Was it James Dean in “Rebel without a Cause” or Marlon Brando in “On the Waterfront” that first represented the anti-hero in films? Sometime in the 50s, it seems like that’s when it happened, the concept of a less than heroic hero was programmed into our consciousness. Before then, heroes and villains were clearly opposites; in Westerns, the bad guys wore black hats and the good guys wore white. Everything was simplified and obvious.
The anti-hero role redefined the modern world’s concept of relative morals. The new anti-hero was more realistic because they had moral failings, conflicts in conscience and weren’t typical role models anymore. They were often self-centered and opportunistic, sometimes were criminals and even monsters, (vampires/werewolves/zombies are popular heroes nowadays). Why did this shift happen? Was it intentional or just a natural part of the de-evolution of morality?
Did the concept of a hero shift to make the characters more relatable? The character has to change for the story to progress and we could cheer for the reluctant hero’s growth while also feeling less guilty about our own imperfections? We became jaded about goodness, started seeing the good role model in a negative way, we labeled them as nerds, goody-goodies (remember that term?) and we laughed at their straight-laced, predictable personality.
In the 70s-80s film, “Superman” starring Christopher Reeve, the “Clark Kent” character epitomized the nice guy with glasses who sent money back home to his widowed mother. The “Lois Lane” character couldn’t see beyond his nerdiness to recognize him as Superman.
The crude phrase, “Nice guys don’t get laid” is still sadly true. We’ve been programmed to think this way; so many women (including myself in the past) drove themselves nuts chasing after non-committal, narcissistic, bad guys, I’m sure the same is true for men falling for a “femme fatale”. Believe me, assholes (both male and female), no matter how charming, rarely change. Being charming is usually necessary for manipulative villains, how else could they trick everyone into thinking they’re secret, misunderstood heroes that just need patience and love!
Hollywood is lazy, they use the same formulaic method, over and over. The only thing that changes in the stories are the actor’s hairstyles and clothing! The villain/anti-hero’s back story always portrays the sad, abusive history that shaped their choice to become evil. Darth Vader is a classic example. He’s shown in a sympathetic light because: of his orphan past, the loss of his mother (and the death of his surrogate mother), wife Padme. Tragedy caused him to turn to the dark side but the love of his son, Luke saved him of course.
The monster anti-hero genre now dominates Hollywood and Western media. The revived story of Bram Stoker’s, “Count Dracula” has been re-made how many times? He also turned evil after losing his wife, who reincarnated as Mina. He’s viewed as romantic and sexual, irresistible to women and even men too.
In the modern vampire update, Stephanie Meyers’ “Twilight”, there are good vampires who abstain from drinking human blood vs bad vampires. They live in eternal youth, good looks and wealth; they’re god-like compared to humans, they represent wealthy Prince Charming “Elites” and are shown with angelic symbolism. Wings are positioned behind “Edward” often and he glows like sparking diamonds in the sunlight. The angelic vampires live in a truce with the demonic vampires, which makes no sense to me. Shouldn’t they kill them to protect the innocent humans?
The hilariously stupid, “Fifty Shades of Gray” was a fan fiction version of “Twilight” but promoted Sadomasochism. Why did so many women read those silly books? They were programmed for years to accept rape culture, objectification, co-dependency, victim-hood and fairytale materialism, that’s why!
Serial Killers are the newest heroes, Ted Bundy was recently portrayed by heartthrob, Zac Efron, I’m surprised it wasn’t a musical…High School Serial Killer, the Musical😄! “You” is the latest Netflix series that glorifies an intelligent and handsome stalker/serial killer, but—since they’re inclusive of LGBT culture, this is considered, Woke entertainment. I’ve only named a tiny fraction of films, I’m sure you can think of more, sympathy for the devil is everywhere.
By relying on tragic back stories to build empathy for villains, we are ultimately making excuses for bad behavior. Not all people with abusive pasts become abusers, it’s not an automatic response, it’s a choice. Heroes should be our role models, they should inspire us to be our best, try harder, have courage and not make excuses for our mistakes. Goodness isn’t weak, or unattractive; Evil isn’t powerful, sexy or cool. Hollywood has made fools of us all. Let’s cancel Hollywood and the propaganda of mainstream media, we’re smarter then they think we are.