By Angela Guillaume

First of all, I want to wish Happy Holidays to everyone! I hope you all have a 2010 to be proud of--full of joyful and productive moments. Now, on to the subject of today's blog...:-)...

We hear the word “antihero” a lot these days. This type of personality seems to be the fashion in movies of late. Yet the concept is not something new. The term itself is a pretty old term—according to Wikipedia it dates all the way back to 1714. The definition given is generally “a protagonist whose character is at least in some regards conspicuously contrary to that of the archetypal hero, and is in some instances its antithesis. Some consider the word's meaning to be sufficiently broad as to additionally encompass the antagonist who (in contrast to the archetypal villain) elicits considerable sympathy and/or admiration.” Therefore, the antihero is far from perfect, and his flaws are not hidden, but shown in full relief. He’s inherently imperfect, yet, deep down he holds laudable qualities that redeem him in the eyes of the beholder. Because of his imperfections, many could view him as much more human than the traditional hero who is perfect and good and wonderful in every way. The antihero is much more realistic—because he makes mistakes and makes no excuses about it.

Some may say that the virtuous, pure hero is about dead and buried and the antihero has stolen the show. I’m not sure about that—there’s always room for virtue in a world that requires escape from its ugliness and tragedy. Yet, ever since the introduction of the “bad boy” Byronic hero in Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage in the early 1800’s, we have developed a soft spot for that most endearing of personages—the antihero. Perhaps it’s because he’s so imperfect that women are attracted to his type. It’s also because sometimes he’s mysterious, smooth, deeply intelligent and charismatic—the quintessential babe magnet. Other times, he’s rather unappealing, yet, he always rejects traditional values or the status quo and for this, he is often forced to live alone. In dramatic fiction, he needs a strong woman—or a balancing figure—to set him to rights, to rescue him from his brooding, troubled nature and wild ways—to take him away from the reality of the paradoxical existence of sometimes good/sometimes bad he lives through. However, he can never completely let go so he is also elusive. He makes us women squirm and yearn for him, as if for something unattainable. He belongs completely only to himself, or, as complex as he is, to his various selves. Until he finds what he’s looking for on his journey, there’s no rest for him. His goal can be a noble one, such as that of the noble criminal, definitely one of my favorite character types. Such a character is one we sympathize with.

In modern times, perhaps one of the most striking, well known antiheros both on the screen and in real life—one that made legend—was James Dean. He lived fast and hard and died too young. I sat down this week and thought about my favorite antiheroes and I came up with a top 10 of irresistible and intriguing (to me) characters (I’m listing in no particular order)…I think the following need no introduction and most people are familiar with the characters:

1) Tom Ripley in Ripley's Game (John Malkovic) – he’s a criminal and he’s a sadist, but for the most part he only kills bad people. We see occasional glimpses of his humanity, they’re few and far between, but they’re sufficient to arouse our interest. Malkovic shines in this role.
2) Batman (Christian Bale, Batman Begins) – dark, brooding, the ultimate noble criminal. Who can resist him?
3) Frank Castle, The Punisher (I like the Thomas Jane version) – they killed his family and he’s out for revenge. Nothing can stop him as he butchers those who destroyed his life. But we root for him till the end, how can we not?
4) The Crow (Brandon Lee) – he comes back from the dead to take vengeance on those who killed him and his beloved. The bad guys get what they deserve. This is Lee’s final role when he tragically died in an accident during the film shooting. For this reason, and the nature of the story, I believe it’s one of the most beautifully haunting movies ever made.
5) V in V for Vendetta (Hugo Weaving) – he’s sadistic, manipulative, Macchiavellian…and he’s highly charismatic. He draws us in his web. We can’t help but wonder about him.
6) Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson, Taken) – he’s a father on an all out war to save his daughter from the slave traffickers who kidnapped her. You can’t mess with this former CIA operative and come out smelling like a rose. He will hunt you, and he will get you.
7) John Q (Denzel Washington as John Quincy Archibald) – he’ll do anything to save his son, and he does. We can relate to him, because he’ll go to any lengths to protect those he loves, including breaking the law.
8) Paul Kersey in Death Wish (Charles Bronson) – he’s the man who put “vigilante” on the map, taking the law in his own hands and giving a bunch of criminals what they deserved. Is this right or wrong? Perhaps it’s wrong to do what Kersey did, but darn, we want him to succeed!
9) Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr. as Tony Stark) – arrogant, know-it-all, smug, self-satisfied. Yet he’s lovable and sexy, we’ll forgive him anything. And he’s out to save the world. Who can argue with that? Even Miss Pepper Potts knows better.

10) And finally, the antihero can also be an antiheroine—a character that yet needs to be more thoroughly exploited in Hollywood and beyond. So let’s add a woman here, a very convincing and sympathetic antiheroine at that—Jodie Foster as Erica Bain in The Brave One. They killed the love of her life; they never had a chance. She takes on everyday criminals, watching out for the underdog, and eventually, she gets her revenge—we can’t help but be in her corner.

Now that I think on it...I also want to add an 11th - I just have to! - and it's Leon, the professional killer in "The Professional" (Jean Reno). He kills for a living, yet, he finds place in his heart and crazy existence for a lonely and troubled girl whose family was massacred--forgiving her the scrapes she puts him in and ultimately, sacrificing his own life to save her.

So what are your favorite antiheroes/antiheroines?

~ Angela Guillaume ~
Writing worlds where love is more than history
"Mile High to Heaven"--Go the extra mile for love--Contemporary short.
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  1. Ooooh, I so dig this post! You mentioned some of my fave antiheroes - Batman, V for vendetta, Bryan Mills of Taken. And Jean Reno in The Professional.

    I cannot help but feel for Gregory House of House MD when I watch that show. There's something about this man, about his character - hmm.

    Dexter too, maybe?

    Totally agree - these antis are more human than heros!

    Great post, girl, loved it!



  2. This is a great post. You've named almost all of the anti-heroes that I love, especially Robert Downey Jr as Ironman. This year didn't really add any new anti-heroes, hopefully in 2010 we'll get more to add to the list.
    Have a Merry Christmas.

  3. Thank you gals - I'm glad you loved this post. I certainly enjoyed writing it! Hope you had a fantastic day today! Happy holidays dears!

  4. To repeat Z's words, I SOOO DIG THIS POST! Thanks for sharing it Angela, and sorry I'm a bit late in reading it. Too much merriment...

    I completely agree with your choice and just wish to add another person (in all his roles, it's more the actor who portrays them who always makes them pathetic heroes to me!) to your list. My beloved Roberto Benigni. Whether he is teaches two tough guy yutzes how to really survive - and without posturing - in 'Down by Law' or making his son laugh in a horrific situation in 'Life is Beautiful' or even attempting to save his ex from sure death in 'The Tiger and the Snow' he is a HERO. Albeit a clutsy, unattractive one, but a hero indeed. He is my nomination for favorite Antihero.

    Happy Holidays and thanks for reminding me I need to rent one of those films soon. Am in need of a good joyful cry!

  5. We're HUGE Batman fans at my house. I even have a Batman bathroom! And Ironman turned out to be one of the best superhero origin stories I've ever seen - talk about a character arc.

    I completely fell for Guy of Gisborne in the recent BBC Robin Hood series - he was originally given to viewers as a villain, but the actor who played him (Richard Armitage) turned him into a sympathetic antihero by the end of the first season.

    Another antihero I can't resist is Eric Northman from True Blood. Audiences really shouldn't care for him - but we do! We really do.

  6. Hey Angela: Sorry about my belated comment - great post! Ah, yes - who can resist the anti-hero - of course traditionally male in Hollywood but we've seen a few kick butt anti-heroines - as you've mentioned. I liked Bradon Lee in The Crow as well - Clint Eastwood has always played a great anti-hero - in Unforgiven and the Dirty Harry Movies. Lots more of course. Who wants to root for a goody goody - when the anti-hero embodies qualities that are all to human.


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