Monday, May 31, 2010

A Date with the Bad Girl: the Anti-Heroes Story

The splendor of the bad girl is is something that seduces our very core.  She's not like us.  She doesn't act like us.  She doesn't even look like us.  She is a monster in deep, uncharted waters.  So naturally, we must have her. Whether she's a singing siren, dressed in black leather with a whip, or is flying down the freeway in a souped up Camaro, she is an undeniably interesting creature.

Recently, as I've been working on plot and character formation, I've been toying around with the persona of an anti-hero.  The anti-hero is not an antagonist, yet is not a protagonist.  The Dark Knights of the world. They may have villain tendencies, but not villain motives.  They are truly complicated creatures.  Which is perhaps why they are so loved by an audience.  They have gusto, moxie, and are grade A badasses.  They are, in essence, the bad girl.  She's not going to kill you, she's just going to shake you up a bit.

But can the anti-hero be the love interest of a story?  Can the anti-hero aid the main character as they take on their journey?  Or should they just pop in for a cameo now and then?  Well the best part is, the anti-heroes are the center of their own story.  Granted, this is true for every character.  But the anti-hero takes it to a new level by being completely free to explore all aspects of morality (or lack there of).  I think that the answer to all of these questions is "Yes!"  In fact, I think the answer to any question about what an anti-hero can do is "Yes!"  They're so versatile its incredible.  She can be the damsel in distress or the one who tied the damsel in distress to those awful railroad tracks.  Now maybe I'm using the term anti-hero to loosely.  No, if they're constantly the damsel in distress they are probably not the anti-hero; or if they're always hopping from town to town trying to get trains to run over people, then they're probably just a sadist.  But it's the beautiful middle ground that makes up the anti-hero.  She may not be afraid to rough someone up or take lives.  She may manipulate anyone she can to follow her goals.  Or she may just like to cause utter mayhem.  Whatever the case, she plays be her own rules.  That's what makes the anti-hero so enticing.

So as I explore the anti-heroic world and attempt to write the character, I can't help but reflect on some of the worlds greatest anti-heroes.  My personal influence is Batman.  A caped crusader who gets the job done any way he can.  He's not afraid to (literally) bash some skulls.  He walks in and out of dark alleyways at night looking for trouble.  With every step he takes he's feeding his dark side.  He's helping Gotham, but he's also getting a thrill from it. But he's a super hero right?  Yes.  But look at him, really look close.  If he's anything, he's a super anti-hero.


  1. I never would've thought of phrasing it this way: "They may have villain tendencies, but not villain motives." But that's true. I just never thought of it that way.

    The anti-hero is my favorite character, for all of the reasons you spoke up and more. They resemble what most people are like, I think, in that they can switch to any side. Most people aren't all good; most people aren't all bad. They're in that lovely middle ground where they can become anything they want, a villain, a hero, or the sidekick who reluctantly goes for the ride. Or they can choose to be the person who watches--which is boring. But I think the anti-hero is intriguing mostly because you don't know what their true motives are until they reveal them, which usually happens towards the end. And they can also do and get anything they want.

    I've also always preferred Batman, again, for the reasons you spoke of. I found Superman to be overrated. He was just too...everyday-superhero for me.

    Anyway, great post.

  2. Oh, by the way, I'm True from Absolute Write. It's a great forum, and I hope you're enjoying it. :)

  3. I completely agree! Anti-heroes are truly amazing. And yes, Superman is completely overrated :)

    Nice to meet you! Yes, I love AW. It's such a learning experience for me. I'm working on getting there more often! Thanks again!

  4. looking at the real and the semi-real world, the anti-hero is the only kind of hero there is, ;)