Editor's Note: Anti/Hero

Anti/Hero

In this week's issue of The Escapist, we look at some of gaming's best examples of blurring the line between good and bad.

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I like what you said about the Western world becoming more like Anti-Heroes nowadays.

This is the main reason why developers of war games prefer World War 2 to any other war in history, it's easy to write. There doesn't need to be any moral ambiguity, any conflict of ideals when you're playing as the allies, it's very simple 'There are Nazis, they are always bad, the more you kill, the better you are'.

While fundamental to gaming, I can't help thinking this a very juvenile way of looking at it, and there are too many good game concepts for other war games not explored. We need more war games that explore the concept of Anti Heroes.

The reason Devs don't (usually) do war games is specific to each war. They don't do WW1 because it emphasises the brutality of mechanical slaughter, and to be honest, what cause are they fighting for other than that of the ruling classes? A tragedy, and one thats too risky to put down on disk, sadly. I'd love to see it happen though.

Also, Iraq. I mean, it's just too recent for any dev to do it without attracting a truckload of controversy. Look at 6 days in Fallujah, a game developed from the ground up by analyzing the experienced of everyone in the conflict and treating them all in a respectful and intelligent fashion. What happens? The producers drop it because it gets slammed by the press for 'Bad taste'. How is it any more in bad taste than shooting at German tanks on the Seelow heights?
Answer: It isn't, and it's far more relevant to our understanding of the war to boot, that game needs to be made. The only other game that covers the Iraq war is Kumawar, and that game is so bad it's a joke.

We need more moral ambiguity in games if we want them to be held in the same artistic vein as movies.

Ummmm... Robin Hood is an anti-hero? Since when? He's Chaotic Good, robbing the rich and giving to the poor. If someone has to steal from the rich to give to the poor, the rich are obviously not generous enough - or they would have given to the poor themselves, wihtout a middleman enforcing it. Which means rich are greedy jerks, and let's face it - most of the times they indeed are, because power tends to corrupt.

In short, for me Chaotic Good characters (those who see law is unjust or obstructive, and break it to help the people) are much less of an "anti"-heroes than Chaotic Neutral characters (those who really are in it only for themselves).

Kollega:
Ummmm... Robin Hood is an anti-hero? Since when?

Since stealing was considered a crime.

Heroes generally don't break the law. That's pretty much anti-what they're supposed to be doing. Which is why folks like Robin Hood and Zorro are considered anti-heroes. They're doing admittedly bad things, but for a good - or at least auspiciously good - reason. But try telling that to the people who get their houses broken into.

You're correct that Robin Hood is what we would call chaotic good, in the D&D sense, but heroes, traditionally, are lawful good. Or at worst neutral good, or lawful neutral. True heroes are never, ever chaotic. Chaos is the antithesis of law and order, which is what traditional heroes are supposed to represent. Therefore, using your criteria, Robin Hood, by virtue of being chaotic good, is by definition an anti-hero.

To those who are poor or dispossessed, Robin Hood may be an outright hero, with no "anti," but a true hero doesn't subjugate one set of people for the benefit of another set, however much he or you may thing "the rich" deserve to be punished. That's not very heroic. By suggesting that, since you agree with his politics, Robin Hood is therefore a true hero, you're essentially saying that if The Joker, for example, used his poison gas on someone you happened to not like, killing that person, then he, too, would be a hero. That's not right. Killing people is against society's legal and moral code, therefore the Joker is a villain, regardless what subjective good may come from his actions.

Were the Joker killing people whom he and society at large considered "enemies of the people," like, for example, The Punisher, then he would be undertaking a heroic quest, but doing so in a less-than heroic manner, therefore: anti-hero. Heroes fight for the benefit of all - rich or poor - because a true hero is above petty judgments about who is more or less deserving of justice.

See Allen Varney's article about Batman for more on this discussion. He makes a good case about Batman being a "capitalist hero," chasing after only lower-class villains. It's an interesting theory, and Batman is absolutely and definitely an anti-hero in almost any sense. But even Batman abides by the law. He doesn't punish criminals, he apprehends them and delivers them to the civilian authorities. He redistributes wealth by earning it himself and then giving it away. And he doesn't steal - ever.

So is Batman really an anti-hero? What would you say his alignment is?

Russ Pitts:
-snipped for sheer, brutal length-

I was reading the articles right about now, but somehow i arrived the last to one about Batman. What a shame.

Also, good one. Nice accusation on your part, telling that i would support Joker (who is, going by D&D alignment system, Chaotic Evil) if he killed people i don't like, and by the same token, equating someone i don't like getting killed and someone i don't like getting stuff stolen from them. I may not like them, but i'm not that immoral. Continuing with analogies, stealing from the rich and giving to the poor is more like if Joker started hunting down serial murderers... or something to that effect, i'm not sure. Murder and theft are not equal anyways (theft is bad, but murder is flat-out worse), so this analogy dosen't work out in the end.

Good one on my part, too. When i hear "anti-hero", i assume the talk is about "nineties' comic book anti-hero", which is an extremely narrow definition. Gotta think bigger and wider then, i guess.

This has already reached infamous proportions, I tell ya.

I think the world would be a better place if all we tried to be were the shinning knight of virtue and honesty. I wouldnt want to live in a world where are heroes are more like villains, how awful it would be to have everybody having the mentality "ends justify the means"?

I think while difficult to try and be the knight, its rewarding in a sense that no anti-hero can be. I want to be the person that does good because its good, and care because I actually care about others. As a society we lost that will to do the right thing be because its right, we only choose the quick and easy because its what our heroes of today are doing.

The means should always justify the end

Many heroes were chaotic- thats where we get revolutionary heroes from. The U.S. founding fathers were on many levels chaotic heroes.

Those that ran the underground railroad were technically chaotic and I'd call them heroes. Laws are not always good and breaking a bad law is not morally wrong. The slave-owners that had their "property stolen" would call members of the undergrounds railroad thieves and dissenters yet I would love to see the case of a modern citizen calling them antiheroes. Breaking a horrid law does now remove your hero status. Laws can be created by the evil as well as the good so they are not sacrosanct or automatically preferable to no laws.

Breaking unjust laws is one of my personal definitions of heroism. Its why Henry David Thoreau was a hero and Ralph Waldo Emerson was just a transcendentalist poet with good intentions.

If laws are evil breaking them doesn't make you anti anti-hero, just a breaker of unjust laws. Its when you weigh the value of some lives or livelihoods vs others that you get into the hero/antihero quandary.

Terminalchaos:
Many heroes were chaotic- thats where we get revolutionary heroes from.

Those that ran the underground railroad were technically chaotic and I'd call them heroes. Laws are not always good and breaking a bad law is not morally wrong.

Now let me clarify one thing at your expense (har har har!) - being Chaotic Good is about rolling along with the law when it's just, and breaking it without hesitation when it isn't. That's the point, or at least how i see it.

Kollega:

Terminalchaos:
Many heroes were chaotic- thats where we get revolutionary heroes from.

Those that ran the underground railroad were technically chaotic and I'd call them heroes. Laws are not always good and breaking a bad law is not morally wrong.

Now let me clarify one thing at your expense (har har har!) - being Chaotic Good is about rolling along with the law when it's just, and breaking it without hesitation when it isn't. That's the point, or at least how i see it.

Actually, that's Neutral Good.

Russ Pitts:
*snip*

Still an anti-hero. His batmobile must have a huge speed limit bill. And he uses that Batplane(or whatever)I bet when ever is flying it's breaking a few rules when it comes to air traffic.

way to rip off what has already been said in the comic book world for a long ass time and had a resurgence after, "The Dark Knight"

Logan Westbrook:
Actually, that's Neutral Good.

Not quite sure. For me, Chaotic Good is about actively destroying the unjust law in question, while Neutral Good is about skirting around it while still doing good.

Then again - Good is still Good, no matter if it's Lawful, Neutral, or Chaotic.

Kollega:

Terminalchaos:
Many heroes were chaotic- thats where we get revolutionary heroes from.

Those that ran the underground railroad were technically chaotic and I'd call them heroes. Laws are not always good and breaking a bad law is not morally wrong.

Now let me clarify one thing at your expense (har har har!) - being Chaotic Good is about rolling along with the law when it's just, and breaking it without hesitation when it isn't. That's the point, or at least how i see it.

Thats not at my expense- it seems to just further my point. If it isn't bad don't break it. some laws happen to coincide with basic moral precepts. If you follow them because they are laws- you are lawful, if you follow them because they're good then you're good. If its bad break it if its good go with it. If you can, try and change it first but if you can't change it then just do the right thing and break the law if the law is unjust.

My favorite antihero will always be Elric of Melnibone. He was the ruler of an evil kingdom yet he had some conscience especially compared to his compatriots. He summoned horrible demons of chaos to save the day. He didn't always save innocents unless they gave him a good reason to be saved. Now that was a true antihero.

Elric should have his own game.

If laws weren't made by other humans with possible agendas then this discussion would be a lot more clear cut. The easiest way to turn a hero into an antihero (at least by earlier definitions int his discussion) is by changing the laws. Making a bad law would thus be a way to turn a good person into a lawbreaker without technically staining your legal reputation.

On a semirelated point, I have an idea for an ethics based flash game but have programming skills (outside of old apple2 basic) that asymptotically approach 0. If you know anyone that wants to throw away a few hours on a Kohlberg based game then send me a pm.

I know why anti-heroes are popular protagonists in video games: they give you license to act like a complete dick while still being better than the real scum you're up against. And that's fine: I like a well-written anti-hero who either struggles with the evil he has to do for the greater good, or who has just given up and accepts the world as hell on earth and tries to survive in it as best as he can. I wouldn't hold up either of those guys as a model to aspire to, but they have a compelling story.

Anti-heroes don't work for me when writers get lazy and focus on the superficial aspects with no deeper insights into the character. Too many writers--and not just in video games--focus on protagonists who wear dark colours, are capable of savage violence without remorse, and live by their own code, without really examining how they got to this place, or what it's cost them to be here.

The Dragon Age "Scattered Ashes" trailer almost turned me off, because it portrayed a bunch of badasses effortlessly dispatching a horde of monsters with pithy quips. Even when the dragon showed up they didn't break a sweat. Not once did I feel this was actually a struggle for them. How can you be a hero, anti or otherwise, if it doesn't cost you anything? Thankfully, the game's writers are better than that, and wrote flaws and back stories into the characters that makes them compelling people, even when they do horrible things.

Interesting article. But I think you may have missed something. It's not just that we want someone who's a bit more like us - a bit more corrupt and a bit more human for it - but also, that, fundamentally, we're downright vengeful. We don't want the bad guys tied up for the cops and the judical system to deal with. We don't want those who hurt us to be dealt with in the course of law. We want to see them lying face-down in a poor of blood, eating pavement as they try to drag themselves away, before another gunshot or blood loss finishes them. We want to be able to act out that revenge fantasy, that moment when all the injustices come to a head and we can put seven point six-two milimetres of hot metal into the bad guy's heart...and walk away without the consequence. Without the moral anguish of having killed, or the physical issues of breaking the law. We want to be Batman, Dirty Harry, Bullitt.

Also, sometimes it's just about style. Sheer, raw style rarely comes from force-of-purity. It comes from ruthless, malevolent style. It comes from crushing your enemies beneath your feet. It comes from being so damn badass you play Ride of the Valkyries from loudspeakers even as you machinegun peasants with Kalashnikovs from the sky, and snarl with glee as a napalm strike vapourises an entire treeline.

oliveira8:

Russ Pitts:
*snip*

Still an anti-hero. His batmobile must have a huge speed limit bill. And he uses that Batplane(or whatever)I bet when ever is flying it's breaking a few rules when it comes to air traffic.

I agree. I was not trying to make the point that he wasn't an anti-hero, merely that he wasn't chaotic.

With all this talk about anti-heroes. I wonder when the concept of a villainous protagonist will catch on. God of War is pretty much the only one that I know does that.

I hate the Anti-hero cliche, yet I find that I like many anti-heroes.

I find the ones I can talk to the best. I love Garrus in Mass Effect one, because he starts as the Anti-hero who puts the mission above everything, yet you can talk some sense into him. I hate how he goes back to that in ME2.

funksobeefy:
I think the world would be a better place if all we tried to be were the shinning knight of virtue and honesty. I wouldnt want to live in a world where are heroes are more like villains, how awful it would be to have everybody having the mentality "ends justify the means"?

I think while difficult to try and be the knight, its rewarding in a sense that no anti-hero can be. I want to be the person that does good because its good, and care because I actually care about others. As a society we lost that will to do the right thing be because its right, we only choose the quick and easy because its what our heroes of today are doing.

The means should always justify the end

There is a point to this, but it's so often those "shining knights" who create such horrific messes simply because they cherish ideals over all else. Sometimes, too, the Anti-Hero is the one who rejects the "quick and easy" of fitting into society, who isn't afraid to appear in the wrong, who is willing to sacrifice his own rewards, emotional or otherwise, in favor of doing what needs doing.

Terminalchaos:
Many heroes were chaotic- thats where we get revolutionary heroes from. The U.S. founding fathers were on many levels chaotic heroes.

Those that ran the underground railroad were technically chaotic and I'd call them heroes. Laws are not always good and breaking a bad law is not morally wrong. The slave-owners that had their "property stolen" would call members of the undergrounds railroad thieves and dissenters yet I would love to see the case of a modern citizen calling them antiheroes. Breaking a horrid law does now remove your hero status. Laws can be created by the evil as well as the good so they are not sacrosanct or automatically preferable to no laws.

Breaking unjust laws is one of my personal definitions of heroism. Its why Henry David Thoreau was a hero and Ralph Waldo Emerson was just a transcendentalist poet with good intentions.

If laws are evil breaking them doesn't make you anti anti-hero, just a breaker of unjust laws. Its when you weigh the value of some lives or livelihoods vs others that you get into the hero/antihero quandary.

A hero is simply a person distnguished for his noble qualities - courage, honesty, fidelity and the like. In more common terms, a hero is a person who succeeds at a monumental task in a fashion that is entirely laudable. The distinction for an anti-hero is not that they do not accomplish heroic feats, but that they do so without regard to the means. The underground railroad, as in your example, is a prime example of this. These were men and women who quite simply broke the law in order to accomplish what they believed was right. That the law itself may be bereft of morality does not excuse them from the fact that they committed crimes in order to right an even greater wrong.

This is the core of what it means to be an anti-hero.

Just because a character isn't a boyscout with superpowers like Superman, doesn't disqualify him or her as a hero.

Batman is a really poor example for an anti-hero. The Batman doesn't even kill. The villains are returned to jail when Batman wins. He's almost as much a scout as Superman is (though alot more interesting than sups).

A good anti-hero needs to display the kind of cruelty, vengeance or selfishness that most people can recognize and identify with.

Han shot first

Eclectic Dreck:

Terminalchaos:
Many heroes were chaotic- thats where we get revolutionary heroes from. The U.S. founding fathers were on many levels chaotic heroes.

Those that ran the underground railroad were technically chaotic and I'd call them heroes. Laws are not always good and breaking a bad law is not morally wrong. The slave-owners that had their "property stolen" would call members of the undergrounds railroad thieves and dissenters yet I would love to see the case of a modern citizen calling them antiheroes. Breaking a horrid law does now remove your hero status. Laws can be created by the evil as well as the good so they are not sacrosanct or automatically preferable to no laws.

Breaking unjust laws is one of my personal definitions of heroism. Its why Henry David Thoreau was a hero and Ralph Waldo Emerson was just a transcendentalist poet with good intentions.

If laws are evil breaking them doesn't make you anti anti-hero, just a breaker of unjust laws. Its when you weigh the value of some lives or livelihoods vs others that you get into the hero/antihero quandary.

A hero is simply a person distnguished for his noble qualities - courage, honesty, fidelity and the like. In more common terms, a hero is a person who succeeds at a monumental task in a fashion that is entirely laudable. The distinction for an anti-hero is not that they do not accomplish heroic feats, but that they do so without regard to the means. The underground railroad, as in your example, is a prime example of this. These were men and women who quite simply broke the law in order to accomplish what they believed was right. That the law itself may be bereft of morality does not excuse them from the fact that they committed crimes in order to right an even greater wrong.

This is the core of what it means to be an anti-hero.

If villains gain control of a society then they can make unjust laws. Since that effectively breaks the social contract breaking those laws wouldn't make you an anti-hero but a normal hero. Now is those laws were protecting people then it would be different. I do not consider an unjust law or one made with the intention of being a detriment to society to be viable or even a true law so it can't truly be broken, just defied.

Furburt:
I like what you said about the Western world becoming more like Anti-Heroes nowadays.

This is the main reason why developers of war games prefer World War 2 to any other war in history, it's easy to write. There doesn't need to be any moral ambiguity, any conflict of ideals when you're playing as the allies, it's very simple 'There are Nazis, they are always bad, the more you kill, the better you are'.

While fundamental to gaming, I can't help thinking this a very juvenile way of looking at it, and there are too many good game concepts for other war games not explored. We need more war games that explore the concept of Anti Heroes.

The reason Devs don't (usually) do war games is specific to each war. They don't do WW1 because it emphasises the brutality of mechanical slaughter, and to be honest, what cause are they fighting for other than that of the ruling classes? A tragedy, and one thats too risky to put down on disk, sadly. I'd love to see it happen though.

Also, Iraq. I mean, it's just too recent for any dev to do it without attracting a truckload of controversy. Look at 6 days in Fallujah, a game developed from the ground up by analyzing the experienced of everyone in the conflict and treating them all in a respectful and intelligent fashion. What happens? The producers drop it because it gets slammed by the press for 'Bad taste'. How is it any more in bad taste than shooting at German tanks on the Seelow heights?
Answer: It isn't, and it's far more relevant to our understanding of the war to boot, that game needs to be made. The only other game that covers the Iraq war is Kumawar, and that game is so bad it's a joke.

We need more moral ambiguity in games if we want them to be held in the same artistic vein as movies.

Maybe if you bothered to find more information about the game, like a certain Shack news article that I am just tired of bringing up every time someone thinks that making this 'game' is a MUST when all it really was, was just another game to satiate the average white American male heroic bravado or disillusion in being the hero in what really was a conflict filled with enough war crime to make Abu Graib looks like nothing.

cainx10a:

Maybe if you bothered to find more information about the game, like a certain Shack news article that I am just tired of bringing up every time someone thinks that making this 'game' is a MUST when all it really was, was just another game to satiate the average white American male heroic bravado or disillusion in being the hero in what really was a conflict filled with enough war crime to make Abu Graib looks like nothing.

I've really got to stop trusting PC Gamer and Gamespot hype, haven't I?

Still though, you can't blame me for not hunting down every single bit about the game, I'm not writing a thesis or anything.

Sooo...we can all agree that torture is acceptable now, right.

internetzealot1:
Sooo...we can all agree that torture is acceptable now, right.

Who are you working for? Where's the bomb?! /jackbauer

Yuri in Tales of Vesperia is actually quite a good anti-hero. Does what he believes is right, regardless of how he does it, and is very much a Punisher-esque style hero. He's very willing to kill off characters that escaped the law, if he thinks it is for the greater good (in fact he does it several times, at least once where the victim has already been let off by corrupt laws in place), even if it means sacrificing his friendship with his oldest friend and himself to do so, meanwhilst his friend Flynn tried to remain lawful good and achieve similar goals, even though later on he becomes more of a neutral good character himself. Yuri is very much a chaotic good character in the anti-hero vein, great to have on your side, but best not be around if you're not.

Batman...aside from being boring :p is neutral good. He follows the good laws where possible and ignores the bad, not to mention he doesnt exactly vigilantiest take people out, he just delivers them to the authorities.

Mirrored Jigsaw:
With all this talk about anti-heroes. I wonder when the concept of a villainous protagonist will catch on. God of War is pretty much the only one that I know does that.

*cough* Elric of Melnibone *cough* Artemis Entreri and Jarlaxle *cough*

Also Ender if you want to get into a deep ethical chat.

I've always believed the description of a hero to be thus: a person who will sacrifice everything he holds dear, even his own life, for the greater good.

Therefore an anti-hero would be a person who would sacrifice anything, for the greater good.

A friend of mine once described it thus: "A hero is a man who will run into the burning building and save as many people as he can before it collapses. An anti-hero will walk past it, hands in pockets as he walks around the back to the rear-entrance and pulls the fire alarm."

Why bother shooting around the hostage if the hostage-taker is the most dangerous man in the world? What is one life compared to the millions he has killed, and potentially will kill if you miss your shot?

Why bother sneaking past a hundred guards, knock out the scientist and steal the poison so your superiors can derive an antidote? Why not just blow up the entire building, innocent researchers and all?

The anti-hero is in the middle of a gunfight with his best friend, who is mortally wounded. The anti-hero would prefer putting a bullet in his brainhouse then trying to save him, because the chances of getting him out of the situation and into a hospital where he could receive the proper treatment is so slim its basically impossible, and would cause the friend excruciating pain along the way.

These are the things that people today want. They want the man who will get the job done, because quick and decisive results are good results. They want a professional who will not let something like emotion cloud his judgment or drag him down. They want someone with no ties, no remorse, nothing but efficiency...cold efficiency.

Ultimately, people want a villain...but a villain on their side.

Terminalchaos:

Mirrored Jigsaw:
With all this talk about anti-heroes. I wonder when the concept of a villainous protagonist will catch on. God of War is pretty much the only one that I know does that.

*cough* Elric of Melnibone *cough* Artemis Entreri and Jarlaxle *cough*

Also Ender if you want to get into a deep ethical chat.

Elric Of Melnibone is arguably more of a hero than an anti-hero in the overall scheme of things when you get down to it. But you need to understand the ENTIRE story to really get that.

The basic lore behind the whole thing is that there was this dude called John Daker who was minding his own business when the Lords Of The Higher Worlds basically said "hey, guess what, you've won the Multiversal Lottery, you get to be a hero and save a world!". He appears in another world as "Erekose" and is handed an all powerful magical sword, the love of a beautiful woman, ungodly fighting skills, and the whole nine yards and basically told to go wipe out this race called "The Eldren" who are basically elves (indeed the Warhammer High Elf designs are largely based on Moorcock's descriptions).

In simplistic terms he eventually decides that The Eldren are the good guys, and The Humans need to go, and he switches sides and pretty much committs genocide. Falling in love with a dark haired Eldren beauty. This enrages The Universe and he's pretty much cursed to become "The Champion Eternal" and fight wars to maintain the balance throughout the cosmos. In general the more he keeps with the plans of his sponsors, the happier he is.

You will notice that in most of the stories you will have a black haired love interest, and a blonde love interest, and in general which one the protaganist winds up with reflects how he's doing. Killing a raven haird beauty (like his Eldren love in the original incarnation) is oftentimes a result of some kind of punishment, like when Elric's sword "accidently" kills his Melnibonean girlfriend.

At any rate, all rambling aside the big theme of Elric is free will. The story is somewhat complicated because Elric is one of the incarnations where John has dreams of his other incarnations, but does not actually have their full memories.

In the case of Elric it's pretty much Erekose in reverse. The "Young Kingdoms" are in balance, but the universe has degreed that for there to be balance in a mulitversal sense, Chaos needs to dominate. In this case a very evil and cruel form of chaos (which is not always the case). Elric has the spirit of John Daker and is thus wired differantly than other Melniboneans and pretty much flips a bird at The Universe, which then proceeds to do everything it can to force him to do what it wants.

I say he's not an anti-hero, because throughout the whole thing Elric's overall intentions are generally speaking good, despite being personally tortured. It's definatly very DARK fantasy, but acts like destroying his own city are done to prevent those tools from existing to corrupt the world to chaos and darkness. In the end he escapes to "Tanelorn" where by it's own decree The Universe can't really mess with him, but is forced through a threat to his love to come out and do his job. In the end he pretty much sacrifices deeply of what is left of himself to go out while flipping a giant middle finger at those who manipulated him.

Russ Pitts:

Kollega:
Ummmm... Robin Hood is an anti-hero? Since when?

Since stealing was considered a crime.

Heroes generally don't break the law. That's pretty much anti-what they're supposed to be doing. Which is why folks like Robin Hood and Zorro are considered anti-heroes. They're doing admittedly bad things, but for a good - or at least auspiciously good - reason. But try telling that to the people who get their houses broken into.

You're correct that Robin Hood is what we would call chaotic good, in the D&D sense, but heroes, traditionally, are lawful good. Or at worst neutral good, or lawful neutral. True heroes are never, ever chaotic. Chaos is the antithesis of law and order, which is what traditional heroes are supposed to represent. Therefore, using your criteria, Robin Hood, by virtue of being chaotic good, is by definition an anti-hero.

To those who are poor or dispossessed, Robin Hood may be an outright hero, with no "anti," but a true hero doesn't subjugate one set of people for the benefit of another set, however much he or you may thing "the rich" deserve to be punished. That's not very heroic. By suggesting that, since you agree with his politics, Robin Hood is therefore a true hero, you're essentially saying that if The Joker, for example, used his poison gas on someone you happened to not like, killing that person, then he, too, would be a hero. That's not right. Killing people is against society's legal and moral code, therefore the Joker is a villain, regardless what subjective good may come from his actions.

Were the Joker killing people whom he and society at large considered "enemies of the people," like, for example, The Punisher, then he would be undertaking a heroic quest, but doing so in a less-than heroic manner, therefore: anti-hero. Heroes fight for the benefit of all - rich or poor - because a true hero is above petty judgments about who is more or less deserving of justice.

See Allen Varney's article about Batman for more on this discussion. He makes a good case about Batman being a "capitalist hero," chasing after only lower-class villains. It's an interesting theory, and Batman is absolutely and definitely an anti-hero in almost any sense. But even Batman abides by the law. He doesn't punish criminals, he apprehends them and delivers them to the civilian authorities. He redistributes wealth by earning it himself and then giving it away. And he doesn't steal - ever.

So is Batman really an anti-hero? What would you say his alignment is?

Okay, on the subject I will say this much:

I believe the definition of an Anti-Hero is someone who acts negatively for their own selfish reasons and just happens to do good things along the way. If he acts for the greater good it's begrudingly because of a deeply sunk conscience.

A Hero, which arguably can be said is more of an ideal than realistic in most cases, is someone who does the right thing for the right reasons, and had little personal stake in what they do, regardless of their motivations.

In general Anti-Hero types HAVE become hip for a long time, and I think the issue becomes confused due to a lack of "traditional" heroes to compare them to. What's more I think a lot of people trying to make Anti-heroes, wind up simply creating very dark and angst driven heroes without realizing it.

As far as The Western World goes, I don't think the issues described are unique to us. I think that's just how it is for everyone. Things aren't as Black and White as we try and represent them in some histories, but in the end we still are the good guys more than most other groups/areas out there. Pretty much if you analyze anyone out there your going to find plenty of bad, and I think "our" scale balances out a bit better. This includes groups oftentimes considered "pure" like Native Americans and others when you really look at them. All the same questions aimed at "The Greatest Generation" can be aimed at pretty much any group IRL with similar results. Albeit in our case you can usually find more overall justification.

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I do not consider Robin Hood to be an Anti-Hero as he pretty much could have left at any time. What's more he "stole" not for personal gain, but specifically to fight a tyrant and help the people. His entire motive was more or less defined as selfless in a "classic" version, though many have turned it more into a dark tale of revenge to match current tastes. What's more I'm reluctant to really even call him a thief, because mostly he was supposed to be returning people's money to them. Unjust taxes collected by someone who was not rightfully the land's ruler. Robin Hood did not generally mug peasants and live off the proceeds or whatever.

An Anti-Hero is someone more like Han Solo in the original Star Wars. Han Solo was totally motivated by personal profit. The guy sold drugs, he murdered people, he smuggled. His only personal limitation was that he would not deal in slaves. Given a debt based on that paticular limitation he was out to make money to pay off his mob employers (in part so they would give him more work, in addition to not doing horrible things to him). He's only not a complete slime because he DOES have a conscience and comes back at a key moment at the end of the movie, deciding he can't turn his back on what was happening. He almost did though when taking his payment from Princess Leia.

Now Han *DID* become more of a straightforward hero in the later story arc, but to begin with the initial story kind of showed what an anti-hero was all about.

A more obscure referance would be a book called "Vampyr" which features a protaganist who runs around the countryside scamming peasants, by faking monster attacks with her partner, and then making them pay through the gills for her to "slay the beast". Not a totally unique idea, but pretty bad. The character being redeemable because she ultimatly winds up fighting real monsters when they eventually appear.

Batman has a personal motive (Avenge the death of his parent), but ultimatly behaves selflessly with his primary motive being to protect people. I believe what makes him a real hero compared to other, similar characters, is that his primary motive is ALWAYS to protect people and it comes before punishing crime in his entire mentality. Compared to others who might help people as a side effect, but are primarily interest in punishing the guilty.

Basically, for all the Cr@p Batman talks, and how he acts, this is a guy whose morality dictates that he stop pursueing a mass murderer in order to save an innocent in crisis. One can argue his priorities at times, but not his intentions.

I guess you can say that for all the hype, he's not out to Avenge his parents, as much as he is to try and prevent that kind of thing from happening to everyone else. There does become a distinction.

The Punisher in comparison sets out specifically to kill Criminals, for him protecting the Innocent is secondary. Sure he'll save someone in the crossfire, but his entire motive, logic, and behavior is entirely differant and far more self interested... being focused on the revenge aspects more than 'preventing stuff like this from happening'.

 

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