Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Anti-Hero: Love 'Em or Hate 'Em?

Ahhh, the Anti-Hero. Some of you may be wondering what exactly IS an Anti-Hero. Well, I'm here to explain.

Here's a definition of an Anti-Hero: An antihero is generally considered to be a protagonist whose character is at least in some regards conspicuously contrary to that of the archetypal hero, and is in some instances its antithesis. 

Basically, an antihero is an amoral person who does some good...sometimes. 

In one definition, the appeal of the antihero is that he or she is often a HERO. Namely, he or she does what we wish we could. Where superheroes like Superman and Wonderwoman do it because they lack the physical limitations we do, an antihero does it because he lacks the moral limitations. Very often these antiheroes end up stealing the show. Sometimes you love them, sometimes you hate them.

Let me give you some examples from FILM:
  • Captain Jack Sparrow, in Pirates of the Caribbean: Sure, he ends up making right decisions for the most part, but he is a law breaker, a drunk, and for the most part amoral.
  • Han Solo, in Star Wars: He is a rebel, a loner, and out for himself. In direct contrast to Luke Skywalker, the hero and "all that is good".
  • Batman, in The Dark Knight: While his intentions are good, his methods leave something to be desired. He is willing to break the law to accomplish what he wants.
  • Clint Eastwood, in just about every movie he's ever made: He's the kind of guy who is not afraid to duel and pull the trigger first.
Examples from literature:
  • The Dark Towers, by Stephen King: Roland puts his quest for the Dark Towers above the lives of his friends. 
  • Sherlock Holmes has been known to commit a few crimes to solve his mysteries. He even does cocaine on occasion.
  •  Severus Snape, in Harry Potter. Has ties to the Dark Lord, dislikes Harry and yet does good at times.
  • Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights, Edmond Dantes in The Conte of Monte Cristo
Examples from TV:
  • Dr. Gregory House, House MD
  • Timothy Riggins, in Friday Night Lights: Hometown Hero on the field who always chooses wrong from right, drinks, and basically is a trouble maker. But everyone likes him because he has a good heart and can put on a charming face.
  • Jack on 24: Not afraid to break the law to do what he needs to do.
  • Angel on Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Oh, there's more, I assure you. In fact, I got almost all these examples from TVTROPES. Check their site out for many more examples from various genres.

So, were you surprised to see some of your favorite characters portrayed as an Anti-Hero? I was. Hans Solo...sigh...I loved him more than Luke. It was that blustery, rebel attitude that really drew me in. In my mind, Han was the true hero.

In my current book, I have two villains. Evil, they are. There is no hero material in them at all. But I think in my next book, I may have to give the Anti-Hero a try. 

How about you? Has you ever written an Anti-Hero? What did you love about him/her? What did you hate? 



Heather Sunseri said...

I have an anti-hero in my current manuscript. He wants to prevent harm to my antagonist, yet he makes amoral decsions to help his father break the law time and time again. Thanks for the great post, Sherrinda!

Mia said...

I've never written an anti-hero before, but I'm thinking about it for my next book. Sometimes I just want to try something new and push myself, you know? I'm actually thinking about writing a male anti-hero, so those are both new things for me. Obviously, I have male characters in my books (it'd be kind of hard not to include them. LOL), but I've never had the main character be a guy before. Hm. Maybe I should just finish my current WIP first. LOL.

Mary Vee Writer said...

Hmmmmmm...hadn't considered this before.

Thanks for revealing the anti-hero--hadn't considered including him/her. They've been knocking on the creative writing door of my mind all this time, starving for attention, ready to act-leap-lead the gang...and sadly, I've neglected him/her.

I shall rise up and invite him/her in:)

Casey said...

I'm with Mary. I don't have an anti-hero, never thought about writing them, but sometimes the bad boys can turn into the greatest characters. Like Collin in A Passion Most Pure. Remember him? Oh make my heart sigh, he is still my favorite Julie hero. ;)

Pepper said...

Woohoo, Sherrinda. Great post. I love the idea of the anti-hero. I'm trying to figure out if I have any in my novels. Hmmm, maybe in my supernatural one ;-) That sounds like the perfect place for an anti-hero :-)

Ooo, yep, I have on in one of my contemp romances, but he becomes the hero in book #2. A Han Solo-ish sort of fella. Cute too.

Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

Oh Heather, that sounds really interesting! Do you enjoy writing him? I think an antihero is rather complicated. I really don't know that I am up for it yet.

Mia, I've haven't written a male hero. I have a heroine, and I do get into the POV of the romantic interest, but not totally from his perspective. Good luck!!!

Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

Mary, just throw that door wide open and let them in! lol...you are funny! I'm like you, I haven't really written anything with them, but they sure do look interesting.

Casey, oh yes!!! Collin is a perfect antihero! Sigh....so incredibly dreamy. Good thing he turns into a hero. :)

Pepper, thank ya maam. I love, love, love Han Solo, so if you have a Han in your books, then I'm a fan! :)

Krista Phillips said...

I've never had an anti-hero before... Hmmmm, it's food for thought, though!! LOVE your examples.

I'm thinking James Bond too... all those women! For shame, for shame!

Cindy R. Wilson said...

Fun post. I love anti-heroes. I guess I wrote one several years back, but he ended up being the hero. So, do you think anti-heroes can be THE heroes of the book? It seems like they're always a secondary character no matter how much they vie for the MC position :)

Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

Krista, I do believe James Bond just might fit into the category! I think you could write a great antihero! You are so funny, you could definitely do the Han Solo type. :)

Cindy, I would say YES, an antihero can be the hero. Just look at Jack Baur on 24. He is the main guy...the hero, so to speak. They can definitely hold the spotlight!

Jeanette Levellie said...

Wow, I learned something from you today, Sherrinda. I'd never heard of the anti-hero.

I think I might be one.

The sometimees reluctant preacher's wife who resents stereotypes and pedestals, who enjoys shocking people to convince them she's a normal lady.

Except I never break the law. Oh well, I tried.

Excellent post! You go!!!

Linda Kage said...

I heart antiheroes, and for exactly the reason you said; he/she does what we wish we could. Plus, I love it when they get all redeemable and prove they're a good guy after all.

Faith said...

I love anti-heroes... I'm drawn to them in films, books, & television like a fly. I'm not sure why, though! Must be the "does what we wish we could" thing. I haven't tried writing one yet, but it's definitely something I'm interested in doing. I've considered making a certain character in my new WIP into one... why not? Maybe I'll give it a shot after all...

Anne Gilbert said...

LIke the rest of you, I think antiheroes can be quite interesting. If any of you have seen Mozart's opera Don Giovanni. He's a definite antihero, but oh, such funt to watch doing his antihero thing(and the music is unforgettable)! So, naturally, I have an antihero in my current Great Medieval Science Fiction Masterpiece..The antihero was a real person, who is usually made out to be much more villainous than I've made him(for reasons which were as a result of my background research). He's very charismatic and he (sort of) has his heart in the right place, at least about the main female protagonist, but everything he does is basically "all about him" and his plans never turn out the way they're supposed to, except at the very end, when he actually does do the right thin, at great cost to himself. But, hee,hee! I won't give away who this person is! I like to keep some things to myself!

Jill Kemerer said...

I loved Han Solo, too. No wimpy, whiney Luke for me! Nice post!