An antihero is an archetypal character, the opposite of an ideal hero. In works of art, the antihero is devoid of traditional heroic traits or possesses negative traits, while occupying the place of the protagonist in the work.
An anti-hero can be understood as an ordinary, depersonalized, weak person, or on the contrary, outstanding but cynical, devoid of moral standards and who deliberately commits evil.
History of the concept
The hero of the myths of many peoples of the world is a trickster — a swindler who is characterized by irrationality, antisocial behavior, and anti-aestheticism. He is also the hero of fairy tales and literary works. Examples of a trickster can be Loki, Panurg, Khoja Nasreddin.
In modern times, heroes appeared in literature who face various moral problems and life difficulties, which the characters have to overcome by performing low or risky actions.
An example of a romantic anti-hero is a Byronic hero, endowed with many flaws, but still likable to the reader. The anti-hero of the later era became the “extra man”, who stands in the center of the story, but whose qualities contradict those generally recognized or approved. For example, Yevgeny Onegin, and the “little man”, for example, Akakiy Akakiyovych.
In the era of realism, Balzac and Stendhal created a new type of anti-hero — a careerist striving for power. Yes, Rastignac and Sorel maintained an active position in life, but pursued selfish goals.
The antihero of the 20th century, as a rule, belongs to the “lost generation”, disappointed in the moral principles of the past, traumatized by the disasters of war.
In superhero comics, the main character can also be an anti-hero who does justice, but does it for selfish reasons (Deadpool) or being arrogant and cruel (Judge Dredd).
An antihero is a main character in a dramatic or narrative work characterized by a lack of traditional heroic qualities such as idealism, courage, and morality. However, that doesn’t change the fact that anti-heroes can sometimes do the right thing, often out of self-interest.
According to George Steiner, one of the early anti-heroes was Thersites from Homer’s poem. Likewise in ancient Greek theater, Roman satire, and Renaissance literature, including Don Quixote and swashbuckling novels.
Merriam-Webster’s dictionary says that the term “anti-hero” was first used as early as 1714, appearing in works such as Rameau’s Nephew in the 18th century. You can also draw parallels with the Byronic hero.
Literary Romanticism in the 19th century helped popularize new forms of the antihero, such as the Gothic double. Ultimately, the anti-hero became a form of social critique, a phenomenon often associated with the unnamed protagonist in Dostoevsky’s Notes from the Underground.
This movement indicated a literary shift in the heroic ethos from feudal aristocrat to urban democrat, as well as a shift from epic to ironic narrative.
The phenomenon of the anti-hero was notable in the early twentieth century by existentialists, including Kafka and his “Reincarnation”, Sartre’s “Nausea” and Camus’ “The Outsider”. The main character in these works is an indecisive character who floats through his life and is marked by despair, boredom and alienation.
In cinema, anti-heroes can be seen in “noir”, including “Double Insurance” by Wilder and “Night and the City” by Dassen. In the early twenty-first century, during the Golden Age of Television, anti-heroic or morally ambiguous characters are prominent in shows such as The Sopranos, Mad Men, Offshore, Empire, The Blacklist, and The Game. thrones”.
THE ANTI-HERO OF OUR TIME
ntigeroi and antagonist-villains captured the art imperceptibly. In the middle of the black printed lines and the white void between them, one unusual image suddenly appeared. On the large and small screens, colored only in shades of gray, a brazen red suddenly broke through in its brightness. Or maybe it happened long before the invention of even the simplest camera obscura? Or even earlier – when people only started to create folk art and passed on fables about some desperate thief from mouth to mouth? How much has the image of the classic caricature villain evolved and, ultimately, why have we come to like heathens so much?
FOR COLOR AND TASTE
To begin with, it is worth defining more clearly the terms that I will use throughout the article. “Somehow the Villain, Antagonist and Antihero come into a bar…” – this joke will not belong to the arsenal of jokes about the split personality, just as the above concepts cannot be connected by simple “synonyms”.
A villain is a negative character who usually comes into conflict with the main character and pursues a frankly sinister goal: from stealing the protagonist’s pet to destroying n million galaxies. In order to achieve his goals, he uses any methods and does not shy away from getting his hands dirty with blood (if, of course, the work of art is age-appropriate).
And for example, the names of the first five from the list of the best villains of the last hundred years, according to the American Film Institute (AFI): Hannibal Lecter (“Silence of the Lambs”, 1991), Norman Bates (“Psycho”, 1960), Darth Vader (Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, 1980), Wicked Witch of the West (The Wizard of Oz, 1939) and Nurse Ratched (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, 1975).
The essence of the antagonist can be understood from the name alone: everything is quite prosaic – it is the opponent of the protagonist. In order to achieve what he wants, the antagonist also often resorts to not the most humane methods, but we have also seen this in the baggage of ordinary villains. For the most part, the antagonists were really portrayed in an extremely negative light, completely mixing with the image of the villain and erasing the fine line between these two archetypes. However, in the postmodern world, creators have practically moved away from the principle of “antagonist for the sake of antagonist”, instead enriching the image of the protagonist’s opponent with a worthy motivation (sometimes more reasoned than the protagonist’s) and even a noble goal.
For example, Mrs. Carmody from Stephen King’s novel “The Mist” is exactly the antagonist, not the thief. Mrs. Carmody is a religious fanatic preacher who, in the conditions of the recent Apocalypse, put the burden of the “savior” of all mankind on her rather strong shoulders. She considers herself God’s chosen one, Abraham, who must sprinkle the sacrificial altar with innocent blood. However, unlike the biblical character, Cardamoni is not too tormented by doubts or remorse (perhaps this is somewhat facilitated by the lack of family ties with the “lamb”), and is easily ready to exchange the life of the main character’s son for the common good.
Her conviction in her mission seems absurd to the readers, but the heroine herself sincerely believes that salvation is possible only in this way. Therefore, the driving force of the story – Mrs. Cardamoni’s conflict with the main character – can be considered a typical confrontation between the antagonist and the protagonist. But the real villains in “Mist” are unknown animalistic monsters that escaped from a classified laboratory and actually caused the Apocalypse.