In the Harry Potter universe, Dolores Umbridge was, in some ways, more sinister than her master, Lord Voldemort. Nowhere was that more evident than in Umbridge’s treatment and torture of Muggle-born witches and wizards and anyone who dared oppose her.
In a recent interview, Imelda Staunton, who played Dolores Umbridge, discussed the character’s evil roots.
Disclaimer: This discussion of Dolores Umbridge, Voldemort, and the evil they brought to the wizarding world is not a discussion of this election. That’s a discussion for another day.
With that said, there are clear ways in which Umbridge was more sinister than even Voldemort. Voldemort was the spark that ignited flames of hatred that plagued the wizarding world for decades, but he also had help. Without Dolores Umbridge and the Death Eaters, Voldemort would’ve been legless instead of just noseless. Voldemort wanted power, but the people who supported him were fighting for oppression and the triumph of hate.
Umbridge was more sinister in Voldemort in that her ambition and desire for power were seemingly secondary to her desire to inflict pain upon those who sought a more inclusive system. Staunton described her as “a bloody monster,” and she’s right. She may not have looked the part like Voldemort did, but Umbridge was a monster of a different, perhaps even scarier, kind. Because she didn’t make her evil obvious. It was sugar-coated, made acceptable and palatable to an establishment, which promoted, defended and empowered it because it failed to see the threat.
Staunton said that during the production of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, director David Yates gave her some valuable and chilling insight into the character. “He made it very clear to me and said, ‘Look, this woman is into ethnic cleansing,’ and thats quite political,” Staunton said.
Umbridge, despite outward appearances, is one of the most frightening villains in Harry Potter, because her cruelty stems from a commitment to the belief that she’s doing the right thing. Staunton described it as “madness and cruelty dressed up”, and there’s perhaps no better description for Umbridge. Voldemort may have demanded more attention, but Umbridge brought something scarier to the table: a dogged commitment to hate because she believed it was the way forward.
But remember: In the end, she lost. Because even if it’s not right away, even if it’s an uphill battle, the heroes always win.