Thursday, 29 September 2011
Writer's Corner - Anti-Hero Anxiety
A couple of Follow Friday's ago, we were all asked to come up with villians in stories we wished had won instead of the hero. Not a lot of people jumped off the fence for that one, but there were quite a few anti-hero picks and this prompted me to ask the question: What makes a loveable anti-hero and where does the line between anti-hero and villain lie?
If I had to name some of my favourite anti-heroes they would have to be Severus Snape, Haymitch Abernathy, Katniss Everdeen, The Hobbits from LOTR and Abe from Vampire Academy. In trying to psychoanalyze what makes these characters memorable to me and why I didn't class them as villains, I came up with these conclusions:
1. That Pesky Killing Thing
The anti-hero can kill people, but only if they do so for a noble cause or our of self defence. As opposed to the villain who chops a few heads off as their morning exercise. Killing non-humans (i.e. vampires and demons doesn't count as immoral for some reason, possibly because paranormals are mostly portrayed as evil). While anti-heroes are generally darker characters they havent yet crossed that line between broody and downright apathetic to murder. But then this doesn't apply to Abe because I'm pretty sure he's killed just to prove a point.
2.Social Norms? I Spit On Thee
The anti-hero generally walks that tightrope between devil may care and outright scandalous behaviour when it comes to conforming to socially accepted rules of conduct. The anti-hero conforms enough to stay out of the deep end but not enough to be considered normal. Sometimes the anti-hero will purposefully break the rules just to keep their reputation in tact. But these rules have to be below the felony line or else they've crossed to the dark side. Villains on the other hand are utterly contemptuous about rules and will break as many as they can in their bid to take over the world. Having said that, Snape was all about the rules wasn't he?
3. My Reasons Are Too Lofty You Plebs To Understand (Insert Double Dose of Angst Here)
The anti-hero usually has some unknown heroic reason for the way they act, or they're tortured by some tragic past event that justifies their otherwise unacceptable behaviour. The anti-hero is misunderstood and their methods of self preservation are often perceived as arrogance. Except this explanation doesn't fir the Hobbits at all. They simply don't care about being broody. They just want to have second and third lunch on time. And the tragic past? No chance. They haven't even been out of The Shire.
4. Friends? I Think You Mean Disposables
The anti-hero usually enjoys the company of one person. Themselves. Or a select group of carefully chosen friends. The anti-hero, though sometimes arrogant, seems to have a slight social phobia and whilst outwardly disdaining the company of others, they are secretly lonely and find it difficult to make friends. Part of this is because by nature, anti-heroes are cynical and this means they have huge trust issues. Villains don't have friends so much as minions that they can dispatch whenever they feel like. Then again, both Katniss and Haymitch, surly as they were, had heaps of friends or at least people who admired them enough to follow them into war.
I could try and pluck up a few more fluffy reasons but I'm hoping you get my point. There are no hard and fast rules it seems when it comes to creating the perfect anti-hero. Nor are there any rules for creating the perfect hero come to think of it. I'm starting to think it's all a matter of perspective. I watched 300 again the other night (Yeah, I admit it. I have a Gerard Butler issue) and thought to myself, these guys are considered heroes, but really they just love killing way too much. So in Sparta they're heroes. In Persia, not so much.
All this confusion does not bode well for poor Rory from my work in progress, who is stuck between anti-hero and what I would consider sociopathy. And noone likes a sociopath right? Now I'm thinking of all the very popular sociopaths: Dexter, Sheldon Cooper, House, Dr Perry Cox...ARGH!!!!!!!!!!
So here are my questions for you guys:
1. Who are your fav anti-heroes?
2.What makes them an anti-hero and not a villain for you?
3. Are there any other general anti-hero traits you can think of?
Clearly I need help in this department!