The opinions contained in this article are solely those of the author and not The Writers’ Collective.
Miranda asked, “How do you feel about antiheroes? Do you like them or not? What are the good points about them? What are the bad points?”
And I responded, “What’s an antihero?”
I grew up reading comic books in the seventies, eighties, and into the nineties, when comic book heroes didn’t kill anyone, and when their fights didn’t destroy buildings. When they never drank or consumed drugs. I watched comic books change. I watched Tony Stark become an alcoholic. I watched Bruce Banner, as the Hulk, become a threat to everything, with so much physical strength and anger that he damaged everything wherever he walked. I watched as the hero industry—the hero business—changed in response to the marketplace. It reengineered and redesigned my heroes, turning them into those both blessed and cursed with superpowers and their side effects.
I watched new heroes appear. Heroes like Malcolm Reynolds of Firefly, and Jack Bauer of 24. Real people without superpowers. People who took risks, sometimes winning, sometimes getting hurt. People who sometimes had to ignore the rules of society to get the job done. And yet, they had their own rules, their own ways, their own sense of honor.
I have watched every episode of Firefly multiple times. I have every episode on Blu-ray disc. I have seen Serenity so many times I know the entire movie by heart, and enjoy watching for little details and my favorite parts.
I love the way Patrick Jane of The Mentalist steps outside the rules at times to capture the bad guys, to expose them, to entrap them.
Antiheroes are heroes—flawed, imperfect, all too human heroes. I don’t believe it’s possible to not appreciate them.
So, how do I feel about antiheroes? They have their place. They are a part of our fabric of reality. They may not always be realistic (hiding under the drop panels of a floor is NOT going to save you from an explosion in the same room), but they reflect the nature of our world and our society.
But I remember the real heroes. I remember the real Superman, Batman, Spiderman, Ironman, Captain America, and others. I remember their code, their way of life. They weren’t boy scouts, but they stood for something. They lived by a code of ethics. They didn’t shoot people in the thigh to get answers, that wasn’t their way. They didn’t use guns, or knives, or explosives. They didn’t break the law to capture the bad guys.
I miss them. And I believe our society misses them.
Miranda asked how I feel about antiheroes. I like them, I won’t deny that. But I think the rise of the antihero in our media, books, movies, TV shows, and video games has come at a high price. Perhaps we need the return of our good, old-fashioned heroes. Perhaps they can remind us how we should try to improve ourselves and our society. Perhaps our antiheroes have caused us to lose our dreams of becoming greater than we are.
Our antiheroes answer violence with violence. Yes, that’s realistic. But if we become like them and answer violence with violence, can we break that cycle of violence? Or do we continue to grow it, strengthen it, and embed it deeper into our lives?
The original Captain Kirk of the Star Trek in the 1960s would not have fired on a doomed vessel even if it was a Romulan vessel that had destroyed an entire planet as well as his home world. He would have simply let it be swallowed by the black hole consuming it.
The new Captain Kirk unloaded everything on a doomed vessel as a means of venting his frustration and anger, a way of obtaining revenge and satisfaction that the planet destroyer got his just reward.
Yes, the new Captain Kirk is more realistic, and portrays our human emotions more honestly. But what has that realism cost us as a people, as a society? With the fall of the hero and the rise of the antihero, what have we lost? Will we ever be able to reach for the ideals and dreams of the heroes again? Or have we forever written them off as unrealistic, dead dreams? If so, what does that say about us?
How do I feel about antiheroes? I feel they are needed; I feel they are realistic. But if they are all we have, do we lose the dream of being better than we are?
Mark woke up from a lifelong sleep in 2010. In doing so, his life changed. The changes continue to this day. He’s been married to his wife for 27 years, and likes to inform people, “She’s one of the few things I’ve done right. I’m not hosing that up.” Their two human children are grown up. One has moved out, and the other plans to in the next year. They also have three feline children named Kaosu, Delilah and Ansem. Delilah always gives him kitty kisses right on the nose.
You can find things he writes at http://mysoulstears.wordpress.com
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