Apologises to the great Stephen Moffatt for cribbing his episode title for this blog but all will become clear…
When I watched Captain America yesterday* it illustrated perfectly what I think is one of the more interesting concepts in fiction, the consequences of pushing the nice guy hero to far. **
In this case it’s just one line in the movie but given what we know of the character of Steve Rogers it’s very effective. The line is question is uttered by Tommy Lee Jones to Arim Zola (Toby Jones) advising him that as he was responsible for the death of Rogers’ best friend he could not count on Cap’s protection against the Red Skull. It’s almost a throw away line but given how they have made a big deal of Cap’s goodness it shows you how angry and upset he is far better than if Cap himself had performed a rage filled interrogation.
The anti hero is a character that has been explored many times in fiction. A person who through circumstance or a change of heart becomes a good guy but retains his edginess that the reader thinks is so cool. Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer is a prime example of this and a great example of how tired the concept has become. On the flip side however Buffy’s sister show, Angel gives us one of the best examples of a good guy gone bad in Angel; but not I suspect in the way you think, I am not talking about Angelus I am referring to the season two arc where Angel distances himself from the team to hunt Darla and Drusilla.
Again it’s a line of dialogue uttered that emphasises the change in the character. When a very angry Angel corners the two of them, they think at first Angelus has returned,But with a look of shock on her face Drusilla warns that this is not Angelus, or Angel but something far worse….. This is of course leads to the great “I just can’t seem to care” line that signifies that Angel has taken a darker turn in his life, and is about to give us some great TV.
Hopefully those two examples give you a good idea as to what I’m driving at. A character that has been built up to be just, moral and heroic being pushed to the absolute edge becomes a compelling character. What happened to them to cause this? How far are they willing to go? Is there any chance of them coming back from the edge? These are just a few of the questions the writer (and their audience) can explore and look forward to answering, and that to me is more interesting that starting as a man with a dark past.
Of course I am not saying that the anti-hero has no place, or am I saying that all heroes should go dark. What I am saying is that it is good to mix them up once in a while, variety is after all, the spice of life.
*Great movie BTW
** As does in fact the eppisode of Dr Who I stole the title from.