Segments in this Video

Introduction: Villains and Monsters (02:59)


“Gone Girl” author Gillian Flynn recalls being fascinated by the dark side as a child. Literary critic Parul Sehgal further elaborates on the appeal of evil. Series host Meredith Vieira explains that America cannot get enough of novels with memorable villains and monsters.

Breaking Bad Books (08:22)

Sehgal, teacher Shanna Peeples, author Margee Kerr and others discuss the appeal of bad guys. Herman Melville’s “Moby Dick” and Oscar Wilde’s “The Picture of Dorian Gray” are about the corrupting power of obsession. Captain Ahab is driven by revenge, and Wilde’s hero is willing to kill to preserve his looks.

Thriller Killers (05:44)

Fifteen of the novels on the top 100 list are thrillers that are driven by captivating villains. Agatha Christie’s 1939 novel “And Then There Were None” revolutionized the mystery novel. Flynn harnessed her love of Christie to write her own bestselling thriller.

Cersei and Mrs. Danvers (07:01)

Many of the villains from the favorite books list are trying to do something that, to them, seems moral. George R.R. Martin’s Cersei will stop at nothing to protect the royal lineage of her children. English author Daphne Du Maurier presents a great gothic villain.

Institutional Evil (07:40)

Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale” and Toni Morrison’s “Beloved” explore what happens when society is the villain. The former envisions America remade as a fundamentalist, theocratic state. “Beloved” draws from the real life of slave Margaret Garner.

Pride Before Destruction (07:10)

Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” and Dean Koontz’s “Watchers” warn of the dangers of hubris, especially when it comes to scientific aspirations. Many say the former provided the blueprint for science fiction. Koontz discusses mankind’s tendency to misuse technology.

Corrupted by Power (04:13)

The villains from J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” series, Stephen King’s “The Stand,” and Lewis Carroll’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” are driven mad by unchecked power. Seattle musician Debbie Miller uses the Queen of Hearts as her funny, head-chopping muse.

Harry Potter's Nemesis (03:29)

Rowling’s Lord Voldemort is not as easy to laugh off as the Queen of Hearts. Rowling’s series begins with its titular character discovering he is a wizard; but Voldemort is set on world domination and willing to waste any boy wizard that gets in his way.

Demonic Demagogue (05:01)

Randall Flagg is the villain from “The Stand.” In this dystopian horror story, a virus has decimated society, and survivors can choose to follow saintly Mother Abagail or the part-man, part-demon that invades their dreams.

Credits: Villains and Monsters (00:26)

Credits: Villains and Monsters

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Villains and Monsters

Part of the Series : The Great American Read
3-Year Streaming Price: $169.95



How do novels featuring our favorite villains and monsters help us understand why people behave badly? We examine the evil characters in our favorite novels to find out why we go to the dark side. We also meet authors who have created some of our best-loved villains.

Length: 53 minutes

Item#: FMK191949

Copyright date: ©2018

Closed Captioned

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