The Appeal Of Anti-heroes
The above image is from USA Today.
Why do we find anti-heroes appealing?
Well, for starters, they don’t set impossible standards for us to follow.
I wrote a blog post before, comparing anti-heroes and goody-two-shoes heroes, and here’s the relevant bit that contributes to this discussion.
“In most Japanese anime/drama/manga, the good guys never kill. And the bad guys are those who do. Whatever their reasons may be. I just finished watching an episode of Kindaichi where the “villain”, and I am reluctant to call him one, killed off the people responsible for trapping his father and himself in a cave for 12 years. Of course, his elderly father died during the early days of their confinement and the boy had to live on rats and water. For 12 years.
I thought his revenge was well justified. And too tame since the culprits were killed rather quickly without time to truly repent for their past misdeed. But since this drama had to fit in with Japanese ideas about crime and punishment, the righteous avenger became the “villain” and quietly surrendered to the cops in order to repay his “debts” to society.
I couldn’t help wondering. What debts?”
Yeah, Kindaichi, what debts? The dude there saw his father murdered in front of his eyes and was locked up in some cave for over a decade so, the way I see it, the State and society owed him and not the other way round. They owed him for not saving him from a fate worse than death and for allowing a bunch of cowardly murderers to walk around scot-free.
Before finding Jack Reacher, the anti-hero protagonist of Lee Child’s novels, I was so tired of not seeing justice done properly. Whenever I think back on that Kindaichi episode, I would think: What would Reacher do?
Kill all the f**kers who happily sealed a father and his young son alive in a cave and then use his detective skills to cover up the killings and misdirect the civilian cops to a dead end or something. Which would have been easy since he had 13 years experience in the Military Police, where he specialized in homicide.
We can also take a look at the real world. Where weak people are sometimes harassed by criminal elements and the police does little to assist them. Some women committed suicide after their rapists were acquitted by the courts. Some men killed themselves because they couldn’t pay off crippling debts to greedy loan sharks.
In those cases, the Law and Order that we know of, the kind that has to follow rules and regulations, looks as helpless as a newborn babe in the wild wild woods.
And that’s why Reacher’s personal brand of justice looks so appealing. Because he steps in and takes over where the usual kind of Law and Order cannot reach. Dirty cops, corrupt army officers and violent criminals who would have evaded justice under normal circumstances. They were all done in by Reacher.
Teck Y. Loh