Thursday, April 12, 2012

My Villainous Fantasies, Part 1: Antiheros

I asked Roger Owen which villains he has fantasized about being.  I felt his answer was insufficiently evil.

Dirty Harry, you are an awesome antihero.  So sorry you didn't make the cut!

For myself, I fantasize about being bad... a lot.

So when Roger threw it back, I really thought about it and my list became pretty expansive.  Thus, I have decided to break it into three posts:
  • Antiheros
  • Evil villains
  • Cool villains
This post in on my antiheros.

What's an antihero?

Webster says it's a protagonist lacking in notable heroic qualities.

That's pretty vague.  I think most of us when we think of antihero think of a character who might use unlawful or wrong means to achieve a worthy end or conducts themselves nobly even though their objectives are ignoble.  I doubt that most people would define a thief who steals for self gain as an "antihero" even if he's the story's protagonist, despite the fact it fits under Webster's definition.

So I came down to a list of three, but before I give them, I want to give the honorable mentions...

Awesome Antiheros Who Didn't Make the Cut
(Warning: spoilers are littered about!)

There were piles.  Don Corleone from The Godfather [book and film] is definitely an antihero I have fantasized about becoming.  His charm, grace, dignity and gift for Machiavellian politics definitely made him a top contender.  Similarly, Lady Macbeth's [play] raw pragmatism in the political arena makes her a truely awesome antihero.  Although she lacks the skills of Corleone, her practicality and ability to motivate her less ambitious husband give her significant points.  ("When you durst do it, then you were a man, and to be more than what you were, you would be that much more a man..."  I have that whole speech memorized.)

Of the good guys who take the law into their own hands, Dirty Harry [film] is probably the most notable.  However, the original Jack Carter from Get Carter [1971 film], which was stunningly played by Michael Caine, is also a truly awesome Anglo ronin story.  I particularly like the Carter story over the Dirty Harry story because like many Japanese ronin stories, Carter's story is ultimately tragic.

Two other ronin antiheros of note that I have fantasized about becoming are both preachers: The Preacher, played by Clint Eastwood again in Pale Rider [film] and August from the Danish film Princess.

In Princess, August is a priest whose sister is a porn star.  After his sister's accidental death, he adopts Mia, his niece.  Enraged to discover the extent of the physical and sexual abuse that Mia has suffered at the hands of pornographers, he decides to clean up the industry by dropping his frock and picking up a gun... Princess is a great film which really changed my views on pornography.

On the more playful side, Wanda from Leopold Sacher-Masoch's Venus in Furs [1870 novella] is definitely a character I've fantasized about being.

The list goes on.  Some antiheros I often feel like but don't imagine being, such as Ahab from Moby Dick [1851 book].  Others I love but I can't imagine being, such as the Cheshire Cat [Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, 1865, book].  Many of these guys might make later appearances in the "coolest villain" category.

The Winners

Tyler Durdan, Fight Club, 1999 film

He's an anarchist.  He's a terrorist.  He's anti-corporate and wants all debt forgiven.  And he's definitely not afraid of a fight.  I've definitely fantasized a lot about being Tyler Durdan.
Tyler Durdan is one of the best antiheros of our age.

While some people might be slightly thrown off about fantasizing about being Tyler Durdan - he is, in fact, a terrorist - he's actually very much like Robin Hood, only cooler.

Durdan is a great antihero for several reasons:
  • Other than voluntary fights he hurts and destroys property, not people
  • Anti-corporate and anti-debt philosophy is definitely something I agree with
  • Adaptable and unpredictable - his alignment would be "chaotic good," definitely

I fantasize about being Durdan because...
  • I want to rescue everyone from their debt
  • I'd love to be the leader of a secret organization
  • I'd love to just go all crazy and kick the everliving crap out of people who are voluntarily and for fun trying to kick the everliving crap out of me, i.e. Fight Club itself is just an awesome concept

Fight Club is also a book, which I haven't read yet, but I hear is very good.  I keep meaning to get it and read it, but loving people from my life only really get me things like books on how to be a better vegetarian or social justice/anti-death penalty books or fairy tales, not realizing that there's this whole other person that needs to be fed, too.

Major Motoko, Ghost in the Shell / Innocence Project, multiple films

Major: one cop you seriously do not want to f### with.
Major Motoko from the Japanese anime series Ghost in the Shell is a very frequent role in my fantasies.  I also suspect she's going to be the only female on these lists.

Major is an antihero for exactly the opposite reasons that Durdan is an antihero:
  • Works for the Japanese secret police in the not-too-distant future
  • Often has to participate in things like cover-ups for the government and corporations
  • Is an agent of order, not chaos

I fantasize about being Major because...
  • She's a bad a$$ cop/national intelligence agent.  That's 100% pure cool right there
  • Amazing fighter and weapons expert
  • Because she's mostly cybernetic she has amazing skills and abilities, such as the ability to jack into networks and download the ghosts of other cybernetic organisms, e.g. the Puppetmaster, who is himself a truly awesome villain

Edmond Dantes, The Count of Monte Cristo, 1844 novel
Edmond Dantes before he goes all bad a$$ and opens up a can on  19th century Marseille. 
In the movie Snatch, the character Brick Top defines nemesis as: "Divine retribution manifested by an appropriate agent..."  Edmond Dantes is the definition of nemesis.

Ignore the movies.  The movies stink.  The novel Count of Monte Cristo, however, is one of the coolest stories of revenge ever told.

Everything that Dantes does - from amassing great wealth to training in the finest sword fighting to developing refined education, including multiple languages, arts and the sciences - is all for one end and one end only: to gain revenge against the people who have destroyed his life.

Dantes is definitely an antihero:
  • He works systematically for the financial, emotional and psychological destruction of those who have slighted him
  • His only motivation is personal revenge
  • He is extremely duplicitous, playing the friend while developing plans of ruination

I fantasize about being Dantes because...
  • He develops amazing skills and knowledge over a short period of time
  • He has amazing self control.  If vengeance is a dish best served cold then Dantes knows how to serve it icy
  • Is unbelievably suave - he is the absolute definition of "cool"

Dantes definitely wins for "coolest antihero," and is probably my favorite antihero of all time.  

Monte Cristo is an underappreciated book, imho.  I like George RR Martin, don't get me wrong, and Tyrion almost made it on the list of antiheros.  

But Dumass totally schools Martin in character and plot development.  Dumass's characters are more vibrant, the setting is better described, and the intricate plots makes Game of Thrones look like a checkers tournament.

So go pick up a book that was written before 1950, will ya?  Very cool stuff, indeed!

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