The Anti-hero Mirror

We’ve all seen movies or read books with an anti-hero or anti-heroin.  Today I am thinking of anti-heroes who not only lack traditional hero qualities, but who are actually villainous and commit horrendous deeds. Examples of anti-hero movies I’ve seen include “The Sopranos“,  “Breaking Bad” and “House of Cards”. What amazes me is that while I am disgusted by the evil doings of these anti-heroes, the next minute I find my mind forgiving them and hoping for them to win in their new battles.

Do we identify with system rebels and underdogs? Do we see our own darksides in these anti-heroes? Do we resonate with the obvious truth that people aren’t black-or-white — that we are complex? Reminds me of this song by Tim Minchin: The Fence.

Or are our minds just sloppy, multi-selfed, layered systems with inevitable contradictions? I don’t know — this is not my speciality, but it fascinates me. One thing for certain, all of this reminds me again how unreliable my mind is.

Question to readers: Tell us one of your favorite anti-heroes and what theories pop into your mind.


Filed under Philosophy & Religion

14 responses to “The Anti-hero Mirror

  1. Australia has always held the rule-bending larrikin up. It probably has a lot to do with being a formal penal settlement (albeit for minor offenders), so authority has always been seen as something to ridicule. Our greatest hero in Australia is Ned Kelley; a thief.

  2. My favourite anti-heros are those in Akira Yoshimura’s novels. For example, Takuya, in One Man’s Justice. WWII seeing from the perspective of the defeated. (In Yoshimura’s novels, you tend to develop sympathy towards those who would, otherwise, have been dismissed by the usual norms as being criminal, illegal, etc. And then there is climax…)

  3. @ Takis,
    And WHY do you think you sympathize with such a person who, if presented differently, you”d have condemned?

  4. Because there is no black and white in anything. And, once you go deeper into the reasons for one’s actions, you may find that it may not be only the individual’s responsibility for an otherwise condemned act, but, rather, a collective responsibility of the environment around this person.

  5. Ah, so this insight of yours Takis is what helps you better understand religious folks, right?

  6. It should, although it often does not. I very much understand that it is not a Greek child’s fault, say, for being told he/she is Christian Orthodox from day 1 but I can’t help it not being critical when I see this person never question (later) what he/she is being told.

  7. Yaweh as an anti-hero…that is fascinating.

    Walter White is my favorite anti-hero.

  8. Currently, one of my favorite tv shows is Legit. Jim Jefferies is awesome. He’s such an ass, but in such a heart-warming way. He helps to look after a parapalegic and a mentally challenged adult man in some…unconventional ways.

  9. Earnest

    Batman is my anti-hero, especially in the mid ’80s vintage Dark Knight set. Both Batman and The Joker are clearly mentally ill and are driven to perform violent acts. Interestingly The Joker calls out Batman on that similarity as he dies in the sequence, unclear if Batman has similar insight.

    I think mental illness at some level is a quintessential element of a compelling anti-hero.

  10. @ Earnest,
    Sometimes, the anti-hero does not have mental illness, but instead, slow, continual changes in a person happen as the bad events in their lives pile up.

  11. @ Alice,
    Yeah, I got sucked into Walter White too and like you, in the past was sucked into Yahweh.

    @ Ruth,
    Never saw that series — sounds interesting.

  12. Earnest

    @ Sabio:
    A fine point perhaps, but if one lets life’s adversity to disrupt one’s capacity to socialize, this disruption of social integrity I feel meets the definition of mental illness. I need to be provided an example of an anti-hero who is mentally well.

    I suppose one could differentiate between the psychopath (Joker) and the angry, orphaned, mentally traumatized (Batman). Indeed, in the cartoon there is a talk show guest that says that Batman is a psychopath, and another discussant gives a heated rebuttal.

    The anti-hero does socially deviant, usually violent, things, actions which threaten the social order but have some sort of socially redeeming feature to make the character appealing. I am having a hard time seeing how mental illness could play no role in any particular example of a true anti-hero.

  13. Sure, but remember, an anti-hero does not have to be anti-social — Walt, in Breaking-Bad, certainly was not.
    And, an anti-hero certainly does not need some socially redeeming feature. It can just be the criminal you cheer for: Bonnie and Clyde, Jesse James …

  14. Earnest

    How about an ultraconservative evangelical silently cheering for Harvey Milk as Milk tried to make San Francisco a better place? Love the deeds & hate the man himself? Is this an anti-hero relationship?

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