Wednesday, April 9, 2014

H is for Heroes

Science fiction is filled with heroes and heroines.  They defeat the bad guys, and keep us entertained in the process.  However, many of them do not fall in line with our more traditional idea of what it means to be a hero.  In our culture, we see heroes as being courageous, selfless, virtuous, and idealistic.  They aren’t plagued by vices.

Instead, science fiction is populated by what we would call anti-heroes.  They may be the protagonists of the story, and they may defeat the enemy, but they don’t usually do it in the clean way that a more traditional hero would.  Anti-heroes might drink too much, or gamble.  They may say crude things and generally be rough around the edges.  They may in fact be wanted criminals.

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Han Solo from Star Wars (as if I even need to clarify this) and Malcolm Reynolds from Firefly are two good examples of anti-heroes.  They might have their own code that they operate by, but it certainly doesn’t take into consideration what society would like them to be.  They may do some less-than-noble things, but we find ourselves rooting for them.  Why?  And why are there so many anti-heroes?

Space is vast.  There is always a frontier, and where there is a frontier, there’s an element of lawlessness.  When you’re away from a centralized authority, you may have to be a little rough to get things done and win the day.  Or perhaps we have anti-heroes because we recognize that human beings are imperfect.  Sometimes we’re selfish.  Sometimes we bend or break the rules because it suits us to do so.  Sometimes we lie.  The anti-hero reflects our own imperfections.  We want to see them win, because if the little guy who’s made mistakes in the past can triumph, then we can too.  We can relate to them more than we can to the hero who’s never done a dishonest thing, who puts the needs of others ahead of their own at all times.  The traditional heroes are perhaps good role models, but they’re not always realistic ones.

What kind of heroes do you like to see?  Do you prefer heroes or anti-heroes?  Why do we need heroes in the first place?


  1. Who doesn't love a bad boy? :) I love anti-heroes because they had so many fewer boundaries. Don't get me wrong, I love a good clean cut hero too, but even they should have something of the rebel about them (Captain America comes to mind). I'm also a sucker for bad made good.
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  2. Anti heroes are always so much cooler x

  3. I love anti heroes, I think because I can relate to them more. After all, nobody is perfect.

  4. Wow this is quite interesting! Ahem! I love heroes- for instance Hugh Jackman from X-men series looked powerful and handsome. We need hero because in a tale we want to relate with somebody- even if he is anti-hero/hero that story has to be about somebody, else it will not be a story!

  5. Well put! I have always enjoyed the anti-hero for all the reasons you stated; especially the part about them being flawed. This makes them much more realistic. My sister once asked me why I always liked the bad boy characters on television such as Sawyer on Lost and Eric from True Blood. I responded because they are more fun. I like the anti hero that seems maybe like a bad guy but deep deep down he is really good. Makes things much more interesting to me.

    Great Job!

  6. A good hero is always nice but I have a soft spot for anti-heros. I guess I find them more... relatable? We're not all perfect and it's sometimes nice to see that you can still save the day even if you are pushed towards that goal.

  7. Anti-heroes are the way to go. Everyone loves a bad boy or bad girl (let's not leave out characters like Selina Kyle or Emma Frost or Lara Croft).

    See ya 'round the web. All Things Kevyn

  8. Great point L.G. Although I'd say the trend of the antihero started in the 70s. Before then we had Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon. I like the flawed hero the best.

  9. Heroes don't even consider themselves heroes, they are merely labeled as such. While both Han Solo and Malcolm Reynolds are anti-heroes, Han seemed to be more of the seat of his pants never planning more than a few seconds ahead. Mal appeared to be a bit more methodical in his approach. Not everything went according to plan, but there was still a plan in place.

    I love a good anti-hero, so long as they are in a setting that doesn't condone their actions and they have humility to themselves.