In case you haven’t seen a MAC store lately, the walls are covered with dramatic images of classic female Disney villains: the evil queen from Snow White and Cruella De Vil from 101 Dalmations, to name a few. The new decor heralds the launch of MAC’s Venomous Villains cosmetic line with eye shadows called “My Dark Magic” and “She Who Dares,” lipsticks called “Toxic” and “Devilishly Stylish,” and nail polishes like “Mean and Green Lacquer.” It’s no coincidence that the introduction of this line comes just in time for Halloween. But this is MAC after all, so don’t assume it’s for Halloween only!
What strikes me about the launch is our comfort level with dark female characters that it represents. Instead of the typical princess imagery that we’ve all grown up to want to mirror (long, light hair, rosebud lips, sweet eyes, etc.), MAC is saying, hey, there’s something provocative, sexy and even endearing about the villains we read about too. Case in point, the tremendous popularity of the Broadway show Wicked.
But what supports this new recognition of and even appreciation for female villains? Sure, we’ve always been fascinated with evil (I for one am an avid horror movie fan), but I think it marks something different. With women’s changing roles in society thanks to greater economic and political power, with more women graduating from high school and college and more women than men in the workforce, it only makes sense for us to recognize the complexity, depth and richness of women. In other words, it would be ridiculous if the images of women were one dimensional — all sweet or all evil. It’s OK to be villainous sometimes because all people are! Look at the hottest TV shows featuring women as their lead characters: The Good Wife, Weeds, The C Word or Nurse Jackie. The characters aren’t entirely good or entirely bad. We’re not talking the polarizing Dynasty characters of the past. If anything, they err on the criminal side of things but we still love them. (Check out the Wall Street Journal‘s piece on this very topic.)
The Madonna-whore dichotomy is SOOOO last century. Kudos to MAC for giving us an outlet to express the complexity that is the human female.