I’m in a mood to vent about the anti-hero/heroine character type. During this process, I shall swear my ass off. You have been warned.
Some context: to me, storytelling is a sacred calling. Why? Because good tales change the world for the better. As Abraham Lincoln reportedly said to Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, “So you’re the little woman who wrote the book that made this great war.” May we all create something that helps accomplish such an important goal as ending slavery.
But back to the anti-hero/heroine character in writing. To set definitions, this particular type is a lying, cheating, hoarding, and murderous fiend, yet they’re also charming and have one or two nice qualities. You know what that makes them?
Still. An. Asshole.
Now, I’ve tried to keep an open mind. But I’m just not a fan of the anti-hero/heroine. There’s not that much gray area in the world, in my humble opinion. Giving these fuckers an HEA without having them make any deep moral changes feels like rationalizing bad behavior, pure and simple.
More context from the writing perspective: movies set a lot of our storytelling at large. During the Golden Age of Hollywood, the Hayes Code meant that you couldn’t write authority figures (police, government) who were evil. From a writing perspective, that was limiting and boring. And I get that. The code ended in 1954. Ever since then, the anti-hero/heroine has had a hey day. Personally, I thought it would all peak with the character of Gordon Gecko, the movie Wall Street, and the line, “greed is good.”
I was wrong.
After years of contemplation, I have come to the following decision: fuck writing anti-heroes and anti-heroines.
Full disclosure: it’s not like it’s a choice for me–I’ve tried to do the anti-hero/heroine thing since it’s popular–and I just can’t. My characters have failings but also solid moral compasses.
I’ve been told that my classic hero/heroine approach is not as edgy or as Literary with a Capital L. To this I say…
An asshole by any other name is still an asshole. I’ve seen plenty of these creeps in action first hand. I won’t spend my valuable creative time filling other people’s souls with their evil.
Instead, I do my best to celebrate men and women who do the right thing–even though it sucks–and in the end, their sacrifice has meaning beyond just accumulating STUFF (or people they can’t love beyond objectification). Maybe my work helps the world. Maybe it doesn’t. In the end, that’s not what matters. What’s important is that I’m consistent who I am and what I value. Evil surrounds me, it doesn’t not become me.
Thus endeth the rant.
Now I’ll go write something where the hero/ine kicks ass, takes names, and saves the day.