We can take a valuable lesson about villains away from the Harry Potter series. No, not Voldemort. Voldemort is more of the mustache-twirling evil that represents an idea of evil. Maybe you thought he was awful. Maybe you considered how bad it would be to live in a world where he existed. Whatever you thought of him, he couldn’t really touch you. Insane, murderous wizards who defy death aren’t something we really expect to deal with in our lives. Even without the powers of a wizard, his sort of evil isn’t the kind that crosses our paths often.
The villain we can learn more from is Professor Umbridge. She isn’t motivated by ‘EVIL ™”, but instead is the sort of person who sincerely believes they are doing what is best for everyone. She is the kind of evil that every one of us has faced in our day to day lives. From a position of power, she silences all criticism, justified or not. She punishes those who she doesn’t like because she thinks it will pull them into line with what is ‘proper’.
Thinking herself right, she destroys lives. Feeling herself righteous, she hurts people needlessly. In her attempts to do what she feels is the best for the world, she inflicts cruelty on those beneath her. She is the sort of evil I have mentioned before in this series. The evil that feels it is the good guy. If there is one villain in all of the Harry Potter series to actively study to improve your own villains, Umbridge is it.
If you haven’t read the books, go ahead and watch the movies where she appeared. I would be amazed if you don’t absolutely hate her by the end of them. It shouldn’t come as any surprise that she was based on a real teacher. This is a villain that we have all met in one form or another and it is compelling. Dissect that feeling as you get to know the character and really understand what is making you feel that way. Take notes perhaps. It can only stand to improve your options when fleshing out villains of your own.