C4P: Katarina O’Dette-Evolving Evil in Fantasy Television’s Reformed Villains



Luna's third Call for Papers, A Shadow Within: Evil in Fantasy and Science Fiction will be released on Wednesday the 14th of August, at Dublin Worldcon. Explore the 21 brilliant papers you will find in the book.

Today, we would like to introduce you to Katarina O'Dette (USA), PhD candidate researching fantasy television at the University of Nottingham. Researcher and fantasy writer. Executive committee member for GIFCon 2019.

Presenting the paper: Yesterday’s Tyrant: Evolving Evil in Fantasy Television’s Reformed Villains”.


Katarina says:

"Fantasy has long represented the struggle between good and evil by personifying evil in its villains. Traditionally, these villains have been depicted as solely evil, presenting a stark dichotomy between good and evil that scholars like Neil Easterbrook refer to as “ethical escapism.” However, American fantasy television is rife with reformed villains who transition from evil to good, presenting a more complex relationship between good and evil as writers rehabilitate popular villains to give them greater longevity on television series.

This chapter presents the first study of reformed villains on television, examining four industry-driven textual strategies that evolve them from their narrative functions as evil characters: point-of-view, flashbacks, reform checks, and relationships with protagonists. By putting industrial practices and textual analysis in conversation with character theory by Murray Smith (1995), Carl Plantinga (2010), and Margrethe Bruun Vaage (2016), this chapter examines how television writers strategically shift viewer responses to reformed villains from antipathy to allegiance, focusing on Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997-2003), Regina Mills/The Evil Queen from Once Upon a Time (2011-2018), King Richard from Galavant (2015-2016), and Michael from The Good Place (2016-Present).

Scrutinising these strategies reveals a disconnect between how viewers perceive reform in narrative television and in real life. Feelings of sympathy towards reformed villains are more crucial than moral actions in convincing viewers that these characters have changed, raising questions about whether it is possible for viewers to ally themselves with a reformed villain who is unsympathetic but equally reformed."

Katarina O'Dette is a fantasy writer and first-year Film and Television Studies PhD candidate at the University of Nottingham. Her research interests include worldbuilding, narratology, and fantasy television. She holds a BFA in television writing from the University of Southern California and a MLitt in Fantasy from the University of Glasgow.

In addition to earning responsible degrees, she serves on the organising committee of GIFCon, and has led a research station on Harry Potter at the Hunterian Museum, co-led seminars on fantasy television at the University of Glasgow, and worked as a Television Academy Foundation intern in the writers’ room of Syfy’s Haven.

Her work can be found in From Glasgow to Saturn, Fantastika, and Slayage: The Journal of Whedon Studies.


For Luna Press Publishing: A Shadow Within: Evil in Fantasy and Science Fiction

A Shadow Within: Evil in Fantasy and Science Fiction

is now in pre-order!

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