The Curious Case of The Antihero

By: Shelby Halliman

Patrick Bateman. Charles Foster Kane. Beatrix Kiddo (also known as Black Mamba).

These are just a few notorious characters that are classified as antiheroes.

Still from the film, American Psycho.

When defining an antihero, there is a range of endless descriptions that are able to be used for such an ambiguous character. Though there is not a definitive answer for what makes up an antihero, many people cannot help but wonder various motives behind their actions. Antiheroes do not fit the outlined parameters of a conventional hero. They are enigma that defies everyday expectations and leaves the audience puzzled as to what their true intentions are. Recently, I came across an article by Screen Rant that gives a brief overview of the top 20 characters they have determined as an antihero. Link to the article below:

In the article, one of the top picks included Charles Foster Kane. I agree with this choice to include him in the list due to Kane’s motives. Kane has suffered through a lonely childhood that carries into his adulthood. In turn, Kane becomes cold and dismissive, which begins to affect his relationships with many people who he has grown to love throughout the film. As his success and recognition increases, so does his vanity. He convinces himself that everything he does is for the good of his company, family and friends. It is this delusion that leads Charles Foster Kane to his downfall.

Still from the film, Citizen Kane.

An antihero’s actions can seem unpredictable as well as unorthodox. They constantly defy the paradigm that encompasses the very bane of a hero’s existence. Usually, an antihero’s intentions mean well; however, their approach to various matters causes them to self-destruct. This self-inflicted nature is the catalyst for a plethora of mishaps that find the character lost and, oftentimes, left in a state of isolation. These types of characters could be prone to violence or malicious behavior that has shown to affect other people’s lives. It is as if they invite a mode of dysfunction into the situation, whether it is welcomed or not. Disguised as selfless intentions, a character classified as “the anithero”, has the tendency to approach a certain matter in a selfish manner.

Still from the film, Kill Bill: Vol. 1

Quentin Tarantino’s vengeful warrior, Black Mamba is a character who clearly embodies the elements that are becoming of an antihero. Portraying the “assassin gone rogue”, the case of Black Mamba can be argued as acting selfishly instead of justly. Throughout the film, her intentions are very clear: to get revenge on those who have wronged her. It is not to stop her previous employer’s regime or protect anyone. It is simply a mission to put her at peace. Admittedly, I find these characters quite fascinating  and, more often than not, find myself rooting for them. Antiheroes have the ability to stray away from convention and offer a whole new perspective that is different from just a protagonist and an antagonist. Furthermore, antiheroes are able to challenge an audience’s way of thinking, encouraging them to truly question the difference between what is right and what is wrong. By opposing these standards, antiheroes continue to be intricate, complex characters who offer incredible insight on matters beyond standard comprehension.

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3 Responses to The Curious Case of The Antihero

  1. mediaphiles says:

    I enjoyed the detail and use of examples in this post. You examine the development of the antihero and layout what defines one – something a lot of people assume, but don’t actually understand.

    -Meg Schmit

  2. mediaphiles says:

    Anti-heroes as the main characters always make the film more interesting to me. Sometimes the anti-heroes do things that audiences beg heroes to do in movies, which usually involves more morally ambiguous acts that are up for audience interpretation. The list is very good as well, I love Mad Max and Tavis Bickle and I never really thought of Mark Zuckerberg as an antihero until I saw him on the list, and I’ve seen The Social Network countless times.

    – Cal Parsons

  3. mediaphiles says:

    I really like looking into these tropes and classifications of characters in films and dissecting who/what belongs in each category as well as what traits make up each trope or category. I think you have dissected the anti-hero trope really well, and observations such as Zuckerberg being an anti-hero further helped me to understand what exactly defines this trope.

    -Max Lissette

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