The Anti-Hero Saves The Day

Since forever, people have been intrigued by the idea of good versus evil, the hero and the villain, both in the written form or on the screen. However, whilst heroes in children’s films/cartoons are aspired to by the young, most adults understand that these ‘creatures’ are too perfect and that no human could aspire to emulate them.

With Avengers: Age of Ultron, set to hit our cinema screens soon, I turned my attention to the nature of the hero. For those that might not have seen the first instalment called The Avengers (2012), the plot dealt with a number of ‘heroes’ from different Marvel comics and films who have teamed up with a common mission – to save the world.

Now as in real life, the characters find it hard to get along because of their very different character traits. The clash of personalities between Captain America and Iron Man, both of whom have helped to save the day despite their very different approaches, is one such example. Captain America is the perfectly good guy, a courageous idealist with no apparent flaws to his eternally honourable intentions. Meanwhile, Tony Stark/Iron Man is opposite in personality and approach, he is quite a jerk, too full of himself, egoistical and condescending, yet still on the side of the good.

In Iron Man’s case, it is the realistic viability of the character that is appealing. He is what literature would call the ‘anti-hero’. There’s been a significant rise in the use of ‘anti-heroes’ in plots. Contrary to the hero’s unattainable outlook, the anti-hero provides us with a possible inspiration for our daily life. We can actually relate to his or her character more.

One author who often uses anti-heroes as main characters is Nick Hornby. His first novel High Fidelity sold over a million copies despite the story which is centred on what many, including the persona himself, would call a loser. Maybe, the reason is that we all see a little of ourselves in the character Rob, who ultimately redeems himself by ending the narrative with a certain degree of heroism in his will to commit and better himself.

Another novel by this same author which even more clearly shows the appeal of the anti-hero is About a Boy in which Will Freeman, the immature protagonist, finds it in himself to build a bridge from his figurative island (he disagrees with the quote ‘no man is an island’) to do some good.

Despite the sometimes questionable morality of such main characters, I think I can safely say they are infinitely more appealing than the exceptional do-gooder who could only ever be a figment of anyone’s imagination and never the boy/girl next door.