Most of us grew up rooting for the ‘good guy.’ Cheering on the hero. Imagining ourselves in the role of saving the world and defeating (or riding) the dragon! But the bad boy (or girl) is equally worthy of our time and discussion (and possibly, very likely, MORE worthy of our naughtier fantasies) as the antihero.
This week, one of my literary BFFs, Anne Chaconas (affectionately known as ABC because THOSE ARE ACTUALLY HER INITIALS), and I will be tag-team writing a series of posts about the antihero in literature, television, film and real life, and on Friday we’ll be doing an exciting reveal of a new project that explores just this topic. So stick around, because it’s going to be a FUN WEEK!
Oh, and did I mention the giveaway? Yup, there’s a giveaway. Three winners will receive a female antihero prize (first season of Weeds, first season of The Client List and a print copy of Orange is the New Black, the novel the hit Netflix series is based on.) And the Grand Prize winner will also get their name in… (stick around until Friday to find out because it’s going to be LEGEND—wait for it—DAIRY ((and if you don’t get THAT reference, you aren’t nearly as cool as we thought you were!))… )
First, what is an antihero?
The short definition is that an antihero is a protagonist who does not exhibit heroic traits. That clears it all up, right?
The longer answer is a bit more complicated. There are many types of antiheroes, but the gist is that these are characters who are fighting against an antagonist, but are often found with less than ideal character traits and ethical compasses. They might be engaged in criminal activities, or harbor selfish, lustful, greedy motivations. (Find out all about ABCs antihero & criminal tendencies on her confessional blog post today right here!)
Here are a few bullet points from WritersDigest that give some perspectives on the differences between the hero and anti-hero.
- A hero is an idealist.
- An antihero is a realist.
- A hero has a conventional moral code.
- An antihero has a moral code that is quirky and individual.
- A hero is a modern version of a knight in shining armor.
- An antihero can be a tarnished knight, and sometimes a criminal.
- A hero is motivated by virtues, morals, a higher calling, pure intentions, and love for a specific person or humanity.
- An anti-hero can be motivated by a more primitive, lower nature, including greed or lust, through much of the story, but he can sometimes be redeemed and answer a higher calling near the end.
- A hero simply is a good guy, the type of character the reader was taught to cheer for since childhood.
- An antihero can be a bad guy in manner and speech. He can cuss, drink to excess, talk down to others, and back up his threats with fists or a gun, yet the reader somehow sympathizes with or genuinely likes him and cheer him on.
- A hero can be complex, but he is generally unambivalent; an antihero is a complicated character who reflects the ambivalence of many real people.
- An antihero’s actions and ways of thinking demand that the reader think about issues and ask difficult questions.[/box]
Let’s talk about these good guys that love to be bad.
There’ve been a lot of them on television lately. We don’t actually have a television (we use our computers), so I know I’ll miss some (feel free to comment below with other great examples), but here are a few favorites of late.
Walt Whitman in Breaking Bad. Probably the most popular anti-hero around, right next to Dexter, who is next on my list!
In Breaking Bad you have a chemistry teacher/husband/father turned meth cooker/dealer/murder, and though he does despicable things, you kinda, sorta root for him.
And who doesn’t love our favorite killer of serial killers? Dexter redefined the serial killer genre by giving us a bad guy that kills even worse guys, thus redeeming himself.
In the paranormal world, the previous Big Bads of The Vampire Diaries have now gotten their own show because they were so popular. The Originals are a huge hit with fans, despite none of them being particularly good.
On the lighter side of anti-heroes, we have the dark comedy, Weeds, starring Mary-Louise Parker as a widowed housewife turned drug dealer. Following this trend is Jennifer Love Hewitt’s character in The Client List. Another single mom who looks for the answers on the wrong side of the law to make ends meet. This time, it’s in a sexy massage parlor where she finds out how good she really is at being bad.
Some might argue that these last two examples aren’t true antiheroes, as they are still likable characters who are generally nice and good, but they do make ethically questionable decisions that most of us probably wouldn’t if put in the same position.
For example, I too was once a broke single mom with few options, and yet I never sold drugs, cooked meth, or gave out hand jobs for cash. Though I did get a job offer as a phone sex operator, but that’s a story for another post! So those choices put them in another category, and yet they are still characters we can relate to. We like them and we want their lives to work out, even if we don’t agree with what they are doing.
These antiheroes draw us in, because they offer us a slice of the naughty side of life. They allow us to play in a world that is taboo and scandalous, without us having to risk our families and freedom to do so. This is a huge appeal.
We experience a vicarious thrill as we are let in to the secret underbelly of criminal life, be it in drugs or sex or murder. If we can at least a little bit understand why the characters are making the choices they are making, then we can justify it in our minds and give ourselves permission to enjoy the dark adventures they offer.
Lately, Dmytry and I have been drawn to these characters, both in our own reading and in our world building of new story ideas. We are currently working on a new Seduced series (The Demon Within, Book 1 of Seduced by Darkness) that takes a redeemable villain from Rose’s Story and makes him the antihero of his own epic journey! (Anyone remember Demon Blake?? This incubus demon is getting a LONG SERIES of his own!)
Stay tuned for more on that, but in the meantime, stick around this week for more excitement as we talk bad boys and bad girls and why we <heart> them so.
Who is your favorite antihero in literature, television or movies? Why?
Don’t forget to read ABCs “I am an anti-hero” blog post and comment. She’s freaking hilarious! And watch for more posts from us daily as we banter back and forth (sometimes with swearing), about the antihero!