Anti-Heroes, Archetypes and a Thesaurus is not a dinosaur!!!

The last portion of the subject line was my favourite line from an article entitled ‘Why Twilight Sucks: A Comprehensive Analysis By A Writer Who Actually Read It’, which earned its author Rebecca a Freshly Pressed last week.

Looking at some of my stories, a frequently repeated description of a person’s actions is that they nodded.  While not on the level of ‘scowled’ as the post’s author chastises Ms Meyer for, is there another description one can give the action instead of ‘nodded’?  They gave their assent, they agreed, they bobbed their heads…  nothing seems to cover the base.  Sometimes, the most straight-forward works the best.  KISS principle and all that!  Would using ‘frowned’ have garnered the same reaction?

I admit to not reading Twilight.  Any new book or author is researched, seeing what others say of the writers and their styles, and word of mouth in some cases.  At a previous job, one of the girls swore by the series.  Rarely a day went by when a Stephenie Meyer book was not sitting next to her desktop.  Everything I know of the series came from her.

One of the reasons I have not read the series is because I could never appreciate what the author was trying to achieve.  There is a strong attraction to the vampire genre, many noting that it is due to the idea of eternal love and eternal life.  Vampires have never struck me as the lovelorn type; maybe they were when they were still alive, but their immortality and blood-sucking tendencies tend to point more to an undead creature who has survival needs like any other animal.

The most common archetype of a hero these days is that of the anti-hero: someone (or something) that is believed evil by any being capable of thought, but by a quirk of fate does not adhere to the archetypes.  Such a thing is what Ms Meyer seems to have been angling for with Edward Cullen, the vampire who truly falls in love with Bella Swan, a human.  My favourite characters of this type are Vegeta of the Dragonball anime series, and Drizzt Do’Urden, the dark elf of the R.A Salvatore series.

In the Dragonball Z series, our hero is a man named Goku.  A member of an alien race named the Saiyans, he was sent into space as a baby to avoid the destruction of his home planet, crash-lands on Earth and is taken in by a human… sounds familiar when described in such basic terms.  Over time, Goku grows in strength to the point he is noticed.

Vegeta is the prince of the Saiyan race, and a man obsessed with being the strongest.  His initial aim is to defeat the (at the time) greater antagonist who destroyed his home planet.  He is unable to do so, and Goku manages to defeat the bad guy.  From there, Vegeta is obsessed with being better than Goku.  The lengths he will go to in order to surpass the main protagonist is rarely by deception and cheating; he trains like a man possessed in order to improve himself.

That always shined through to me; he took the hard roads to increase his skills and strength, which are not the actions of a proper villain.  Goku never stopped improving, but it never stopped Vegeta from doing everything he could in an attempt to surpass his rival.  That is noble, even if it went astray every now and then.

Drizzt Do’Urden is a member of a reviled race lurking in the underground of the Forgotten Realms.  He is immensely talented in the ways of fighting, and it looks inevitable that he will ascend high in drow society.  However, he never felt that their way was right for him, as it involved politics, blind-siding, wanton murder and ritual sacrifice to a malevolent deity.  He starts turning away from the society when a scout team attempt to kill innocent and defenceless surface-dwellers, and the break is finalised when a treasured friend is sacrificed.

Drizzt is a more straight-forward anti-hero; he is an anti-hero only by virtue of his heritage.  He learns that he does not agree with the way drow society functions, so he breaks away and finds others who share a closer morality code to him.  Over the thirteen books of the series, he saves many people and fights the good fight in spite of revulsion by those he is protecting.  They see he is a drow, and therefore he must be evil.  I recently finished book ten of the series, and this still happens.

– Mo –

Some questions below for you.  Be sure to let me know your thoughts =)

Do you have a favourite anti-hero?

Is there an archetype that fascinates you?

Is there a particular word you fall back on frequently in your writing?

What archetype do you want to challenge?

– Mo –

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7 responses

  1. My favourite antihero, by a fairly long way, is Dr Gregory House from the series which bears his name. The complexity of the character is really quite something, and Hugh Laurie plays the role beautifully.

    1. He was that guy everyone wishes they could be: be doing the right thing, yet still being able to tear strips off people and get away with it. Well, apart from the injury that kept him in constant pain and made him the ‘ass’ everyone thought him to be.

      It was always the funniest thing that the series creators wanted an American, yet Hugh got the role by putting on a fake accent. It nearly always jarred, hearing him speak when he wasn’t on the show =)

      Thanks for reading =)

  2. Yey Vegeta. 🙂 Now he’s a character who demands our respect, whether or not we agree with his motives. His dedication to improving despite his failure really humanised him, and that’s probably why he’s one of the most memorable characters of that great show. Although… I say great… hm. I’d really like to see Dragon Ball Kai and skip the fillers, although there will never be any hope for basic continuity. But it was heaps of fun!

    As for an anti-hero, I was always partial to the player character in Skyrim (or any other Bethesda game), who is an anti-hero by virtue of being a total dickhead and being praised as a hero. Also sometimes ruthlessly pursued as a criminal, and often worshipped and pursued at the same time. Erandur, too, from that game. Erandur is a dark elf with a long history of really, really terrible mistakes, general cowardice and just generally being a lousy person. Yet you befriend him in Skyrim, and he sticks with you through anything, and hey, he has the highest carry rate of any follower. That’s AI I can get attached to.

    I love crazy characters. Or just complex characters. People doing strange things for good and bad reasons. Hero archetypes get boring pretty quickly, but are they even really necessary? Blending archetypes and playing around with what’s possible is what really fascinates me. Getting into someone’s head and messing around with it, and making awful things happen to them. Sounds sadistic, and hey, it probably is, but that’s the prerogative of writing.

    But. And. Gotta love those conjunctions. I overuse “bright”.

    I want to challenge all archetypes! Throwing down the gauntlet here and now! >:0 Genres too. Hey, what if we have cyberpunk… in a swamp? Sounds cool.

    Thanks for your thought-provoking piece. Viva saiyans!

    1. Nobody is perfect: the defining line of the anti-hero.

      I never got to see the end of the Buu Saga, as Cheez TV stopped playing it. Could borrow it off a friend, but I doubt there’d be time for watching it, and can’t have the young’uns watching it.

      Do you think the anti-hero will ever become as cliche as the straight-shooting hero?

      Would Dexter be up your alley? Game of Thrones would have to be, since many characters epitomise the words ‘shades of grey’.

      I love your idea! I can see it in my mind’s eye. How about a collaboration? OVCC#9 is due to wrap up soon.

      Glad you enjoyed it. Thanks for reading =)

    1. Oops, woke the kids up with the howl of laughter =P

      I was partial to Nappa’s middle- and forefinger raise of worldly apocalypse. An FU coupled with death was plain nasty!

      For sh*ts and giggles they should’ve busted out the level sensor for SS4 Goku and Vegeta! ITS OVER 9 GAGILLION!!! But it blew up right?

      1. there’s a lesson to be learned, you will never stop gaining power levels XD

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