Lets chat for a bit about heroes. The new, modern, trendy, super cool, trench coat-wearing thing nowadays is anti-heroes. Batman, Joel from The Last of Us, Aloy from Horizon Zero Dawn. All these characters are dark, mysterious, brooding, kind of morally ambiguous, and dreamy. It seems that the media and critics are obsessed with the anti-hero and anything even remotely resembling a hero is a boring trope that’s obviously been done before.
But you know who I love? The hero. I love Link, Mario, and Captain America. I love the brightness, the hope, the radiating goodness that pours out of a hero and into our lives. Heroes are absolutely still relevant and, especially in these dark times, still necessary in our games, movies, and media.
So what’s the exact difference, you may ask? Well let’s check Wikipedia – because that’s what we do nowadays.
A hero is defined as a “person or main character who, in the face of danger, combats adversity through impressive feats and ingenuity, bravery, or strength, often sacrificing their own personal concerns for the greater good”. Let’s break it down. A hero is someone who utilizes their natural abilities to overcome evil. They are always found giving up what they want to help others and are good, true, honest, and kind. These characters always do the right thing and have a fantastic moral compass.
An anti-hero is a “protagonist who lacks conventional heroic qualities such as idealism, courage, or morality. Although anti-heroes may sometimes do the right thing, it is often for the wrong reasons and because it serves their self-interest rather than being driven by moral convictions”. So these are the people who fight against the system, break the rules, live by their own code, and do their own thing. And somehow they usually end up doing the right thing for the people around them. But it’s not always the best way to do it or the best reasons.
Because anti-heroes are much more flawed and much more like us they tend to be more loved. They appeal to us because we relate to their circumstances, they struggles, and dilemmas.
Just because a character is a hero doesn’t mean they’re flat. Or outdated. Or boring. It just means they are a good person with good morals who does good things for people. It’s because they are heroes that makes them people we should emulate. I mean, add a couple of cut scenes of Batman sneaking through a window with an ax and this just became a horror film. Instead of focusing on the parts of a hero no one feels they can relate to, lets focus on the fact that these are characters we can strive to be!
My sister-in-law and I have this debate semi-regularly. She is a hard-core anti-hero fan and I am a die-hard hero worshiper. It’s why she loves Brontë and I love Austen. Why she loves Rogue One instead of Force Awakens and I… well I love both. And I wish I could help her understand that a character doesn’t need to be an anti-hero to be worthy of praise or positive critique.
Lord David Cecil once said (when talking about Austen’s novels, but let’s be honest, it can be applied to any hero character, “There are those who do not like [heroes]; as there are those who do not like sunshine or unselfishness”. These character’s can bring light and happiness into our lives and into our perspectives. Instead of focusing on the flaws and negativity and selfishness we are given the option to look at the selflessness, the integrity, the courage of characters doing the right thing because it’s the right thing. Link saving Hyrule in every iteration simply because he’s in the right circumstances. Mario rescuing the kidnapped girl and freeing countless worlds from the clutches of tyrants. These are the people with hope and the ones who can teach us to hope.
The website Literary Devices explains that “in modern society when we are presented with a character that is overly righteous and upright, we find it too good to be true. The social turmoil that the entire world as a community has been facing recently has disposed us to be skeptical of almost everything. . . So, we relate better to a character that has suffered through life and has both good and bad sides than a character that is only seen doing good.” And maybe that’s true, but I like to believe there’s some good left in this world and that heroes exemplify who we can become in order to make things right!
Who are your favorite heroes? Or, if you prefer anti-heroes, which is your favorite and why?
P.S: Special shout out to the artist Kurama805 on DeviantArt for the artwork I used as my featured image! This is a downloadable wallpaper and is gorgeous!