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A Few Thoughts on Anti-Heroes

Published by Killer300 in the blog Killer300's blog. Views: 438

Specifically, something strange I've noticed with how they're carried out frequently, and also those that aren't.

Before we begin, I'll go ahead to sort them a little bit, as I need this to illustrate something later. Now, anti-heroes basically come in two broad variants, being either those willing to compromise on means, like the Punisher or Dexter as extreme examples, or who are imperfect in character, say an anti-social or cowardly protagonist. Obviously, these types mix and match all the time, as arguably a hero being say, anti-social, will cause them to have to compromise on means, depending on the story. But, the two types are an acceptable way of sorting here.

Here, I'm mostly going to focus on means, a rather odd trend with it. Namely, we're willing to tolerate, even cheer on, the brutality of a character like the Punisher, but other means, like corruption, just aren't tolerated in Protagonists. It seems the Hero doesn't seem to be allowed Corruption, as the biggest example, to accomplish anything, even if such a means would be far cleaner and get less people hurt.

Obviously, there are exceptions to the last, with the Song of Ice and Fire having examples of characters willing to use corruption who aren't villains, however even there, those characters aren't exactly the Protagonists(I think, it can be admittedly difficult to tell because of how the books are structured). After all, of them, only one gets a POV, that being Tyrion, who doesn't even get the chance to use his power as much as the others(from where I've read anyway). To be fair, the supporting cast does count in any book, however I still find it interesting to note this.

By comparison, I can think of at least two examples where the Protagonist of a film goes on a massacre, who we get both the POV of and, I think, are supposed to at least sympathize with. I'm not saying this is wrong per say, only that again, it reflects that, American society at least, is apparently much more willing to tolerate massive violence than corruption in Protagonists, or at least doesn't write such Protagonists as often.

To further illustrate this, I've yet to see someone like Huey Long as a protagonist. While Huey Long's corruption wasn't as far as his opponents arguably, it was immense by the standards of the rest of the country(to my knowledge). By comparison, a Song of Ice and Fire's characters, even when they use corruption, never exceed the amount used by opponents, or arguably, even to the same extreme. (Again, this might change in later books, as I've read 4 of the books in the series.)

I can think of cases where protagonists use far more brutality than antagonists, Rorsach being an example of this, but not one where they use tools like Corruption consistently on even an equal level to their opponents, much less go further.

Why? I do remember reading in a fantasy rant that violence is frequently seen as more, "honest," of a means compared to even normal politics, much less corruption. Perhaps that applies to fiction in general, in regards to audiences expectations of it, or at least how their writers treat it?

Another answer is perhaps that writing such a character is very difficult to write. Its easier, if you will, to justify violence, even when it's as extreme as torture, compared to say, abusing one's position to help the poor(the grey part of Huey Long). If we take the first answer to be the case, this would probably be the case as well.

I bring all this up because if either of the above are true, what does that say about the average reader, viewer, what have you? After all, art does frequently reflect the views and attitudes of a society. Is American culture, as I don't know how fiction treats this elsewhere unfortunately, more willing to accept massive violence compared to means like corruption? I'm not saying this is wrong per say, but it's perplexing from most perspectives on morality.

The other reason why is I find means like Corruption more interesting from a morality perspective because of how rare they are. It has now become more shocking almost, because mega violence is something seen all the time in Protagonists. By comparison, someone willing to abuse their position to accomplish something? Or someone who defeats an Antagonist through blackmail or similar? That I'd argue is more rebellious at this point than things like violence in a Protagonist, or is at least far rarer.

Obviously, point out counter examples. Additionally, Ice and Fire you could probably argue for, against, or what have you better than I can. Over all, I do hope this blog was at least interesting to read.
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  • Killer300
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  • Killer300
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