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Monday, June 29, 2015

Hero, Anti-Heroes, Villains!

St. George Slaying the Dragon, Hans von Aachen

The big push nowadays is for the anti-hero. Not just a flawed good guy, but someone who is actually a bad guy who is the focus of the story and whom we are supposed to sympathize with.
I honestly don't know why. As a reader, I hate reading about someone like that. I don't want to read about someone who just goes around doing bad things (murdering, for instance); that's not a person I want to get behind and cheer on. I certainly don't want to be manipulated into somehow liking this person that I would never like in real life.
I have no problem with a villain who has some sympathetic traits. A completely evil villain can get dull. Someone morally complex, but also recognizably bad so that we can cheer when he is defeated, is much better (though I don't write off all villainous villains who only have money, or power, or revenge, in mind).
So, going from that to a hero, what is a hero?
I think we often get sucked into the trap of believing that a hero can't be awesome unless he's flawed and conflicted. I definitely think we should work on our heroes, for the most part, being realistic. But then, sometimes I just get a craving for a good old fashioned hero who may make the wrong choices (or not), but who is unflinchingly good and virtuous, who defies evil just by existing.
I find myself writing more complex (I hope) heroes and villains, but I think I, and a lot of people, will always be drawn as well to the archetypal good guy, the one who may be unattainable in his goodness but who draws us to him just by virtue of the fact that he is the opposite of evil and can always be relied upon.
For a Christian, saying that a perfectly good, moral character is always boring and one dimensional obviously ignores the fact that Jesus himself was neither boring nor one dimensional.
And anyone who says that a villain can never be pure evil apparently forgets about the Devil.
So really, what I'm saying is that as usual you can't say, "Here's how to do it, and otherwise your story will not be awesome."

(I do, however, think that just about every superhero ever invented is boring. Your mileage may vary.)

And one more thing, re: anti-heroes, is that I don't have a problem with a character who starts off as a villain and then changes. I love seeing a bad guy wrestling with his conscience and slowly beginning to turn from villain to hero. I just don't want the main character to be the villain all the way through, especially if he's against a good guy.

What are your thoughts on heroes, villains, and anti-heroes? Are there exceptions?

1 comment:

  1. Hi! This is "Spiny One" from NaNoWriMo--the one whose story synopsis you said you liked.

    I think we're living in a time when Jesus gave Satan extra power to put his boasting to the test, and that's why Christendom has deteriorated, and I think that accounts a lot for the bad trends these days.

    These days envy won't allow for traditional heroes--traditional heroes are either made into secret villains with good PR, or bumbling self-absorbed buffoons, and the closest thing to true heroes are for all appearances unheroic (runts who aren't expected to amount to anything, for example).

    Traditional villains, likewise, are usually made into misunderstood victims and/or "bad boy" types that attract girls now that there aren't traditional heroes to do so (and the kind of male who remains a victim isn't likely to be found attractive by the girl). The closest thing to a traditional villain is someone who was the hero's idol but is now found out to really be a villain--and a rival--to the main character.

    And the only victims are bumbling buffoons, all male (and often old and doddering).

    What I'd like to see is a subversion of a subversion: where the girl abandons her culture and fiance for a guy who was treated like a villain...and it turns out that the guy really is a villain and a danger to her, and of her own free will she let herself get so close that she can't escape him--but even though she shunned her fiance and it's understandable why he might abandon her to her fate, he saves her anyway, and she's sorry, realizing that he was the one who really loved her all along.


I'd love to hear your thoughts; keeping them clean and polite is all I ask.