about the TV show and about the character. No matter what JR did, no matter who he hurt or double crossed, we loved him…at the same time we hated him.
The soaps’ ability to make us love, and in many cases root for the villain is both frustrating and exhilarating. Soaps allow us to tap into our own dark side and let us live vicariously through the villain. After all, who wouldn’t want to be Alexis Colby Carrington walking into the board room announcing to her enemies that she had taken over the company and was now their boss!
The reason soap villains are so attractive to us can be traced directly to the actors and actresses who portray the villains. These stars are so good at what they do that we can’t stop watching and we don’t want them to go anywhere. The producers and casting directors of soaps know this and they eventually write up to the talent and give us some of the most memorable soap villains and soap memories in the history of the genre.
Soap villains tend to fall into two main categories, the main character who just can’t stop messing with people and the character created specifically for a storyline. The former is often redeemed while the latter is written to be pure evil and in most cases slated to last only until the storyline they are part of is over. It’s this last category that can cause trouble for soap producers though, because when excellent writers give amazing actors the right material, it’s lightning in a bottle and ratings gold. Then, it becomes hard to lose the actor and their character but even harder to redeem them!
Both of these villain types are characterized in the form of one of Young & The Restless’ current super couples and fan favorites Lauren and Michael Baldwin. Lauren first appeared as the spoiled, narcissistic, uncaring and vindictive daughter of the Fenmore family, owners of the top retail business in Genoa City. Although a talented singer, Lauren immediately set out to get her way both inside and outside the home. Her relentless bullying of overweight Tracy Abbott was often hard to watch and had fans hating Lauren. There was only one problem: Tracy Bregman. Bregman played the hell out of Lauren and you just couldn’t get enough of her. When writers decided to add depth to Lauren and we learned that she didn’t have the best childhood and that she wasn’t as perfect as she thought we started to see a different side of her. As with many soap villains, all it took was the love of a good man to change everything and for Lauren that was Paul Williams. By the time Lauren was stalked by a “fan” ending with her buried alive and losing Paul’s baby, the fans were on her side. When she finally told Paul what really happened in a tearful scene in her hospital room, we were all Lauren Fenmore fans.
Lauren’s current husband Michael Baldwin is a different story all together. Michael came to Genoa City as an accomplished attorney and quickly became attracted to Christine “Cricket” Romalotti. What started as attraction quickly turned to sexual harassment and then attempted murder. Although brought onto the show to help tell this important sexual harassment story and then exit, fans and producers just couldn’t let actor Christian LeBlanc go. But how do you rehabilitate a sexual predator and psycho bent on murder? Well, it’s a soap and a few years in jail, a heartfelt apology, a religious conversion and pleas for forgiveness can redeem any character even from the most evil of circumstances. Of course the discovery of a “good” twin can do it too and soaps have turned to that trick many times!
Every soap had many characters in both these categories. Who can forget Liza Colby and Kendall Kane on All My Children as hated but misunderstood villains, with Ray Gardner and Billy Clyde Tuggle evil incarnate but played to perfection by actors who just couldn’t disappear forever. There was the evil Roger Thorpe on “Guiding Light” played so magnificently by Michael Zaslow that the show had to bring him back as a less evil but still manipulative character. Often a soap will bring its villain back from the dead because the character and the actor was just too good to lose forever. That’s the case with Days of Our Lives’ Stefano DiMera played to perfection by Joseph Mascolo.
The list is endless and there is no way to list every soap villain here. By I know everyone who read this thought of their favorite soap villain. Tell us who you remember and which soap villains you love to hate! We would love to hear about the best soap villain moments you remember watching and memories of the best storylines that showcased your favorite villain!