The Seven Sins of Marvel’s Netflix Villains

You know when you get one of those thoughts? One of those little ideas that buzzes around the brain like a fly trapped behind your eyes, just itching to get out? This is one of those thoughts.

As I was ranking the villains found within the current (albeit fractured) Marvel Cinematic Universe, I found myself pondering what these marvelous villains really were, what they truly meant. Somewhere in this, my brain snapped a connection in place between the villains of the Defenders-based shows on Netflix and the seven deadly sins of the Judeo-Christian tradition. Almost before I knew it, I had a list in my head of these nasty, deadly, insane antagonists and a sin which they could arguably represent.

It needed a bit of revision, but, as ideas like that don’t just go away, I thought I’d satisfy my mental itch and share it with all of you, my wonderful audience! I hope you enjoy it! 🙂

Killgrave, the Purple Man

“I. Will. Have. Her.”

One of the more obvious choices, Killgrave the Purple Man is a walking embodiment of the violation of consent, and he is obsessed with having the one woman whom he literally cannot control.

Most villains have to fight to exert control over others, but Killgrave can make anyone do anything he likes just with the sound of his voice. He is utterly selfish in every way, taking anything and everything he wants, and if it catches his eye in any way, then he wants it. Naturally, that includes women, whom he can keep and rape endlessly, however he wants, and however much he wants, violating them in every possible way.

And you know what the lustful cannot abide? Being denied what they want.

Killgrave’s eye lands on Jessica Jones when he sees she has abilities, making her the newest, shiniest possession he can have. But when her body develops an immunity to his power, and she becomes the first woman ever who can tell him “no,” he becomes nothing short of obsessive over her. She was already a trophy, and even more so now, and he refuses to be denied. He won’t take “no” for an answer. She’s just too “shiny” for him to give up on.

That is the only reason he wants her: because of her power. That’s why he assumes her affection for Luke Cage is because of the man’s power. He simply cannot comprehend wanting a person as anything more than a possession.

He is especially vicious towards children, taking delight in their pains, including how he can force normally-devoted parents to behave apathetically towards them. It may be for differing reasons, but as lust is inherently selfish and children are inherently inconvenient… well, the lustful are often very cruel towards children, without a second thought.

Harold  Meachum

“Money makes my world go ‘round.”

The first season of Iron Fist was pretty lackluster, but that had very little to do with its villain, Howard, for the most part.

As half of the partnership which founded Rand Enterprises, and making it one of the most successful companies in the world, he has a brilliant financial mind, an insanely cutthroat attitude, and whatever he wants, he uses every means at his disposal to get. And what he wanted was money and power. He got both of them, in strange ways, and a certain degree of immortality as well.

He is precise, cold, and calculating, thinking nothing of any sacrifice that needs to be made in order to get him what he wants. Self-control was never his forte, but it slips even further as he goes mad. Yet, even at his maddest, most abusive, and most murderous, he always has the same goals of wealth and influence. That is what drives him. That is the core of what he wants.

It says something about him that this his greed and avarice are what he retains when the rest of his mind is slowly stripped away.

Bushmaster, John McIver

“You hurt me! I kill you!”

You know what wrath is? It is a response to being wronged, or feeling that one has been wronged. Now, many villains feel that, but few exemplify it in actuality better than Bushmaster.

As a boy, the man who would become Bushmaster lost his father to some disaster, and the family of his father’s partner railroaded them out of what was rightfully their share of most profitable venture. When his mother fought for it, they murdered her by setting fire to their home. Then they tried to kill him, too, and very nearly succeeded.

So, to say he has been wronged, after being robbed, witnessing his mother’s violent death, and being nearly murdered, is an understatement. There are very few with grudges as legitimate as his, and he pursues it relentlessly and without mercy. His anger is his strength… and his undoing.

When one acts in wrath, one becomes irrational and sloppy. Even in the best of cases, it tends to undermine itself.

While I’ve no real issues with Bushmaster’s grievances, he messed up terribly by letting it all be personal. He dilly-dallied, instead of making it quick and clean. He dragged bystanders into a conflict they had no part in, which drew the attention of a local hero. He tried to make his enemy’s end slow and painful, such that they were rescued by the same hero who would not have been involved had Bushmaster not dilly-dallied and dragged bystanders into the conflict. The result was a slaughter, including many innocent, unsuspecting people who were just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Oh, and he lost, in the end, with his mind and body almost entirely consumed in the process of unleashing his wrath again and again.

Billy Russo, aka Jigsaw

“You think anyone is more important than me?”

Originally, I thought I’d put Billy under Gluttony, but somehow Pride just seems to fit him slightly better.

You know what makes pride a sin? It’s when you set people above or below each other. Pride puffs one up, beyond the bounds of humility, and drives self-centered behavior because one puts oneself above all else. How does that not fit Billy to a “T”?

He holds others accountable, but not himself. He does whatever he wants, to get whatever he wants, for himself. He commits terrible crimes, betraying those closest to him, those who love him the most, and still he holds himself guiltless. He lies through his teeth, and accuses others of lying. When facing justice, revenge, and punishment, he still behaves as if he has the moral high ground. He plays to the self-entitled attitude of his men, all to get what he wants, and in the end he just uses and discards them, no matter their loyalty to him.

Even when he’s on the brink of dying, he calls an old friend, trying to lay claim on some last sympathetic moments, even knowing he doesn’t deserve them.

Heck, even when he was just enjoying a day with a friend and his family, he was still boasting about himself, making himself seem more than he was.

Beginning, middle, and end, Billy Russo is full of sinful pride.

Cottonmouth, Cornell Stokes

“I can’t be any more than this!”

Choosing a villain to represent sloth was a bit tricky. Hardly any villains can be called “lazy,” after all. But the sin of sloth isn’t just laziness and idleness.

In the original language, the context of the word used signifies not just being lazy, but, rather, withholding one’s talents and resources. It means failing to do/be good, and Cottonmouth does exactly that, I think.

He is one of the most interesting villains I’ve seen, and I hate how they killed him off so quickly.

In the present, he is clearly a bad man, but one that has some standards of honor. He keeps his word, he does not engage in mass violence, and he does not hesitate to kill his own subordinate for killing a beloved old man. He doesn’t even trouble himself with beating a man to death until that man acts, for a moment, like a real man in his book. He’s so honorable, in his way, that he doesn’t even think of how to dispose of Luke Cage if he can’t simply shoot or beat the man (as opposed to Mariah, who instantly conjures several more devious methods of doing so).

Yet, for all his honor, he is a crime lord, and a killer. Why?

Because his family trapped him into it.

He could have been a magnificent musician, and a most honorable man. He still loves music, but that path was taken from him by the woman who raised him. He was made to kill his own uncle. He was made to be a crime lord. And he never got out of it, even years and years later. He held on to some little piece of nobility, but he never made the effort to be truly good. He could have. But he didn’t. He held back the good man he could have been.

The sloth of Cottonmouth was in withholding from the world all the good he could have been and done.

The  Kingpin, Wilson Fisk

“I will devour… EVERYTHING.”

The single most difficult sin to find a corresponding villain for, gluttony is defined as excess consumption. It’s typically associated with consuming good food and drink and too much enjoyment of the finer things in life, making it a close cousin of greed, lust, and pride. While the Kingpin obviously enjoys his fine food, I have a deeper reason for equating him with gluttony, namely:

He consumes everything in his path. He feeds on suffering and death, sating his rapacious ambitions on blood and horror. He devours the lives and even the humanity of everyone around him, especially those who oppose him. And his wrath absolutely annihilates anyone who angers him.

First, he became a crime lord, the one feared by all the rest in New York City. He was calculating and ambitious, removing rivals and enemies, and he did not hesitate to kill the innocent. All this, he did, at first, with the goal of supposedly making the city a better place, and he had no qualms with doing so atop the bodies of its current residents. Then, he was brought low and sent to prison, and slowly rose again. He came to rule his prison, and reach out like a master puppeteer, setting up a situation wherein he would emerge with everything, a true king of the underworld, with connections on both sides of the law, and a killer at his disposal which his enemies could never hope to match.

Luxurious living conditions, fine food, art, money, power, and the woman he loves. He obtained it all, corrupted the law, and turned the bonds of other people’s love to his service. And he did it all twice. His appetites, of every form, could not be restrained.

His gluttony was just too great to be contained.

Gregory Salinger

“If I can’t have it, neither can you.”

Gregory Salinger is a serial killer. By the time he is brought to justice (and faces vengeance), he has killed at least nine people, and tried to kill at least three more. Every last one of them is because of his jealousy.

From what I gather, he was always looked down on by his father and brother. He had a keen mind, and a strong, albeit unassuming, body, but he was always derided, never credited for his successes, even abused, no matter all the effort he put into everything he did. This, while his father praised his brother, dangling the recognition he always wanted in front of his face but never letting him have it.

In his own mind, Salinger was well-accomplished at everything he did, yet everyone else got all the glory, success, and opportunities, just because they were born with stronger bodies and better looks. Things were “easier” for them, so they were “cheaters,” though apparently he never realized that cheating is a deliberate action, completely independent of what one is born with. But I digress.

When Salinger’s brother died, he hoped his father would praise him. Instead, his father nearly killed him. And that was it: he was never going to get what he “deserved,” so he built a grudge against anyone who did get the success and recognition he wanted, especially if they were, in the slightest way, imperfect at what they did, because surely he would never be so imperfect.

He murdered his childhood friend because the boy was recognized as a more talented athlete. He nearly murdered a chef because the chef got one tiny detail of his food wrong. He murdered at least seven others for similar reasons, all while trying to unmask their “true selves,” which were wanting, in his estimation. Again and again, he lashed out, trying to stand above others, to make himself feel superior, for no better reason than his jealousy.

“How dare anyone be more successful than me?”

Envy in a nutshell.

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