Is The Age Of The Antihero In Fiction Finally Here?


Don’t you find it hard to name your real-life heroes?

In a world of shifting morality, changing ethics and inverted values, the good guys and the bad guys are no longer as clear-cut as they were before. In fact, one person’s demon dictator is another’s radical saviour. Just depends who you ask.

New voices, new viewpoints – new energy

And we’re unmasking villains that have thrived in the shadows for too long. We just have to look at the mass protests against sexual harassment, breaking out with real anger and indignation, in industries like Hollywood all the way to sport.

And with these movements come new voices, younger voices, different voices–and suddenly we have a new viewpoint, a new perspective with which to see the world around us.

Believing

People are asking difficult questions. ‘Did I judge someone or a situation too soon? Too late?’ ‘In fact, who am I to judge anyway?’

We’re no longer following like sheep. We’re having to throw off the thick woolly coats of complacency and ignorance, and decide what we believe – and who we believe in – for ourselves.

Even behaviour and belief shifts. I mean, a few years ago, smoking pot was seen as something hippy and dodgy. Now, cannabis is an industry, losing its ‘taboo’ status.

.21st century subversion

As always, fiction is always the mirror for real-life trends. We’re seeing this shift in the movies we watch, the books we read, everywhere – it’s a new subversion that is just ripe for a new type of antihero in an age that doesn’t always know how to recognise heroes–or perhaps we want to redefine hero, or even do away with heroes altogether.

For the writer, this changing and ‘upside down’ world is ripe with possibilities. To create a new type of character. One that reflects the time.

But, is he or she a hero?

In fact, to label this character an ‘anti-hero’ is perhaps a problem – the term is often too polarising or binary in of itself, don’t you think? How do you build a hero on shifting moral sands?

The ‘anti’ part is a problem because they may not be opposed to anything. When the ‘norm’ is a moving target, how do you put them in an opposite camp?

And the ‘hero’ part is a problem because our typical heroes are sinking on crumbling, corroding pedestals. Your reader may not sympathise with your character–in fact, they may have radical dislike for them. You have to be prepared for that.

So, what do we call this character?

I don’t think we’ll ever lose our heroes, because without them stories would not exist at all. However, a hero will be a hero in the context of the story you’re telling. And an anti-hero may just help create that context and inversion in your story.

It’s all about breaking the rules as a writer. Radicalise your characters. Switch out stereotypes. Come at the story with a strong viewpoint.

Explore characters with all the fallible weakness and unexpected strength and humour that we find in humanity today.

 by Anthony Ehlers

If you enjoyed this post, read:

  1. My Top 3 Favourite Blogs On Dialogue
  2. My Top 3 Favourite Blogs On Plot
  3. My Top 3 Favourite Blogs On Viewpoint

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This article has 1 comment

  1. Barbara H.

    I think one appeal of fiction is heroes we can’t find in real life. But I don’t like them to be stereotypes: I like them to be flawed and faceted. I especially love your last sentence.

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