Follow-up post to Heroes vs. Villains!
Let me kick this off by saying one thing.
I LOVE Antiheroes.
They trump the heroine, hero, heroine’s nanny, hero’s second cousin… they’re just plain awesome.
WARNING: This post deals with Inkheart, Moonacre, Eragon, and Robin Hood. If you haven’t read/watched these, then spoilers are ahead.
Antiheroes signify the middle ground between hero and villain. They aren’t Main Characters, therefore cannot be categorized as a Hero/Heroine or Villain/Villainess.
I think I like them the most because I feel I have more in common with them. They aren’t perfect people. They make mistakes. And they’re torn between choosing to be a hero, or succumbing to the Dark Side and being a villain. They could be either, and they stand between them.
I’ll give some of the best examples I know of (because I like examples very much whenever I’m reading anything).
- Dustfinger (“The Inkworld” Trilogy, “Inkheart” movie).
(Short Bio: Dustfinger is a character originally from the Inkworld where he was read out into modern-day earth. He’s somewhere between thirty-five and forty. He has sandy hair, has a pet marten with horns, and can wield fire as if he owns it.)
Who has seen/read about Dustfinger, and doesn’t love him? Nobody I know, certainly. Dustfinger is a wonderful character. In the beginning, he shows up and betrays the Folcharts to the villain Capricorn – but we don’t hate him. Why? Because even though he did something wrong, he did it because he longs to be back with his wife and children in his own world. He has been ripped away from everything he knew and thrown into a noisy, chaotic, frightening world, and so we feel for him. We want Mo and Meggie and Reesa and Aunt Elinor to be all right, but we also want Dustfinger to be happy, which leaves us with a very pleasant emotional entanglement. Dustfinger goes through many emotional changes in the books (in the movie too, but it’s hard to cram three books’ worth of information into a two-hour movie). He starts out as a sympathetic yet self-centered character. He transforms into a character who, though deathly afraid, is willing to sacrifice his life to save another’s. And after that, he transforms even more, becoming a courageous and loyal friend. (Awesome, too).
- Robin DuNoir (“The Secret of Moonacre” movie).
(Short Bio: Robin comes from the forest-dwelling DuNoir clan, who have been feuding for hundreds of years with the Merryweather family. He’s somewhere between 17-20, likes to spend time in the woods, and has a very awesome costume. (bowler hat, feathers, studded jacket and scarves, anyone?)
Robin is a very complex character, as antiheroes usually are. He is used to living his life as he always does – tramping the woods with his gang or by himself, trying not to anger his father and yet at the same time earn his attention. He has also been taught his whole life that the Merryweathers are traitors who deserve everything that’s coming to them, and that they are not to be trusted. But when spunky young Maria Merryweather shows up, discovers she is the Moon Princess who can stop the curse from destroying all of Moonacre, and knows that only Robin can help her, his world gets turned upside down.
Maria ‘traps the trapper,’ so to speak, and gives him the choice to either listen to what she has to say, or just go on hanging upside-down from a rope. He decides to listen after a very SHORT period of thought, and ends up reluctantly agreeing to help her.
He transforms from ‘an arrogant so-and-so,’ to quote Maria’s first impression of him, into a person who chooses to risk it all to do the right thing and help Maria stop the curse. He will, and shall forever remain, one of the best characters ever.
- Murtagh (“The Inheritance Cycle” by Christopher Paolini, the “Eragon” movie)
(Short Bio: Murtagh is the son of one of the biggest traitors and villains in history. He’s around his early twenties, has a short temper, and can wield a sword like nobody’s business.)
Now, most of you know that I quit reading the Eragon books because I had problems with how dark they got and the wizardry/spells stuff. This doesn’t mean that I didn’t like them immensely while I WAS reading them. But this doesn’t mean that Murtagh and Blodgharm aren’t still two of my favorite characters ever. Murtagh… has issues. His issues have issues. But he’s still a wonderful character, and his problems make him a more believable character than Eragon (in my opinion, I know some people differ on this point). In the movie, Murtagh saves Eragon’s life and offers to help him – keeping his lineage hidden from Eragon. They discover that they are actually half-brothers… which doesn’t really keep them from feeling a teensy-weensy bit embittered toward each other. In fact, in “Brisingr,” Murtagh is thought dead… until he shows up later as a Dragon Rider whose powers are stronger even than Eragon’s. (Note: HE. IS. NOT. BAD. HE. IS. BEING. FORCED. I AM A STRONG MURTAGH DEFENDER. HE IS NOT A TRAITOR. That is all.)
So even though we don’t know he ends up in the books (yet), in the movie he and Eragon continue off into the wide, wide world together.
- Guy of Gisbourne (BBC Robin Hood TV series)
(Short Bio: Guy of Gisbourne is in his late thirties. He is the Sheriff of Nottingham’s right-hand lackey. He has strong feelings for Marian and, consequentially, hates Robin Hood even more than he would otherwise. Oh – and he never wears anything but black leather. I mean really, Guy, it’s a cool outfit and all, but don’t you ever change!?)
Okay, so Guy of Gisbourne is NOT one of my favorite characters. I know some people who love him to death – he’s so loveable and all – but I just don’t get it. HOWEVER, he IS a very perfect example of an Antihero.
In the first season of the show, you see that he is deeply in love with Marian – even though he knows that she spurns his feelings. He tries to protect her from the Sheriff’s evil schemes, but when the sheriff presses, he gives in. He proposes to Marian and is JUST about to marry her (and I mean JUST about, as in five-seconds-away-from “I Do” Just About) when she punches him in the face and rides off with Robin.
As you can guess, this doesn’t exactly make him a happy camper. In fact, in the beginning of Season Two, he burns Marian’s house to the ground, imprisons her father, and forces her to live at the Nottingham castle. He regrets it, naturally, and falls in love with her all over again. Marian still spurns him, but begins to befriend him, seeing that there may be something worthwhile underneath the greasy hair and never-ending black leather. Later in the season, he is given the choice between saving his own life, or staying with Marian – and ends up fighting side-by-side with her to save the town. He also ends up discovering that she is the Wanted “Night Watchman” – but hatches a plan to save her life and keep her identity hidden from the Sheriff.
And then he discovers that she is in league with Robin Hood… and does what any loyal lover would do.
He runs her through the heart in the Holy Lands and returns to England. (I TOLD you he wasn’t very loveable).
Fast-forward to Season Three.
Robin is behaving like a brat, and Guy is what my mom calls “a tortured soul” tormented by nightmares and regrets. And then, in a somewhat Soap-Opera-y way, he and Robin discover – shocker of shockers – he and Robin are Half-Brothers! (see Murtagh/Eragon). Yay! …well, no. Not yay. NOW he has to live with the fact that his mother was unfaithful, and that he and Robin are – *grits teeth* – half-brothers. He ends up siding with the outlaws… and is killed by his own sister.
And surprisingly enough – we’re sad. We have mixed feelings for Guy – one minute he’s a mean, spiteful, bitter thug, and the next he’s a tender good guy. Be still, my spinning head.
These are all shining examples of Antiheroes in fiction. They’re, in a word, splendiferous. Without antiheroes, stories would lack great emotional depth. You don’t believe me? Try Inkheart without Dustfinger, Moonacre without Robin, Eragon without Murtagh, or Robin Hood without Guy. The stories fall flat.
And that, my friends, is what makes a good story.