Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Queen of the Damned

(*NOTE: More than any other character, Judith is tough to talk about without giving away certain story elements. Though I've couched spoilers in the vaguest terms, if you're avoiding them, you may want to skip this one.*)

"Once upon a time, Mary, the Good Witch, and her companions were traveling through a dark and enchanted forest. There she met Judith, the Dark Enchantress, and her coven of wicked witches who with the promise of freedom and love, lured Mary and her friends back to their lair . . ."

While I like to try to boil Women's Studies down to the above fairy tale essence, it's really not that black and white. Sure there's purity and light, represented by Mary. There's also violence and darkness which as the script nears its climax becomes represented by Judith. However, there's a lot of grey area as well, places where the difference between light and dark, right and wrong is not so clear cut. You see, both Mary and Judith are fallen angels. They both have secrets; Mary's which causes her fall, and Judith's which shows how she fell.

With the character of Judith, I fully acknowledge the archetype (stereotype?) of the "Bad Witch," a woman of power who due to some negative emotion, uses her powers for ill instead of good. The Evil Queen in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and the Evil Fairy in Sleeping Beauty, both consumed by jealousy, come to mind. (Also, Rapunzel, Cinderella, and a list of any other Grimm's fairy tale which describes a cruel matriarch.) The ultimate expression of the "Bad Witch" (Which, lets be honest, created the modern stereotype) is the Wicked Witch of the West from the film version of The Wizard of Oz who, after the accidental death of her sister, promises a swift and cruel revenge on Dorothy of Kansas. (And her little dog too!)

Thankfully, Judith is not so over the top as Margaret Hamilton cackling "I'll get you my pretty," in her cronish, green make-up. (However, do not interpret "over the top" as "ineffectual.") Still, the basic elements of the "Bad Witch" are alive and well in her. It's negative emotions, vengeance, jealousy, pride, and above all, loneliness that drive Judith to commit her wicked deeds. Also, as often happens with the "Bad Witch," she takes on a different form to seduce the naive heroine. Judith's transformation isn't physical, but it's there all the same. (I cast Judith as a redhead, because in medieval times, red hair was a sure sign a woman was in league with the devil . . . just in case no one had a duck handy.)

Lastly, though nothing overtly supernatural occurs in Women's Studies, I imply on more than one occasion that Judith has somehow survived her own death. But as we all know, there's always a price for such a feat. Judith you see, is like Medusa, the Gorgon, once beautiful and loved, now a monster and alone. We can't see the monster, but we know it's there. SHE knows it's there, and she thinks that with Mary's help, she can defeat this monster and restore the real Judith. The problem is that the real Judith is already dead. The damned can't get out of their deal with the devil.

From this standpoint, Women's Studies becomes a tragic love story between Mary and Judith. They both think that each other's redemption, forgiveness for their dark secrets, lies within the other, but Mary soon finds that to not be the case. Only then does their relationship become black and white, for if Mary won't walk Judith's path, Judith cannot allow her to walk any other. They become each other's nemesis; light and dark, Athena and Medusa, the Goddess of Light and the Queen of the Damned.

When I first conceived of Judith, I envisioned her as a "femme fatale," dark, sexy, and deadly serious. She was originally written as your stereotypical, dark haired, pouty lipped villainess. I realized quickly that she was neither scary nor funny, but just kind of there, a villain whose only purpose was to serve the plot because every story of this sort needs a bad guy, or in this case, bad girl.

Tara GarwoodWhen Tara Garwood read for Judith, I realized how humorless I had conceived the character. It's okay though, because Tara knew that Judith, though scary, is also a little bit funny; a ball of contradictions, intertwined in a bundle of nervous, expressive, yet frightening energy; like the love child of a tryst between Squeaky Fromme and Freddy Krueger. Kind of a funny image, no?

Then again, I wouldn't want their kid sitting next to mine in kindergarten.

More on Tara at www.taragarwood.com

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