Saturday, 20 November 2010

I Loves Me Some Anti-Heroes

Saw a top ten list of "the greatest antiheroes" while rabbit-trailing on the internet today.  And I'll let you in on something:

I love anti-heroes.  Love love love'em.  As you know, an anti-hero is a person who does bad things, but for whatever reason, still has the reader/viewer's sympathy.  Think of my current TV obssession: Dexter
Yeah, he kills people, but he's such an interesting guy!

Now, these days, there are almost TOO many antiheroes - has Vin Diesel ever played anything but anti-heroes?  However, I love a likeable bad guy in a film.  They're just so interesting to watch.  And way more fun than watching perfect, golden boys and girls marching through plots like little, maddening paragons.

Because they always have to make the right choice, they never make any interesting choices.

I don't know exactly where the idea of the Anti-Hero started-- was Odysseus an anti-hero?  What about Titus Andronicus?  MacBeth definitely was, and his wife even more so.  Was it the devil in Paradise Lost?  Lord Byron's Childe Harolde?  Who knows.

Anyway, this top-ten list of "greatest anti-heroes" was fun to me... it includes Tyler Durden, Cool Hand Luke, Tony Soprano, Han Solo, Malcolm Reynolds from "Firefly" and "The Dude" from The Big Lebowski, and a few from TV shows I never watched.

I'm not sure if Malcolm Reynolds is really an anti-hero, though: my favorite line from the whole Firefly series (yeah, I'm a nerd: but I only watched it once through, OK?) was when he said,
"You don't know me, son, so let me explain this to you once:  If I ever kill you, you'll be awake. You'll be facing me, and you'll be armed." I think that puts him on hero turf, not anti-hero.  But that's just me.

I was a bit surprised at a few omissions on their list as well.  Maybe comic book readers didn't catch wind of this list, because Wolverine was nowhere to be seen.

My own favorite anti-heroes?  in no particular order:

Tyler Durden (fight club)
Batman (Frank Miller/Dark Knight version, not 1960s version: re-watch that show.  He's so durn preachy!  Here's a website that's collected all the times Batman lectures Robin in the old TV series)
Alex DeLarge (clockwork orange) - at the same time, one of the most evil, but also one of the most charming and attractive villans out there.  That Kubrick makes us root for him is enough to establish him as one of the greatest film directors out there.  That when Alex delivers the final line of the movie, we go "YES!  Wait!  NO!  Wait... huh?" makes Alex a permanent top-fiver on my antihero list.  I can't believe there are anti-hero lists that don't include him: my only explanation is that the person who wrote the list hasn't seen A Clockwork Orange.
Dexter Morgan (the TV show Dexter.  Season four is my favorite so far.)
Pick a Clint Eastwood Character - other than Million Dollar Baby and Bridges of Madison County, has Clint Eastwood played anything but antiheroes?  My personal favorite Eastwood Anti-hero is Bill Munny, in Unforgiven. (his best line: see 2:00 of this clip)

Anyway, show me a great anti-hero, and I'll hear you out.  Anti-heroes are great.

Tie it into Korea?  How's this: One of Korea's best movies ever, Oldboy, features one of the greatest anti-heroes out there, along with a badass yogi, one of the most greek-tragedy-ish, devastating endings, and one of the most novel ideas for torture, I've ever seen.

Plus, the hallway fight scene, which regularly gets listed on "manliest fight scenes ever" and is sometimes the only non-hollywood, or non-English film on the list, because it's just so dang epic.

skip to about a minute into this clip: it's all done in one take, and in case you doubted that our man Oh Dae-su was the baddest of badasses, yes, he fights the second half of the henchmen with a knife sticking out of his back.

Other Korean movies with pretty sweet anti-heroes?  Pretty much everything else by Park Chan-wook, along with Oldboy - "Sympathy for Lady Vengance" and "Thirst" come to mind.  I'm pretty sure "The Good, The Bad and the Weird" has a good one.  No doubt the "gangster" genre is full of them, but I don't know that genre of Korean film very well.

And in case you disagree with me that anti-heroes are more fun than heroes...

Which of these two songs is more fun?

"Hero" by Enrique Tightpantsonmyass

or "Bitch" by Meredith Brooks?


Charles Montgomery said...

All good except Macbeth is a classic Tragic Hero, not an anti-hero......

An interesting thing (to me at least) Korean literature really doesn't include Anti-heroes or Tragic-heroes because the religious and philosophical background of the culture is so based on harmony/confucius/shamanism/etc.

I deal with this exhaustively (at least it exhausted me) over at my KTLIT site in a four or five part series.

C.W. Bush said...

I take it you haven't seen 'The Good, The Bad, and the Weird' yet? It's really quite good.

Love me some Oldboy, and definitely love a good anti-hero.

Cait said...

I'm not sure if Malcolm Reynolds is really an anti-hero, though

Big damn anti-hero doesn't have quite the same ring.

Roboseyo said...

That's just it, Cait: I put him in the hero hero category, not the anti-hero category.

Roboseyo said...

oh yeah, charles. You're right. He's a classic tragic hero. My bad. Jeez, it's been a long time since I took my English lit. courses.

Anonymous said...

Tony Soprano. He commits horrible acts and lives an unsavory lifestyle, yet you love him and wish him well while cheering on his dirty deeds.

Absolutely LOVE Dexter. My girl and I just started season 2, I know I know, way after the fact. Better late than never.