Monster: Annie Wilkes (Stephen King’s ‘Misery’)

Created by Stephen King, Annie Wilkes is one of the most memorable villains one could ask for. In fact, Kathy Bates earned an Academy Award for her portrayal of Ms. Wilkes — a rare feat in film history, given how Oscar tends to shun horror movies.

What makes Annie Wilkes so interesting? For on thing, she walks a fine, self-invented line between caregiver and life-taker for author Paul Sheldon, who she recued from a car accident and kept prisoner (because she’s his “number one fan”). Whether you’re read the book or watching the movie, you will surely be enthralled by her Jekyll and Hyde-isms, and how she rationalizes her erratic and terrifying behavior.

Another aspect to Annie Wilkes is the plausibility of her character. One can very easily imagine such a person existing out there, and nothing about her story or personality are far fetched. She is a character of fanatical obsession, yet we are able to see and understand the nature of the beast. Paul Sheldon’s “Misery” novels are her life, so when Sheldon threatens to kill off the series, it is like a deep betrayal for her.

Annie represents a part of humanity that we understand, yet wish we didn’t: If we become too attached to something and it gets taken away, we may lash out; Dark impulses within us can creep out into the forefront, and we may manipulate and harm others to get some gratification — anything to re-ignite a sense of control, power and balance.

Ultimately, I think there’s a little bit of Annie in all of us. She’s in our culture, our collective psyche (to use that idea loosely), and in the pleasure center of our individual and collective brain. With just the right kind of damage, we can unleash some damage of our own.

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