While I would argue that a woman can play any character, hero, villain, mentor, the Queen might be considered the most dynamic of the female archetypes. Queens are by nature powerful and public, making them ideal protagonists or antagonists. I had a hard time picking my top queens, but here are three of my favorites.
The Benevolent Ruler Queen:
This emblem of supreme power must wear many crowns. A reigning queen, ascending by her own merits or heredity, is expected to put duty before personal happiness. She will also find herself under closer scrutiny than her male counterparts. In a monarchy, the queen offers the hope of stability by providing her country with heirs and an unbroken line of succession. The queen can be perceived as a fertility symbol, a surrogate mother figure and a spiritual leader. When the queen is married to the legitimate ruler, she may hold more symbolic than tangible power. In this case she might be expected to confine herself to civic affairs. The benevolent ruler archetype also translates into a CEO, a high-ranking political figure or a First Lady. I like Young Victoria for this archetype. I thought Emily Blunt brought a perfect blend of strength and vulnerability to the role.
The Beauty Queen:
Blessed with good looks, this queen knows how to make the most of her birth gifts. She can use her beauty to open doors and ascend to dizzying heights in her social arena and/or career. When you couple beauty with high intellect you have the makings of a perfect villain, or spy. This archetype is where you also find the femme fatales, the prom queens, and the high school queen bees. Beauty queens are too often maligned characters, typecast as vapid or evil, but they don’t have to be. Throw in a healthy dose of disdain, a quality of toughness, and a hint of naiveté, and you have the making of some fresh characters. Physical beauty is a social hot button; it’s closely tied to extreme emotions of jealousy, or devotion. You can try to avoid the negative stereotypes, and create queens who are thoughtful friends and socially conscious citizens. Or not, just embrace the cliche with Mean Girls. Rachel McAdams created a flawless version of the queen bee.
The Evil Queen:
From Snow White to Cinderella, this archetype is a staple of children’s literature. In my opinion, the best evil queens are the ones forced into their moral decline by poverty and desperation. It’s engaging to watch them rationalize their cruel actions, or see themselves as victims. A person with unlimited power and lots of hangups can deal out the damage, and everyone around the evil queen walks on eggshells. Distrusted, reviled and beset by opposition, these queens let their anger fester until they snap. I do enjoy a touch of madness in this archetype, and if the writer can bury a kernel of decency under all the outer trappings of wickedness, I’m thrilled. In a contemporary setting, the evil queen model transitions into the monstrous teacher, the obsessive lover, and the neighborhood watch captain with serious control issues. I recommend Snow White and the Huntsman. It has a great narcissistic murderous witch of an evil queen to study.
Queens are fantastic archetypes, brimming with attitude, flavored with nuances. You can go with one who’s foreboding and malevolent, or nurturing and maternal. Make them hideous crones, or an enchantress; the scope and dynamism of female power is limitless.
Up Next: Heather with R: Reading Overload in the Information Age