Friday, December 3, 2010

Anti-heroes come in different shades of gray

by carol

So, who doesn’t want to play the Hero?  The Hero gets to be the winner, the character everyone admires and praises who triumphs over badness.  He/She gets rewarded and usually winds up with the girl (or guy).  Epic ballads are written about the Hero.  Great gig, right? Heroes embody the forces of good and everyone cheers as they overcome great odds to succeed in the story.

Alex O’Loughlin: “I’m not very good at playing the hero; I play an anti-hero really well.”
The distinction between an Anti-hero and a Villain may not be clear to an audience. And that is the element that makes the story more than a simple tale of Heroes and Villains. Within the character of the Anti-hero you may find some of the qualities of a Villain, up to and including brutality, cynicism, and ruthlessness, but with the soul or motivations of a more conventional Hero. They always possess an underlying pathos.  Often riddled with paradoxical traits and qualities, they resemble real people more than any other type of fictional characters do.

An Anti-hero is often unorthodox and might flaunt laws or act in ways contrary to society’s standards. In fact, and this is important, the Anti-hero often reflects society’s confusion and ambivalence about morality, so the writer can use this flawed character for social or political comment.

An Anti-hero can be a bad ass, a maverick, or a screw-up. Anti-heroes may be obnoxious, pitiful, or charming, but they are always failed heroes or deeply flawed. The writer uses the story events to make the Anti-hero understandable.  The audience comes to know his motivations and inner demons.

And audiences often come to love these characters because they are realistic and relatable—just like the people in real life, they’re imperfect and roiling with contradictions. It takes talent to create an Anti-hero because this character requires a great deal of nuance to arouse complicated reactions in the audience.

Who are the modern Anti-heroes?  Travis Bickle in “Taxi Driver.”  Vic Mackey in “The Shield.”  Dexter Morgan in “Dexter.”  Tony Montana in “Scarface.”  Rick Deckard, and Roy as well, in “Blade Runner.”

 O'Loughlin as Vincent Rowlings in "Criminal Minds."

ALEX O’LOUGHLIN:  “None of us are just purely benevolent or malevolent.  I mean, it’s not possible in human nature … the more flaw you bring to a character or the more balance you give your character with flaw, the closer that character moves towards everyman, you know.  And if that character is an everyman, then we can all sit back and relate to them like we can’t relate to a superhero.”

1 comment:

  1. Wonder if Alex sees Steve as an Anti-Hero? According to your description of an Anti-Hero, Steve definitly falls in that category. But he is also a Superhero (is there anyting he can't do?). Maybe they (Alex) are working on it, to make Steve one of the greatest Anti-Hero/Superheroes of our time!