What Is an Anti-Hero?
What Is an Anti-Hero?
The term anti-hero has become popular in this day and age. Superheroes like “Superman” and “Spiderman” have grown stale and boring. They have the qualities of a righteous hero saving the day similar to the other superheroes. However, anti-heroes like the “Punisher” and “John Wick” have captured the attention of viewers. Kurt Sutter, the creator of “Sons of Anarchy” (2008), stated:
“I’ve made a career writing about fictitious anti-heroes. To create these worlds, I’ve spent a lot of time with active members on both sides of the law. And if I had to pick the most interesting of the two, the choice is obvious — we all love the guys in black.”
This sums up why people began to love these types of protagonists. An anti-hero is a self-interest-fueled protagonist that focuses on a particular goal and does everything in their power to achieve it.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines an antihero as a protagonist who is lacking the qualities that make someone a hero. This may include values like empathy, integrity, and humility. Antiheroes have been present in human literature since ancient Greece and since then, almost every culture has used the idea of antiheroes (Britannica, 2016). From the word itself, one can infer that an antihero is the opposite of a hero. Which simply means a protagonist without the qualities of a hero. In contrast, an anti-villain is an antagonist with the qualities of a hero, however, the nature of their objective is often evil.
Individuals can associate the term antihero with heroes, villains, and anti villains. An antihero can become a villain if a narrative changed its point of view. This is one of the differences between an antihero and a hero. A hero will always be the person doing righteous acts while an antihero is a character that is doing bad things for a justifiable mean. Even if a narrative changes its point of view, a hero will always be the hero and a villain will always be a villain.
Today, there have been a lot of books, films, and tv shows that use antiheroes as their protagonists. Some of the most famous movie antiheroes are “Walter White” from the TV series “Breaking Bad” and “Captain Jack Sparrow” from “Pirates of the Caribbean.” These are protagonists that indulge in activities that society would deem illegal. Walter White was a chemistry teacher that turned into a life of crime to save money and support his wife and child. Captain Jack Sparrow is an infamous pirate who often finds himself saving people and the world.
“Walter White” from the “Breaking Bad” TV series is a teacher who became one of the most feared individuals in the drug business. He is one example of an antihero that can become an antagonist if the narrative changes its point of view (MasterClass, 2021). He became an antihero when he started cooking methamphetamine and selling them. At first, he had a righteous motive. He was dying of cancer and would like to save money to support his family when he eventually dies. However, as the series went on, Walter White became more villainous and even committed multiple cases of murder.
“Captain Jack Sparrow” is another self-interest-driven antihero. However, unlike “Walter White” whose self-interest included his family’s needs, “Jack Sparrow” thinks only for his self-interest. Most of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies center around his motivation to achieve eternal life. However, his moral compass often leads him to acts of self-sacrifice. In the third movie, he was on the verge of achieving immortality by stabbing the “heart of Davy Jones;” however, he forfeits this opportunity to save his friend’s life. In the fourth movie, he came close to drinking from the “fountain of youth” but instead gave the water to his former lover to save her. “Jack Sparrow” is an example of an antihero that lies, cheat, and steal but a strong moral compass leads him to do righteous acts.
Another good example of an antihero is the Marvel character, “Punisher.” “Punisher” was a marine who lived a normal life with his wife and kids. However, criminals accidentally killed his wife and kids during a shoot-out. Since then, he became a cold-hearted vigilante who killed criminals without a second thought. Stories from marvel comics and the tv series show him torturing his enemies and even setting them on fire. He justifies this action as a way of protecting others from potential harm. He kills every kind of criminal to ensure that what happened to his family doesn’t happen to anyone else. “Punisher” is an antihero since his motive for his acts of murder is protecting people.
An antihero is a protagonist that has the qualities of villainous characters. This can be simple acts of cheating, lying, and stealing. It can also include brutal acts of murder and torture. Despite these flaws, antiheroes can act to help others or have righteous motivations behind their ruthless acts. However, there are also cases where an antihero can be villainous that a change in a narrative’s point of view can make them the antagonist. An anti-hero is a self-interest-fueled protagonist that focuses on a particular goal and does everything in their power to achieve it. This means that antiheroes are neither good nor evil. They are simply characters that are trying to achieve a justifiable mean.
Britannica, T. Editors of Encyclopaedia (2016, January 13). Antihero. Encyclopedia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/art/antihero
MasterClass Staff. (2021, April 30). 4 Tips for Writing Antiheroes: How to Create an Unforgettable Antihero. https://www.masterclass.com/articles/how-to-create-an-unforgettable-antihero#3-types-of-antiheroes.
Merriam-Webster. (n.d.). Antihero. In Merriam-Webster.com dictionary. Retrieved June 21, 2021, from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/antihero
(n.d.). Top Anti Heroes Quotes. Topfamousquotes.com. http://topfamousquotes.com/quotes-about-anti-heroes/.