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Anti-Heroes: What Can We Learn From The Unsaintly?

Anti-heroes, they aren’t good, but they aren’t exactly bad either. You could say they operate somewhere in the middle. Either way, they are quite a lot of fun to watch! From the likes of Travis Bickle and Tony Montana from the big screen to the rule-breaking vigilantes such as Deadpool and The Punisher found in the pages of comic books. These characters have cursed, butchered, and maimed their way into the pop culture landscape despite their unruly demeanour.

Photo by Roy Rochlin Photo by Steve Schapiro

So what are anti-heroes? As the saying goes, they are characters that lack traditional heroic qualities such as selflessness and a moral compass but are framed as the protagonist of a story. With these characteristics, audiences will root for and sympathize with their goals and motivations despite their unheroic traits.

Why do we root for them? They practically embody almost everything that society tells us not to be, but there’s always something alluring about them. According to steemit, it can be attributed to the affective disposition theory. If we see a character go through hardships and struggles, we tend to empathize with them. When we see them experience a positive outcome, we feel their joy. The same principle applies when a character we don’t like in the story gets some comeuppance.

A prime example being Kratos from the God of War video game series. His vengeance against the Gods of Olympus may put the entire world at risk. Still, we can’t help but cheer for him as he kills and desecrates gods and creatures alike. His anger towards them is believable and justified due to the betrayal abandonment he suffered at their hands.

Anti-heroes aren’t only relegated to fiction. There’s plenty of real-life figures that can be considered anti-heroic. Actor Mel Gibson comes to mind as he was known for his outlandish behaviour which consisted of racist, and suggestive comments. While the media may report heavily on his shortcomings, there are few admirable qualities to him, such as his philanthropic work in Healing The Children. According to one of the founders, Cris Embleton says that Gibson and his wife have donated millions to the charity to provide medical treatment for ailing children around the world. Reflecting on his philanthropy, Gibson said it gives him perspective; he believes that focusing on oneself a lot is not healthy for the mind. Whereas, taking some time to think about other people is good and uplifting.

With all this being said, what can anti-heroes teach us? Especially to the youths who are more likely to give media worship to such figures. It is a common throughline that anti-heroes are generally people that initially start helpless and downtrodden in some way. They can be seen as the ultimate underdogs. Most anti-hero stories follow a redemptive journey to rise from their station, which, in a way, is quite inspiring. They teach us that both good and bad exist within us, and we can make peace with our imperfections to overcome them.

By Adam Ali


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