What is it about anti-heroes that’s so damn appealing? I can’t help myself. If the protagonist is an anti-hero, I am like a salivating dog. I cant get enough of whatever it is I am reading or watching. I’m a self-confessed Antihero Addict. I want to explore what it is about them that we all love so much.
But first – audience participation required:
Who are your favorite antiheroes? And more importantly why? Are you writing about one? Have you read about one recently? What do you or don’t you like about them?
So What Is An Antihero?
Your typical hero is charming, wonderful and full of positive attributes. But antiheroes are the opposite, Wiki says: The antihero archetype can be traced back at least as far as Homer‘s Thersites. So they have been around a while, which means there must be something that makes them appeal to us that goes beyond fads, and fashion. There must be something classical about an antihero that means they work time and time again.
Typically an antihero is a protagonist who has specific characteristics such as:
- Imperfections that are deemed unheroic – like, arrogance, or selfishness and self-preservation.
- Bad behaviors – such as adultery, murderous tendencies, gossiping, sexism, etc.
- They lack positive traits like courage or strength or remorse.
- Often but not always they lack a heroic stature and physique, they are ugly.
- Usually, they have traits that can be found in villains – greed, amorality and violent behavior.
- They have complex, messy motivations ranging from revenge through to love and honor.
- Last – but most importantly – they have at least one redeeming quality. Such as noble albeit confused motives (like Dexter) or perhaps they love something so much they would sacrifice themselves for them.
- This redeeming quality is what gives them their character arc and turns them into a hero by the end of the story.
Antiheroes blur the line between villains and heroes. What tips them into the hero category is that there is often a line, usually a moral or ethical one that they just won’t cross. They still have their humanity. But this leads them to a mess of contradictions and confusions.
What Makes an Antihero Different?
Antiheroes make mistakes, lots of them. They are so often motivated by personal interest rather than altruism that if put into a corner, and forced to choose between right or wrong, the antihero will often choose wrong because they are weak, it’s easier and it gets them what they want quicker. Often antiheroes think the end justify the means, and they will pursue that end by any means possible.
Why Are They So Appealing?
It’s evolution 101 find your own species attractive. To find them appealing. Well, antiheroes are the truest reflection of ourselves. Not all of them granted – hopefully, most of you don’t want the murderous side to Dexter. But elements of their behavior and personalities are.
Antiheroes embody humanities darkest secrets and desires. They blur the line between what dark and twisty parts of us really want, and what society says we should actually want. They have the affairs we cant; they stab their boss in the eye with a fork because of they’re an arse, they cheat, lie and steal and all to pursue their own desires. Antiheroes have their cake, and they con their way into eating it. Antiheroes fulfill your darkest desires and still ending up as the good guy.
It’s the ultimate fantasy. What’s not appealing about that?!
Need An Example of A Good Antihero? Here’s A List of Some of My Faves:
- Beetlejuice from Beetlejuice
- Jordan Belfort from The Wolf of Wall Street
- Jason Bourne from the Jason Bourne trilogy
- Chev Chelios from Crank and Crank: High Voltage
- John Constantine from Constantine
- Judge Dredd from Dredd
- Hellboy from Hellboy and Hellboy II: The Golden Army
- Jack Reacher from Jack Reacher (film)
- Shrek from the Shrek (series)
- Captain Jack Sparrow from the Pirates of the Caribbean series
- V from the movie V for Vendetta
- Theodore “T-Bag” Bagwell from Prison Break
- Jack Bauer from 24
- Edmund Blackadder from BBC‘s Blackadder series
- Chuck Bass from Gossip Girl
- Nicholas Brody from Homeland
- Basil Fawlty from Fawlty Towers
- Saul Goodman from Better Call Saul and Breaking Bad
- Peter Griffin from Family Guy
- Jimmy McNulty from The Wire
- Veronica Mars from Veronica Mars
- Dexter Morgan from Dexter
- Tony Soprano from The Sopranos
- Walter White from Breaking Bad
- Dean Winchester and Sam Winchester from Supernatural
- Magneto from the X-Men series
If you would like more antihero examples here’s a list of 50 antiheroes.
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