Come to the Dark Side: The Rise of the Anti-Hero

Is it just me or has a dark cloud descended over us?

I ask this because of the current trend that I keep seeing in social media, books, movies and TV. There has been a movement to the dark side (they do promise cookies) as the popularity of the anti-hero has given way to the misunderstood villain.

People these days have become very good at seeing the other side of things. This idea that there are always two sides to the story, has gripped our fancy and made us start to look at our classic villains in a new light. For instance, just on TV, we have Once Upon A Time which reimagines many of our childhood villains or Lucifer which characterizes the devil as a bored antihero. This twist on darkness is an interesting concept, on one hand it teaches acceptance and on the other it is a dangerous oversight.

Actor Evan Peters as Tate Langdon in American Horror Story: Murder House. Source: AHSFX.

Actor Evan Peters as Tate Langdon in American Horror Story: Murder House. Source: AHSFX.

“The popularity of the anti-hero has given way to the misunderstood villain.”

Now I’m not saying anything against second chances, I am a great believer that people can turn their lives around. I am talking about the choice that it takes to turn from ‘bad’ to ‘good’. To me, classifying people into categories is a pointless task, life is made from choices and that is what determines our path. Therefore, I think it is important to say, that those villains didn’t need to manifest their past, their hurt, their pain in such a twisted dark way. This unfortunately is often forgone to excuse their crimes away, to give you a touching, emotive take to the other side of the story.

I myself am a victim to this, the dressing up of a villain as dangerous, risqué, daring and intelligent attracts me much more than the noble, too good to be true hero. With the Marvel films for instance, I am most on Team Loki. It’s only after I have left the cinema and the stars fade from my eyes, that my brain kicks in. How could I have spent the last three hours rooting for a villain who was trying to destroy the world? The answer is easy, he was charming, he was alluring and my brain stopped working.

Actor Tom Hiddleston as Loki in The Avengers (2012). Source: Marvel via Associated Press.

Actor Tom Hiddleston as Loki in The Avengers (2012). Source: Marvel via Associated Press.

But why is it important for me to recognise this?

Well, the answer is simple. When you live in a reality, where evil is constantly redeemed, you lose perspective. This may not have any impact on your viewing choices but it does handicap you a bit in life. It may cause you to look past the blaring character flaws in a partner because all you see is charm, forgive abuse because you think of your abuser as misunderstood, condone crimes because there is always another side to the story.

There is nothing wrong with saving the villain, especially if they choose to turn from the twisted path. However, while we cheer them on, let us not forget to give due to the ones who made the right choices, did the right thing and fought the good fight. They may not be as interesting as their counterparts but at least we can depend on them to ‘save the day.’

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