1.31.2012

Antiheroes

The antihero -- defined by Wikipedia as a protagonist whose character is at least in some regards conspicuously contrary to that of the archetypal hero -- seems to be all the rage these days. In fact, it almost seems mandatory in modern fiction that the protagonists fit in with this (rather broad) definition in some way.

Of course, there are antiheroes and there are antiheroes. It is good fiction in many ways to have characters who are flawed, because all human beings are flawed. The ones who have a some obvious flaws but are otherwise decent, sane individuals who do things (heroes like Han Solo, Conan the Barbarian from the short stories, Mal Reynolds, and Winston Smith from 1984), I have no problem with -- other than that they can be tricky to write. Well, I find heroes in general a bit tricky because one must be careful not to over idealize them while still keeping them heroic.

But then there are the antiheroes who have little or no redeeming features and are near psychopaths. These I do not like one bit. I stopped reading the first of the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, Lord Foul's Bane, very early in the novel because I just could NOT root for a guy who's willing to rape a totally innocent girl, who's only crime was helping him, just because he felt like it (pretty much the first thing this antihero does upon being transported to "The Land"). I was unable to finish reading the last two books of Game of Thrones because, as far as I could tell, there were no protagonists such was the "antihero" extremes of every character left alive by that point who was concerned only for himself and thought nothing of murdering/betraying their own family. Then there's the fact that Hannibal Lector is considered the protagonist in a series of novels/films! This is the stuff that "Sophia's Favourite" calls "soul-rotting uninspiring garbage".

It's really a shame that these latter have gained so much traction -- which is likely a testament to the power that critics still have over the average reader. But there's definitely an upside: the archetypical hero is so rare these days, that one might be able to pull-off writing one in such a way that it gets praised as "original" or "out of the ordinary".

1 comment:

Carlos Carrasco said...

In the 'soul-rotting, uninspiring garbage' of a culture we are descending into, the 'anti-hero' of the future will be the hero of the past.

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