Pop a squat class, ‘cause Professor Xander is about to drop some knowledge!
I’ve got a fever. And the only prescription…is more EDUMATCATIONABLENESS! We’ve talked about the protagonist a couple months back. In some cases, heroes of the story do not have to possess the typical qualities that come to mind when one thinks of a hero. What’s that? You already know what an antihero is? Well aren’t you a special little snowflake? Why don’t you go leave a comment below describing how different you are from the other falling snowflakes and go whip up some hot chocolate! Mention my blog’s name to your family and you’ll find those hot chocolates being thrown all over you. Anybody left? Alright! Let’s get started.
An antihero is a protagonist who does not possess the conventional traits of a hero. They either have amoral tendencies, lack positive outlooks on the world, or even possess traits of an antagonist.
Let’s look at a classic example: Han Solo. Specifically in Star Wars: A New Hope.
You may be thinking to yourself: “Han Solo isn’t an antihero! He’s a good guy!” Yes, he is a good guy. However, he does exhibit many amoral tendencies. First, he doesn’t bat an eye when it comes to killing, as seen when he shoots Greedo. He doesn’t care that he took a life as he calmly leaves the cantina. Second, he’s not willing to save the princess at all. He was perfectly content on just waiting for Obi-Wan to get back. But once Luke mentions the reward would be huge, he eagerly jumps at the opportunity. He’s very much driven by his own greed rather then doing what’s right because it’s right. Ergo, he’s an antihero.
Motivation is a big factor when it comes to antiheroes. They usually have their own reasons for doing good deeds rather then a sense of righteousness. Take BBC’s titular character from Sherlock.
Sherlock solves numerous murders and brings many culprits to justice. However, he doesn’t do it because it’s right. He does it because he’s bored and enjoys solving crimes. In some cases, he doesn’t care about bringing the culprits to justice. In the very first episode, he forgoes bringing the murderer to the police for a chance to prove his intellectual superiority. While he does do the right thing, it’s not for the right reasons.
Sometimes, an antihero’s motivation is the same as the hero yet they utilize a different methodology. Take Frank Castle (the Punisher) from Daredevil.
Both he and Matt Murdock are trying to keep crime off the streets. While Matt believes in criminals getting their due process, Castle takes on the role of judge, jury, and executioner. Castle’s intentions are noble, but his methodology is very against the typical heroic moral compass as seen with his many killings.
This is a common trope with antiheroes: going up against the other protagonists. At times, they’ll work together, but in some cases antiheroes will exist to be another antagonizing force for the hero to overcome. This is very evident in a character like Jack Sparrow from Pirates of the Caribbean.
While he does ultimately prove himself as a hero in the end, Jack has his own motivations that at times conflict with Will’s. He does help out from time to time, but he only does so out of convenience. He’s very willing to throw Will under the bus just to get his ship back, does so again to delay Davy Jones from taking his soul, and actively tries to kill Will over the chest. This type of antihero may not be a villain, but more of a neutral character. He’s not on the side of good or bad. He’s on his side and will align himself wherever it is most convenient.
Antiheroes exist to provide moral complexity to characters. How far should a hero go to get what they want? Is there a clear line between hero and villain or is there a moral grey area? Can you still be considered a hero even though you do bad things? These are just a few questions that antiheroes raise that make an audience think and by doing so, become more invested in the character. We see our own faults in them, and the fact that they can still do good things helps us to understand that we too have the potential to do what’s right faults and all.
But hey, what do I know? I’m just some guy on the Internet.
So what do you all think? Do you have a favorite antihero? Do you find yourself rooting more for antiheroes rather then the typical hero? Leave a comment and get this conversation rolling. Until next time, this is Professor Xander signing off.