Hello everyone and welcome back to another #theorythursday.
Last week I started talking about punctuation and I concentrated on the importance of quotation marks so check that out if you haven’t already. I will continue talking about punctuation on different weeks going forward but today I am talking about the idea of an anti-hero as I have mentioned this concept frequently lately.
So let’s dive into #theorythursday.
What is an anti-hero?
An anti-hero is a protagonist in a story who embarks on the hero’s journey but does not have the archetypal heroic qualities that we might expect them too.
In my opinion, the ideal example of an archetypal hero is Will Turner from the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. He is kind, he is the underdog, he is brave, he is earnest, he is bursting with potential but he is still naive and he has a lot to learn. I have spoken about this in more detail in my Movie Monday discussion about the first movie in this franchise so check that out of you are interested.
An anti-hero is someone who is the exact opposite of Will. They are not wide-eyed and naive, the anti-hero is usually a jaded, cynical individual who has experienced some trials in life already. The anti-hero may have a backstory that makes them hesitate to embark on another journey because perhaps they have lost something or someone already. The anti-hero is usually a kind person but they are not bursting with the same obvious goodness as the archetypal hero would be. They will help others but they know there will be consequences for getting involved and the anti-hero will consider these consequences in more detail than the archetypal hero might. The archetypal hero tends to dive right in if they wish to help someone and they don’t always think their actions through.
The anti-hero is sometimes gruff and annoyed by the archetypal hero because they know that the rose-tinted view the hero has will soon wear off, but, the key thing to note is that in the end, the anti-hero will ultimately do the right thing because they simply cannot sit by and do nothing. The anti-hero is usually always happy that they did do something though and often the archetypal hero’s optimistic outlook will rub off on the anti-hero just a little bit. The anti-hero’s arc usually ends with them being less cynical, but they never revert to a wide-eyed state.
I would actually consider Captain Jack Sparrow from the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise to be a good example of an anti-hero. He ends up a pirate because he went against the Royal Navy and because of this he was branded a pirate. The brand is what isolated him from the society he lived in and forced him to act as a pirate to get by, so ironically, it is the Navy’s fault that he has to act outside the law, and his actions make him the pirate that he was branded as. When he meets Will, he has carried around that pirate brand for many years and his name has become one of myth and legend. He agrees to help Will, but only when he learns that helping Will can also help him – despite this though, he does teach Will many things and Captain Jack Sparrow plays a big part in Will’s heroic journey as it is Jack who helps Will develop as a character so that is why I would class him as an anti-hero.
I’ve just discussed Die Hard and I would also class John McClane as an anti-hero because he is not wide-eyed or naive. He did not run into that building wanting to save everyone. He did what he had to do, on the spot, acting on instinct, because he got caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. He did not want this, but he cannot just sit idle, so he acts. It’s courage, but it’s begrudged courage, which is why anti-heroes can be really fun characters because they usually have quite a dry, sarcastic sense of humour.
Why is knowing about the anti-hero important?
It is important to understand what the term anti-hero means because otherwise reading this term could be very confusing. I also think it is important to understand this concept because if you are talking about a text that has an anti-hero narrative then you will need to understand this concept in order to appreciate the text and the character fully.
This has been Theory Thursday. I hope you enjoyed it. Happy Friday Eve.