It takes a villain to raise a soap opera's ratings. Not just any villain. Being evil is not enough. A great soap villain must not just scare, but make you care. Every major soap villain has to show the possibility of redemption. Villains come in all sizes and sexes. Here is my list of villains who had the "it" factor and some runners-up.
All My Children
Ray Gardner -- I know it was long ago. Which is why he was a great villain. He is still remembered. Ray first appeared in 1977. By 1982, he was dead. He did come back -- no, not from the dead, but in Tad Martin's nightmares. His first dastardly deed was leaving Tad with a broken arm in a national park. Lucky for Tad, he was found by Jeff Martin and his wife Mary. When Mary was murdered in a home invasion, Joe and Ruth Martin took him in. Good for Tad -- not so good for the Martins, but not because he was a bad kid. In fact, until he became a teenager, Tad was the perfect child. It was his cousin little Phillip who was an insufferable spoiled brat.
Back to Ray. Learning Tad had been taken in by a family with money, Ray went to Pine Valley. He tried blackmailing, kidnapping, and acts of violence to get what he wanted. He raped Ruth Martin. When she became pregnant, she feared Gardner was the father. It turned out Doc Martin was the bio dad. The baby, named Joseph at birth, grew up to be Jake. A still-vengeful Ray decided to destroy the Martin family by tossing a bomb into the their house -- you know, the house that provided a home for everybody. I knew if I went to Pine Valley and the Pine Cone Inn was full, the Martins would take me in. Ray realized the child he loved -- Jenny -- was in the house at the time he set the bomb. While saving Jenny, Gardner died when the bomb went off. Tad spent decades fearing he was like his not-so-dear old dad. Gil Rogers, who played Gardner, was afraid to take his children to the park because AMC viewers would scream "rapist" at him.
Honorable Mentions: Billy Clyde Tuggle. It's hard to hate a guy when a character is making you laugh. Palmer Cortlandt. He unleashed Dobermans on his wife, tried to break up Cliff and Nina, and would do anything to destroy a business competitor.
Iris Carrington was a "daddy's girl" well into her late 30s. She longed to be the most important woman in his life. Rachel, a villain when she was first seen in Bay City, was nasty to her sweet single parent mother Ada. She tricked Russ into marrying her. Then she met Mac Cory, Iris' father, and she became the show's heroine. In need of a town bad girl, Iris filled the bill. One of her most heinous crimes was ignoring a pregnant Rachel, who was pleading for help. Rachel lost the baby. After Mac died, Iris became mellower. That changed when she learned Rachel was marrying Carl Hutchins. Iris considered Hutchins her archenemy. She was determined to break up Rachel and Carl. In a bizarre twist, she went to the couple's wedding ceremony. Iris took out a gun. She wanted to scare Carl, not harm him. She thought the gun was loaded with blanks. An enemy of Carl's had switched the blanks with real ammo. Carl was near death. Iris swore she did not know the gun was loaded -- a scene out of the musical Chicago. Last we saw Iris, she was in prison for a crime she did not actually commit. So, I felt a little sorry for her. I felt even sorrier for her jailors. An unhappy Iris is a scary Iris.
As the World Turns
Lisa -- I know many viewers just remember "good friend Lisa." Not when she first came to Oakdale. When Irna Phillips saw Fulton's audition, she said, "I can write for that little rascal. She can play a bitch!" Time Magazine once referred to Lisa as a "super bitch" and the "most hated woman on TV." One time on a subway, Eileen Fulton, who played her, was attacked by a fan with an umbrella. "That made me know I was doing a good job," she said.
So what bad things did Lisa do? On day one, her mother-in-law, Nancy, learned that her sweet boy Bob got mono from Lisa. In those days, it was called the kissing disease. Then she got pregnant by Bob, and they eloped. Nancy hated her at first, but later loved her. Lisa had numerous affairs, tried to turn her son Tom against his father, gave away her son Scott, and used poison and guns to stop people who got in her way.
For a few years, though a gossip, Lisa became loveable -- most of the time. She was horrified that her African American friend Jessica was going to marry the Scottish Duncan. She stated that if they married, they could never have children, as they would be biracial. Again Fulton's acting ability came to the forefront -- she totally disagreed with Lisa's stance.
Honorable Mentions: John Dixon. Shooting Bob Hughes, kidnapping his son Andy, faking blindness, pretending a fake diamond engagement ring was real, and the list goes on and on. James Stenbeck: trying to drive Barbara insane, poisoning Barbara, abducting and keeping more than one person in a dungeon, and using his son Paul in many of his illegal activates.
The Bold and the Beautiful
Stephanie Forrester: I know I am going to get in trouble for that one. I will use Soap Central's list to prove my point. She told Eric that their brain-damaged daughter, Angela, was dead; forced Morgan DeWitt to abort Ridge's baby; had Brooke escorted from Forrester in a trash can; bribed a doctor and faked a heart attack to coerce Ridge into remarrying Taylor; sabotaged Nick's wedding by putting a nude photo of Brooke on a billboard for Nick to see; publicly exposed Jackie's prostitute past at a fashion show; and helped Ridge cover up Shane McGrath's death and framed Nick for it.
Stephanie choked Brooke with a phone cord and held her at gunpoint to prevent her going to the police and was inadvertently responsible for Beth Logan's drowning. She dragged Pam to Big Bear in handcuffs to keep her away from Stephen Logan and bribed Thomas into lying that he had sex with Brooke to reunite Ridge and Taylor.
Yes, Sheila Carter is a close second. Some of her misdeeds include drugging Dr. Scott Grainger, kidnapping Scotty Grainger, switching him for a brokered baby, trying to kill Lauren half a dozen times, killing the doctor who performed plastic surgery that made her look like Phyllis Summers, and kidnapping Phyllis Newman, Summer Newman, and Fenmore Baldwin. Okay, I take it back, Sheila wins. Stephanie is the runner-up.
Days of our Lives
This is a given: Stefano Dimera. He has forged, stolen, kidnapped, murdered, trafficked in body organs, did the same with drugs, switched babies, and perhaps the almost unkindest cut of all, hired a hit man to enter Rafe's hospital room with a razor to cut off Rafe's penis. Iy literally did not come off. Add to that being a mob kingpin and having way too many children.
Runner-Up: Sami Brady. Her misdeeds include castration, murder, falsely accusing Lucas of abusing Will, Changing more than one paternity test, and even kidnapping her younger sister.
These days, everyone on the show has a villainous side. Since a choice has to be made, two women place, one a winner and one a close runner-up. Helena Cassadine. She's done lots of murdering and kidnapping and stealing and smuggling and shooting. She was just fine with killing her own children. She even killed Alexis' mother in front of Alexis when Alexis was a child.
Runner-Up: Heather Webber. Forget about her recent crimes. Heather's guilty pleasures started a long time ago. When she first came to town in the 1970s, she seduced Jeff Webber and got pregnant then sold the baby. Murder and mayhem follow Heather wherever she goes. Almost 40 years later, she is back in Port Charles and seeking revenge for imaginary wrongs.
Roger Thorpe was a wonderful villain. Played by the late Michael Zaslow, Roger was the villain with a twinkle in his eye. His biggest issue was he did not think with his brain, but the other organ that often drives men to lie, cheat, and steal. What made Roger such a great villain was that he knew he caused trouble and often tried to reform. His libido often got in the way. At one point, the love of a good woman, Peggy Fletcher, turned him around. When that relationship ended, Roger headed back to Holly, the woman who was scorned and satisfied by him. Then Roger did the unthinkable: he raped Holly, They were married at the time. There had been much debate in the real world if a man could be considered a rapist if the victim was his wife. GL tackled the issue. Roger was not only a conflicted villain; he had a tender side. He was a villain who loved his children and was kind to other people's children. A scene that still sticks in my head was Roger helping Michelle Bauer (daughter of his archenemy Ed) to deal with sadness while they were shooting off Fourth of July fireworks. The scene lit up the sky and the television screen.
One Life to Live
One of my favorite villains was Ivan Kipling. He was suave and intelligent and would stop at nothing to destroy an enemy. At the time Ivan was in Llanview, Dr. Larry Wolek was the hero. Suddenly, the good doctor turned into Mr. Hyde. It was all Ivan's fault. He had placed a chip in Larry's brain and made him do horrific things. But the all-time worst OLTL villain was Mitch Laurence. How bad was he? Let me list the ways. He tried to kill Viki, subjected Jessica to unneeded electroshock therapy treatment, was a phony evangelist, kidnapped Natalie, killed her husband, and kept coming back from the dead. Roscoe Born, who played good guy/mobster Joe Novak on Ryan's Hope, was the ultimate villain as the cunning, crafty, and chilling Mitch. Just the mention of Mitch's name made me shudder.
The Young and the Restless
Victor Newman. He abused his wife, Victor put the man he thought was her lover in a cell and fed him dog food every other day. Victor has murdered more people and spent less time in prison then anybody. He is hell-bent on destroying Jack Abbott. His latest ruse with having Mariah haunt Sharon was horrific. I know he had a good reason. Sharon had a secret, and he wanted to know what it was. Victor will do anything to "protect" his family -- even destroy their lives. He has no understanding of anyone's failings. It is his way or the highway. You got that? Nobody can be a runner-up when it comes to Victor; he is the king of evil. When fans say they love him, all I have to ask is "would you want your daughter to marry him?" The reply, "No way."