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Heroes and antiheroes in the 'verse

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  • Heroes and antiheroes in the 'verse

    In the Darla-thread there was a discussion about Angel and if he was a hero or an antihero. So a whole thread for this subject.

    How would you define a hero and how an anti-hero? And who are the heroes and antiheroes in the 'verse?

    Some defenitions I found on the internet:

    Wikipedia says this;
    hero (male) and heroine (female) came to refer to characters (fictional or historical) that, in the face of danger and adversity or from a position of weakness, display courage and the will for self-sacrifice – that is, heroism – for some greater good, originally of martial courage or excellence but extended to more general moral excellence.

    The literal meaning of the word is "protector", "defender" or "guardian"

    In fiction, an antihero is a protagonist whose character and goals are antithetical to classical heroism.
    This list is for characters in fictional works who exemplify the qualities of an anti-hero. Characteristics in protagonists that merit such a label can include, but are not limited to:

    imperfections that separate them from typically "heroic" characters (selfishness, ignorance, bigotry, etc.);
    • lack of positive qualities such as "courage, physical prowess, and fortitude," and "generally feel helpless in a world over which they have no control";
    • qualities normally belonging to villains (amorality, greed, violent tendencies, etc.) that may be tempered with more human, identifiable traits (confusion, self-hatred, etc.);
    • noble motives pursued by bending or breaking the law in the belief that "the ends justify the means."
    note: in the list with anti-heroes on tv, Angel is listed first. Also Spike is listed

    a dictionary about antiheroes;
    anti‐hero or anti‐heroine, a central character in a dramatic or narrative work who lacks the qualities of nobility and magnanimity expected of traditional heroes and heroines in romances and epics. Unheroic characters of this kind have been an important feature of the Western novel, which has subjected idealistic heroism to parody since Cervantes's Don Quixote (1605). Flaubert's Emma Bovary (in Madame Bovary, 1857) and Joyce's Leopold Bloom (in Ulysses, 1922) are outstanding examples of this antiheroic ordinariness and inadequacy. The anti‐hero is also an important figure in modern drama, both in the theatre of the absurd and in the tragedies of Arthur Miller, notably Death of a Salesman (1949). In these plays, as in many modern novels, the protagonist is an ineffectual failure who succumbs to the pressure of circumstances. The anti‐hero should not be confused with the antagonist or the villain.
    principal character of a modern literary or dramatic work who lacks the attributes of the traditional protagonist or hero. The anti-hero's lack of courage, honesty, or grace, his weaknesses and confusion, often reflect modern man's ambivalence toward traditional moral and social virtues. Literary characters that can be considered anti-heroes are: Leopold Bloom in James Joyce's novel Ulysses (1922), Willy Loman in Arthur Miller's play Death of a Salesman (1949), the bombardier Yossarian in Joseph Heller's novel Catch-22 (1961), and the protagonists of many of Philip Roth's and Kurt Vonnegut's novels.
    and a hero:
    • In mythology and legend, a man, often of divine ancestry, who is endowed with great courage and strength, celebrated for his bold exploits, and favored by the gods.
    • A person noted for feats of courage or nobility of purpose, especially one who has risked or sacrificed his or her life: soldiers and nurses who were heroes in an unpopular war.
    • A person noted for special achievement in a particular field: the heroes of medicine. See synonyms at celebrity.
    • The principal male character in a novel, poem, or dramatic presentation.
    and her haircut.
    Last edited by Nina; 01-12-08, 12:00 PM.

  • #2
    In the Darla-thread there was a discussion about Angel and if he was a hero or an antihero.
    Interesting thread!

    The style of AtS puts Angel in the anti-hero role from the off. The film noir style that the show riffs on offers precedents of anti-hero protagonists whose flavour Angel absorbs, by adopting a noir detective persona to a degree. He's also surrounded by noir-ish characters - in season 2, instead of a fully romantic love interest, he gets a femme fatale in Darla.

    The structure of the show doesn't offer the same opportunities for heroics as Buffy gets.

    Though, I would argue that Buffy operates as an anti-hero at times... will come back to that... but season 8, for example,
    has her doing less than snow-white deeds, such as nicking stuff, with even murky goals - eg not being interested in saving Fray's world, only her own...

    But Angel can't be a hero who saves the day (or night) in a straightforward way, because his main foe, W&H can't be slain. He's essentially fighting The Man or The System. And a very corrupt system it is. So he always has to question what he's doing, why he's doing it - and sometimes he has to forge ahead, to do something, even if he knows it won't necessarily do any good.

    -- Robofrakkinawesome BANNER BY FRANCY --


    • #3
      Interesting topic! I'd have to place Angel more in the hero category.

      He possesses strong character traits of courage, selflessness, and respect for those weaker than him. Most of the times he doesn't cross the line of "whatever it takes to get the job done". Often he'd prefer to fail or more precisely let the opportunity go in hopes of waiting for a better opportunity. The AtS moral of it's about the fighting more than the accomplishing supports his willingness and understanding that it's not about the end result despite the number of eggs crushed.

      Of course, the show is about how difficult is to be a hero and to keep those virtues intact. So obviously there are plenty of slips (and arcs of major trespasses into antiheroism). However, I think the judging of our hero's worth in their absolute is a travesty. Things are very rarely absolute and requiring such perfection in a hero dooms them to failure. When to me, the real strength and inspiration of a hero is in the struggle to be better than we are.

      And as a comparison. I'd see an antihero as someone who has lost sight of the people they should be fighting for. Or is more consumed with how their action help themselves.

      Obviously AtS S2, with Angel locking the W&H lawyers in with Darla and Dru is very antiheroic. It's a means to an end, but it had no respect for humanity and our ability to change. Some of those people might have been saved from W&H's ideals and used experience of their dark time in W&H to forge a new determination and path to help others.

      The absoluteness of Angel's decision that none of the lawyers of having anything within them worth saving was the true evil and demonstrated an antiheroic nature.

      Lydia made the punch!


      • #4
        Several Whedonverse characters have some element of the anti-hero to them (Angel and Mal Reynolds, for instance). But they're all Big Damn Heroes, too. Angel being a Champion is the whole point, after all. Anti-heroes don't ask TPTB to turn back time and take away the thing they want most in the world so they can keep fighting the good fight and be lonely. Anti-heroes don't risk life and limb to protect others they don't even particularly like just because they're on their crew.

        The only prominent BtVS character who is really an anti-hero in the literary sense is S4-5 Spike. He genuinely lacks 'heroic' qualities, fighting on the side of good purely because he can only hurt demons -- and never passes up an opportunity to remind the Scoobies that he despises them all. Once he starts to fall for Buffy and starts to want to do good because he wants to be a better man, that falls away.

        Jayne Cobb is very close, though he does allow a little genuine heroism to show from time to time.
        Hellmouth Tourist
        Last edited by Amuk; 28-11-08, 09:21 PM.

        I didn't jump. I took a tiny step, and there conclusions were.
        Addicted to Buffy


        • #5
          Great thread! Thanks for posting.
          My thoughts...

          Other common attributes of antihereos are: rarely speaking, being a loner, either extreme celibacy or extreme promiscuity, all of which fit Angel.

          In the postmodern era, traditionally defined heroic qualities, akin to the classic "knight in shining armor" type, have given way to the "gritty truth" of life, and authority in general is being questioned. The brooding vigilante or "noble criminal" archetype seen in characters like Batman is slowly becoming part of the popular conception of heroic valor rather than being characteristics that are deemed un-heroic. As we know, Angel is often compared to Batman.

          I'm a literature major. So I have to read a lot of stuff about this

          Personally, I would not categorize Angel as either - I'd call him a tragic hero. this is a somewhat different category yet shares simileries with the antihero and the traditional hero. A tragic hero is the main character in a tragedy who makes an error in his or her actions that leads to his or her downfall, like Hamlet. We can see this in AtS with Angel.

          Some common traits characteristic of a tragic hero are:

          * The hero is sometimes led to his downfall due to hubris, or excessive pride.
          * The hero usually struggles with an antagonist, where they fight to the death for what they believe in.
          * The hero discovers his fate by his own actions, not by things happening to him.
          * The hero sees and understands his doom, and that his fate was revealed by his own actions.
          * The hero's downfall is understood by Aristotle to arouse pity and terror.
          * The hero is physically or spiritually wounded by his experiences, often resulting in his death.
          * The hero is often a king or leader of men, so that his people experience his/her fall with him/her. This could also include a leader of a family.
          * The hero learns something from his mistake.
          * The hero is faced with a serious decision.
          * The suffering of the hero is meaningful.
          * There may sometimes be supernatural involvement (in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, Caesar is warned of his death via Calphurnia's vision and Brutus is warned of his impending death by his evil spirit).
          * The Shakespearean tragic hero dies at some point in the story, for example Macbeth. Shakespeare's characters illustrate that tragic heroes are neither fully good nor fully evil. Through the development of the plot a hero's mistakes, rather than his quintessential goodness or evil, lead to his tragic downfall.
          * The hero of classical tragedies is almost universally male. Later tragedies (like Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra) introduced the female tragic hero. Portrayals of female tragic heroes are notable because they are rare.[2]

          hope this helped
          Every Slayer has a death wish. Even you.
          ?I think it?s the title of the show. Buffy The Vampire Slayer. It?s like a line in the sand. And unless you appreciate irony and are somewhat sophisticated you?re not going to watch that show.?
          - James Marsters


          • #6
            Honestly, I think it depends on the theme of the season. Angel vacillates between anti-hero and tragic hero.

            In Reunion (wine cellar/firing friends), Forgiving (willingness to kill Lilah/torturing Linwood/bringing back Sahjhan for revenge/smothering Wesley), Home (taking away memories of Connor/joining W&H), Power Play (Drogyn) and Not Fade Away (Lindsey) he does things that are in the gray area that are examples of the ends justifying the means. He does it at least once in most seasons. And he has a problem with deciding things for others. He will occasionally let people die, act on gut emotion or make decisions for others because he thinks it is in their best interest.

            Here's an article from the BBC that describes Angel as an anti-hero when they were looking to cast the character for BtVS:

            Originally posted by
            Casting director Marcia Shulman took one look at him and knew she had found her brooding anti-hero.
            It's important to note that early BtVS-era Angel was rarely willing to get involved with fighting baddies unless Buffy was threatened--and sometimes not even then (Prophecy Girl). In season 1, he got into a tussle with Claw ("Fork guy"), but we don't know why. And he saved Buffy from the Three. He was too afraid of the Master on two occasions, even when Buffy's life was in danger.

            He really wasn't sure at first if he should even be fighting evil or just helping Buffy by providing information so that she can fight evil.

            In Are You Now, Or Have You Ever Been?, he sacrifices an entire hotel of people because he was betrayed. In that same episode he has a discussion with Denver about how he really doesn't know why he's helping humans. Of course, it is because he thought he had made a friend. In Orpheus, he chose to let the robber kill the donut shop employee because he wants to feed on someone who is already going to die, even if he could have saved them. Doyle even touches upon that urge of his in City of... when he warns about Angel staying away from humans and possibly feeding on one if he's ahead by the numbers. Another example of the end justifying the means was siring Sam Lawson to save the rest of the crew that could pilot the submarine.

            There's also the fact that they compare Angel visually to Batman extensively in season 1 of AtS.

            There's also the scene where its written in the script, but left up to interpretation that he licks his fingers of Tina's blood in City of... You also get his mentions of enjoying the killing dreams in Somnambulist and him dreaming of drinking Kate in The Shroud of Rahmon.

            His flaws that cause him to make a lot of mistakes are what don't quite make him like Superman; it's what really separates him from the classic hero archetype. Now, Batman also is a brooding vigilante, but he's largely trying to avenge his parents' murder. Angel in AtS season 1 is even called the "Dark Avenger"--avenging humanity against the evil forces that are trying to hurt or corrupt humanity. Angel's separation from that probably happens the most strongly when he's faced with Holtz. Holtz is on the same side of the fight, but is fighting for revenge rather than justice.

            Angel is a tragic hero who has had elements of the anti-hero. Anti-hero has become a broader topic... In some ways it has also come to mean someone who is a flawed hero whose flaws make the hero not a traditional holier-than-thou type hero. He doesn't always have a clear will to keep on fighting just because it is the right thing to do. He has several instances where he almost gives up (Amends, Reprise, early season 5 AtS). Angel even tells Spike that neither of them are going to Heaven.

            He is willing to deny "world peace" if it means that humans can't decide their future on their own (and as Holland pointed out--they're not angels). Jasmine even is right when she says that more people will die without her than with her. The end result of free will justifies the means of ending world peace. Letting people have their own destinies will actually cause more deaths and make a great deal not nearly as happy, but it should be their choice.

            In various periods of his souled unlife/life, Angel vacillates between whether he's fighting because he's forced to (Why We Fight), to help someone who has befriended him (Judy), to make Buffy's life easier, fighting for atonement and redemption--the shiny reward at the end of the tunnel, fighting just to beat the other guy or fighting to make humanity have it a little bit easier.

            His motive isn't always consistently to be a do-gooder, which makes him more of an anti-hero. Atonement and redemption for him are rewards; for him, the reward is being forgiven and not going to Hell. This is why he stops keeping score in Judgment and tosses out the Shanshu as a reason to fight. It's when he doesn't have any hope for a reward that he is at his most selfless (Not Fade Away).

            But even in Power Play/Not Fade Away he is both a hero and an anti-hero at the same time. In one action he's being entirely selfless and heroic (the Shanshu), and in the other, he's once again playing at the ends justifying the means (Drogyn and Lindsey).
            The Dark Avenger
            Last edited by NileQT87; 29-11-08, 09:44 AM.

            "If there is no great glorious end to all this, if nothing we do matters, then all that matters is what we do."
            "Nothing in the world is the way it ought to be. It's harsh and cruel. But that's why there's us. Champions."


            • #7
              I actually think that Faith and Wesley are the two biggest "anti-heroes" of the Buffyverse, as well as, perhaps, Season 5 and 6 Spike. But once Spike had his soul, he became quasi-Angel, and once Angel had his own show, it became pretty common to actually cast him as less of an anti-hero, and more of a classical hero who is in the wrong time and place. That's why he's so wistful in Pylea about tales of adventure and all.

              His anti-hero status is more steady when the text is very clear that the line between him and Angelus is small. The more fans signed on to the non-textual idea that Angel is completely seperate and uninformed by his vampiric nature, he became less of a genuine "anti-hero". But I don't think he's ever been better than fourth on that list in the Buffyverse.
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              • #8
                Originally posted by KingofCretins View Post
                I actually think that Faith and Wesley are the two biggest "anti-heroes" of the Buffyverse, as well as, perhaps, Season 5 and 6 Spike. But once Spike had his soul, he became quasi-Angel
                I considered including S4 Wesley in my list. He straddles the line, but ultimately he's a guy who feels like he got a bum deal. He lost his friends for doing what seemed to be the right thing. But he also knows that if he'd trusted them more, it might not have gone the way it did. Sure he's sleeping with the enemy, but for all that he's rather surly, once he leaves Hapless Comic Relief behind, he never stops exemplifying heroic qualities.

                Faith is a better overall candidate. She's a flawed hero for the first part of S3. She's in that group that has some anti-hero in them but definitely displays classic heroism regularly. That she feels entitled to her flaws ("Want. Take. Have.") due to her heroism rather than pursuing virtue as its own reward or simply out of duty certainly earns her some anti-hero cred. Then, after "Bad Girls", she turns evil, which pretty well rules out being an anti-hero. Later, after she's sought and acheived some redemption, she's really not an anti-hero at all anymore, though she's retained some flaws.

                For me, the poster child of anti-heroes is Thomas Covenant (first trilogy). He usually does the right thing for the world even though he doesn't believe in it, but he has to be brought to it kicking and screaming. And rapes a woman along the way, among other crimes. No-one in the Verse other than post-chip, pre-Spuffy Spike fits the bill nearly so well for me. But YMMV.

                I didn't jump. I took a tiny step, and there conclusions were.
                Addicted to Buffy


                • #9
                  I just can't bring myself to think of angel as an antihero. Yes of course he made mistakes, he's not perfect. But once whistler came to hi and showed him how his life could be if he starightened up.. he was a new man! He sacrificed his love for buffy so she could have some normalcy. He started up his own company so he can help people. Ha even had a chioce to be normal, and human, and gave it up so he could be a warrior on the side of good.

                  Spike could be seen as an antihero pre-soul, post chip. He only fought along with the scoobies to fight, not to do good, but so that he could be fighting ANYTHING because he loved chaos that much.

                  I also agree with faith being an antihero. Yea she was good.. when people were looking. She did redeem herself later in the seasons, but early buffy/ats she was a menace. She rooted for everything the mayor had to offer.

                  But in conclusion, i don't think Angel should be portrayed as an anti-hero.


                  • #10
                    I think people confuse antihero with the "magnificent bastard" archetype. A lot of characters that people want to claim are antiheroes are actually villains (that Wikipedia list is loaded with the likes of Hannibal Lecter and Freddy Krueger--those are magnificent bastards like Angelus, the Master and the Mayor, not antiheroes).

                    First of all, an antihero is not a villain. They are heroes that you probably wouldn't want to emulate because of the things they are willing to do and the unlikelihood of their lives making them great role models in the traditional sense. An antihero is a Batman, not a Superman. Angel, Spike, Wesley and Giles are all in this category.

                    Jean Valjean, Huckleberry Finn and Odysseus are real literary antiheroes. Use those examples to compare. The problem is that the modern definition of the word is starting to also include sympathetic villains rather than real antiheroes.

                    Angel has elements of Odysseus, Jean Valjean and Bruce Wayne. Angel and Holtz is very much like the relationship between Valjean and Javert. None of those characters are the more Spike and Han Solo-like scoundrels with hearts of gold/reluctant heroes archetype. The hero who is seeking redemption for past wrongs, a hero who is constantly teetering on the edge or a hero who makes decisions that a Superman-like hero would never be willing to make are the makings of an antihero. They are the person who fits all the makings of someone who would be looked down upon for what they've done, but they turn a new leaf and do what they think is right; but because of their past and some of their flaws that remain, they will never be a true hero.

                    Here's an article about what an anti-hero is:
                    The Dark Avenger
                    Last edited by NileQT87; 30-11-08, 04:23 AM.

                    "If there is no great glorious end to all this, if nothing we do matters, then all that matters is what we do."
                    "Nothing in the world is the way it ought to be. It's harsh and cruel. But that's why there's us. Champions."


                    • #11
                      I've a hard time deciding how much Angel's grey area deeds are because of Angel as a person.

                      To quote Angel himself;
                      "You want to know what my problem is? I'm screwed. That's my problem. I can't win. I'm trying to atone for a hundred years of unthinkable evil. News flash! I never can! Never going to be enough. Now I got Wolfram and Hart dogging me, it's too much! Two hundred highly intelligent law-school graduates working fulltime driving me crazy. Why the hell is everyone so surprised that it's working? But no, it's 'Angel, why you're so cranky?' 'Angel, you should lighten up. You should smile. You should wear a nice plaid.'"

                      Nothing goes right or is easy in Angel's life, what can you expect from this guy? Part is his own fault, but also a part is just bad luck. So I'm also jumping on the 'Angel is a tragic hero' bandwagon.
                      and her haircut.
                      Last edited by Nina; 01-12-08, 11:45 AM.


                      • #12
                        Interesting topic! I'd have to place Angel more in the hero category.

                        I agree. ANgel may not be perfect but that does not make him and anti-hero if you look at what is posted above for anti-hero angel misses 95%

                        lack of positive qualities such as "courage, physical prowess, and fortitude," and "generally feel helpless in a world over which they have no control";

                        1 Angel has courage and shows this again and again.2 Physical? Yup JUst watch any show.3 Angel may feel fusterated at time but he doesn't feel helpless in fact he helps them as he says many times.

                        qualities normally belonging to villains (amorality, greed, violent tendencies, etc.) that may be tempered with more human, identifiable traits (confusion, self-hatred, etc.);

                        1ANgel is not amoral infact I love that the show is so filled with his version of a moral code he will not break.2Greed? no, that why he destoyed the ring that let him walk indaylight. He was thinking of others. 3He also only violent when he has to be and always tries another way or somthing else in controlling him and he is not Angel.4 He is not confused about his mission in life and has no self hatred, self loathing yes, but he wouldn't try to redeem himself he hated himself he would just allow himself to die by his ownhand.

                        noble motives pursued by bending or breaking the law in the belief that "the ends justify the means."

                        The ends is not Angel's way. He states this many times. He never takes the easy way out. He eveb has faith go to jail becasue upholding the law is the right thing to do. Somtimes killing a good person will take care of the problem Angel would never do this, though I have seen shows or films like the punisher that they do.
                        Angel was once called an in interview by joss himself saying that Angel is a Noir hero.
                        That is really the best way to describe it.


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Wolfie Gilmore View Post
                          The style of AtS puts Angel in the anti-hero role from the off.
                          Wanky to quote myself, but I just read back over my post and realised that I didn't quite explain myself (and figured that no one would bother to read back over an edited post... I know I wouldn't).

                          Anyway, I said that the style of AtS puts Angel in the anti-hero role. But that's not his only role - just as the noir style isn't the only style in the mix. Like BtVS (though perhaps not to the same extent), AtS is a stylistic mish-mash - and I think the character of Angel absorbs a number of archetypes from his mixed-genre surroundings. Like a mushroom.

                          Angel is part superhero - as Nile said, there's a Batman flavour in there. In season 5, we see him playing a "Captain America" role for the Allies - but, without all the grins and gung-ho enthusiasm you might expect from the usual superheroes you see fighting the Nazis, with puns and love of country.

                          He does it grudgingly, pretty much because he was blackmailed from what I recall (by those proto-Initiative dudes). And then he eats someone. Ok, in a nice, helpful way. But still. Superman would never do that. So, he's an superantihero, perhaps?

                          In common with noir anti-heroes, his milieux doesn't offer clean battles. Everyone's got an agenda, everyone is "dirty" somehow, especially as the show goes on.

                          But, as other people have mentioned, he's also a tragic hero - in ways that are actually similar to his noiriness. Circumstances fck you over, as a tragic hero - but so does your own character. A flawed, noir anti-hero has dark moods and bad luck. A tragic hero has a tragic flaw, but also gets trapped in tragic circumstances.

                          Angel exists at the meeting point of tragic hero, noir antihero, superantihero (or morally questionable superhero, at least). He lives in the "Home Office" - LA is a kind of hell, and humanity are the demons as well as the demons himself. That's Angel's trap. Buffy might live on a Hellmouth, but Angel lives in the big city, and that's a different kind of hell, but a no less swallow you whole-ing one.

                          Angel is less of an antihero than other Joss characters (Mal, for example) and more of a tragic hero.

                          -- Robofrakkinawesome BANNER BY FRANCY --


                          • #14
                            Many of the characters are hard to place in any category because they are so dynamic and possess many traits and attributes that might land them in more than one category, but just this is what makes them so life-like.

                            Personally I'd file Angel under "hero" since he doesn't really fit the standard definition of antihero. There is something dark about him (to put in in a rather unexact way), but he still acts heroically throughout the series, at least in general. His past, of course, is an entirely different matter, both his time as Angelus and as rat-eater.
                            I like the term "noir hero", immortaljedi. Thanks for providing that quote.

                            Nile, would you care to elaborate a bit on the Valjean comparison, please? Apart from the redemption part, I'm not sure I see the similarities at the moment (there's one with Spike though - the shiny hair ).
                            The analogy with Javert and Holtz is clear, of course, though in my opinion Javert is more likeable because he serves the law and is not consumed by a desire for revenge. He is the symbolic figure standing for justice, so to say, in its purest, unbending nature, while Holtz is a realistically drawn human with a thirst for vengeance (not that Javert doesn't get several character traits, but he definitely has a certain symbolic purpose).
                            Sin is what I feast upon
                            I'm forging my crematorium
                            Your tomb is waiting here for you
                            Welcome to my ritual

                            -Judas Priest, Death


                            • #15
                              Personally I'd file Angel under "hero" since he doesn't really fit the standard definition of antihero.

                              Yup! The host talks about him being a hero all the time. He is a champion. He does what right for the sake of being right and good! It doesn't make someone a anti-hero becasue they are not perfect or make mistakes. Angel has a soul. He makes mistakes becasue he has a human soul. Mistakes are human in nature!


                              • #16
                                Put me down as one who sees Angel as a flawed but very definite hero. Same with Buffy as a flawed but definite heroine.

                                I agree that characters like Wesley, Faith and even Spike more classically fit the role of anti-heroes.


                                "If you're an Angel/Buffy fan, there's a big payoff," - Jeremy Atkins, Darkhorse


                                • #17
                                  I checked the list of anti-heroes on Wikipedia


                                  and realised that I just don't understand the term. Juno McGuff ("Juno"), Freddy Krueger, Jay and Silent Bob, Michael Corleone, Jay Gatsby, Lucifer... what an eclectic list.

                                  But, yes, Wiki lists Angel and Spike as anti-heroes.
                                  BLONDE TAN
                                  Moscow Watcher
                                  Bug #3
                                  Last edited by Moscow Watcher; 18-03-11, 10:58 AM.


                                  • #18
                                    The entire Wiki content on the topic is wrong from everything I've heard about antiheroes.

                                    My definition is a lot closer to this site:


                                    The spice of a story, the element that makes it more than simple heroes and villains, lies within the character of the Antihero. The Antihero is someone with some of the qualities of a villain, up to and including brutality, cynicism, and ruthlessness, but with the soul or motivations of a more conventional Hero. The Antihero probably existed first (before conventional Heroes), perhaps pre-dating the sanctifying influence of organized religion. Many of the protagonists of Western and Eastern classical and mythological stories fit into the broad antihero mold, especially those who are shown as having turbulent, violent backgrounds and conflicting motivations. Frequently, it is this mental conflict that serves to link the discrete episodes which compose such stories. (Such a connector was necessary due to the oral storytelling tradition that persisted until fairly recently.)

                                    Resolution of external conflict was tied to attaining internal balance and peace. Odysseus, for example, begins his "Odyssey" torn as to whether to brave the seas and reclaim his throne or to remain on a blissful island in the passionate arms of a woman who is not his wife. Through a truly legendary series of trials, he comes to the conclusion that home is where his heart and mind can be at peace. Certainly, the adventurous journey is alluring to reader-listeners, but the emotional travails of Odysseus (and his wife & son, who have their own problems) is probably what kept Homer's audiences clamoring for more. The push for conformity of stories and ideas that came with the growth of powerful, organized religious movements and reliable, affordable printing yielded less conflicted protagonists, with little of the bloodlust of their assumed predecessors. Although not a Biblical expert, I have observed a certain degree of violence and passion present in the pre-literary Bible stories that has been toned down or eliminated entirely in the later depictions.

                                    On the secular front, the Antihero has fared better, used at times as a mirror for social commentary and political critique. The protagonist's spot may be used, but more often an antihero character is relegated to a secondary or fatal role in the story, skirting potentially negative attention. Swift's Gulliver and Hugo's Jean Valjean both had their fatal personality flaws and yet held fast to their attitudes, but although they could easily represent any person buffeted by life's harshness, they are not exactly characters to model one's future life on.

                                    In later times, authors have been bolder in their use of flawed heroes and even villains as key characters, perhaps as the threat of retribution has lessened somewhat. Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn was a self-described rascal, causing all manner of trouble and even committing the then-crime of helping Jim, the runaway slave. Coming together with the increased use of emotionally unsettled characters, the propensity to leave a story incomplete with respect to characters' morality also increased. Holden Caulfield, the anti-poster-boy of Salinger's "Catcher in the Rye", flirts with criminal behavior and is both self-absorbed and depressed. Yet his frank portrait of adolescence resonates with many people, despite the lack of any last-minute salvation or even a final resolution of his many conflicts.

                                    Picking up the themes of literature, live and recorded drama (stage productions, radio, movies, television) also make frequent use of antiheroes and complex villains, although there is more resistance to leaving matters of the heart and mind unfinished at the conclusion. The film noir approach relies upon such characters, and the best examples of this technique have few or no cut-and-dry, good-or-evil characters. "The Maltese Falcon", which admittedly began as a book, is all about the deadly waltz of four people with blatantly selfish motives willing and able to lie, steal, and murder for their obsessions. Despite all this, the protagonist and star, Humphrey Bogart as Sam Spade, is so highly regarded by reader-viewers and writers alike that he has practically spawned a new antihero sub-archetype, the grizzled, world-weary, working-class detective.

                                    Outside of noir, the protagonist's role is largely out of reach to any but the most good-hearted, but there is a growing tendency to give villains more complex, even sympathetic, motivations. The line between an antihero and a villain has always been hazy and open to discussion, but lately the distinction has become moot in some cases. In certain long dramas that evoke the epic spirit of the earliest stories, characters that appear as villains initially evolve and develop only to be absorbed into the storyline as antiheroes. The modern author's renewed awareness that readers are likely to be familiar with a story's entire history permits them the freedom to develop more elaborate and complex characters, some of which fit readily into the antihero mold.

                                    The comparison of Angel/Holtz to Valjean/Javert is largely that Holtz and Javert were the good guys in the beginning and Angel and Valjean were the bad guys or lawbreakers at the time. Then they end up swapped. Holtz and Javert become the bad guys who are doing what they believe is the right thing and Angel and Valjean become antiheroes on the right side of the fight. A vampire hunter is supposed to kill the vampire. An inspector is supposed to uphold the law on the criminal. In both these stories, the vampire and the convict become noble while the vampire hunter and the inspector find themselves on the wrong side of what is moral.

                                    In fact, both Angel and Valjean care for dying prostitutes (Fantine has tuberculosis and Darla has syphilis) and end up raising a child as a single parent.
                                    The Dark Avenger
                                    Last edited by NileQT87; 02-12-08, 02:44 AM.

                                    "If there is no great glorious end to all this, if nothing we do matters, then all that matters is what we do."
                                    "Nothing in the world is the way it ought to be. It's harsh and cruel. But that's why there's us. Champions."


                                    • #19
                                      Right, thanks.
                                      I know this is slightly off-topic now, but I wouldn't call Javert a bad guy. He regularly is the antagonist for Valjean, but he is never bad technically, he just carries out the law to the letter. To me Javert was the "non-bad" antagonist while Th?nardier was the actual bad guy.
                                      To be honest, I hadn't taken the child-raising into account because Connor didn't get much raising from Angel due to circumstances, and I had ignored Darla's dying prostitute nature (but hey, here's another one between Darla and Fantine: both seem to have lost their teeth, one in a metaphorical and one in a very literal sense ).
                                      Sin is what I feast upon
                                      I'm forging my crematorium
                                      Your tomb is waiting here for you
                                      Welcome to my ritual

                                      -Judas Priest, Death


                                      • #20
                                        That's kind of the point though. Neither Javert or Holtz are actually bad guys. Granted, Holtz has an extra helping of revenge present, but the main connection is that the traditional good guy becomes the antagonist and the traditional bad guy becomes the protagonist.

                                        I suppose Holtz is Javert and Th?rnardier in one.

                                        "If there is no great glorious end to all this, if nothing we do matters, then all that matters is what we do."
                                        "Nothing in the world is the way it ought to be. It's harsh and cruel. But that's why there's us. Champions."