What makes anti-heroes click? Think of your favorite TV serials, movies and books. Who is your favorite character? More often than not, it would be an anti-hero. The world loves the Tyrion Lannisters (GoT), Jack Bauers (24), Jesse Pinkmans (Breaking Bad) and Dexter Morgans (Dexter).
So, the question that begs an answer is — why do we love anti-heroes so much?
Before we answer that, we need to understand what constitutes heroic behavior. A hero has a goal which transcends his/her personal goals. Heroes follow rules. Rules which have been designed to ensure ‘welfare for all’. Heroes are role models. When heroes die, they do so for a cause bigger than their self. They can sacrifice themselves and not feel bad about it.
Let’s move over to anti-heroes. They are not villains, but they are not heroes either. They are selfish, even when they don’t look to be. They are selfish for their life, their near and dear ones, their beliefs and their existence. Whenever their actions look heroic, look again closely. Who are they really saving? They are not saving the world. They are saving themselves. They are saving their beliefs (which again aren’t the most ideal ones you can find).
And then, they are not role models. They make mistakes and then repeat them. They are liars. They can betray you. They can be cruel. They usually don’t give a damn about the world. They don’t believe in sacrifices. They hate when they are about to die, even for a heroic cause. They might even give a sarcastic smile when they close their eyes for the last time.
Anti-heroes are loners. They are wailing spirits. They are happy. They are not happy. Well… you can’t tell.
Anti-heroes make you think. They shock you. They steal your sleep. They make you not forget them.
The truth is — anti-heroes are full of contradictions. That’s why it is so difficult for an author to ‘design’ them. Below is an interesting cartoon I found in StoryBoardThat.com which summarizes the enigma that is an anti-hero.
Today’s audience is bored with heroes. We have enough of them. We need anti-heroes. Good clutter-breakers they are.