As I’ve said previously, I spent many years of my life, from about age 11 on, watching soaps. CBS was my network, and my two favorite soaps were Guiding Light and As the World Turns. After GL jumped the shark in a number of ways, ATWT took over as my favoritest soap. So it shouldn’t be a surprise that some of my favorite villains are from soaps.
My favorite GL character was always Roger Thorpe, played by the late Michael Zaslow. (The callous way he got the boot when he was sick is one of many reasons GL gradually stopped being my favorite soap.) From the time I began watching the soap in secret in the mornings during summer vacation in around 1991, he was just my absolute favorite.
Sure he was a villain, but he was an interesting type of evil, not some psychopath without sound motivations and backstory leading him to this life. He faked two deaths, stalked people, blackmailed enemies, used dirty money, stole affidavits, bugged people’s houses, kidnapped and shot people, engaged in bribery, stole money, you name it. And yet he had a heart underneath all that villainry. His love for his daughter Blake and some of the other important people in his life was so obvious and genuine.
James Stenbeck of ATWT, mostly played by the late Anthony Herrera, was another awesome daytime villain. He also faked several deaths, used women for their money and connections, kidnapped people, attempted a number of murders in very creative ways (and was suspected of several other murders), actually did murder people, smuggled drugs and jewelry, embezzled, committed arson, pretended to be a ghost haunting a castle, ordered hits, orchestrated explosions and gassings, you name it, he did it.
James was just so awesomely, deliciously evil. Sometimes it’s more interesting to see what makes the dark side tick than follow a character who’s too moral and saintly to be real.
Some of my favorite heroes are the five Pandava brothers of ancient Indian mythohistory—Yudhisthira, Bhima, Arjuna, and the twins Nakula and Sahadeva. The three oldest brothers are the sons of Kunti, and the twins are the sons of Madri, the two wives of Pandu. Because of a curse, it’s mortally dangerous for Pandu to have sex, so Kunti conceived through a special blessing/invocation and later taught this trick to Madri so she too could have children. Before she was married, Kunti used this blessing for the wrong reason and had her secret first child Karna, who was raised by the Pandavas’ enemy cousins the Kauravas.
The Pandavas are just the epitome of righteousness, holiness, brotherly love, honor in battle, goodness, so many positive virtues. At the end of their epic days, near the beginning of the current age of Kali Yuga, the brothers and their wife Draupadi are taken on an arduous trek to Paradise, and a dog began following them. The younger brothers and Draupadi all die, and only Yudhisthira is left.
Yudhisthira refuses to part from the stray dog, and when asked why he cares so much for some strange animal yet didn’t react when his own brothers and wife died, he retorts that it’s important to show kindness to all living creatures, and that it was their time to pass on anyway. It turns out that the dog is his father Yama, the sun god, and he’s rewarded for his great kindness to even non-human life.
Yudhishthira is shown into Paradise and given a look at his brothers and Draupadi. They’re in agony and being tortured in Hell, while the wicked Kauravas are in Paradise. Yudhisthira insists on joining his brothers and wife, feeling it’s all part of a plan. The next thing he knows, all six of them are in the real Paradise, and Hell was just an illusion, one final test to demonstrate their magnanimous character. The good guys win in this story.