tristankneschke's picture
tristankneschke from New York City is reading The Fun Parts June 9, 2014 - 9:15am

Hey all, looking for some great examples of literature with antiheroes we both sympathize with or hate but can't stop reading about anyway. I skew towards the darker stuff: noir/surreal, but any are appreciated, thanks!

Tristan

L.W. Flouisa's picture
L.W. Flouisa from Tennessee is reading More Murakami June 9, 2014 - 2:09pm

I'm not sure if I would know any, I read manga for years. (Like Elfen Lied, Saikano, that sort of thing.)

Alma's picture
Alma from Denmark is reading Warm Bodies + The Haunted Vagina June 9, 2014 - 2:15pm

Patrick Bateman...?

Matt A.'s picture
Matt A. June 9, 2014 - 2:51pm

An antihero is going to have some kind of mision or characteristic that makes us root for him, despite the bad things he does to get there. Patrick Bateman is a bit of a stretch in this regard. Dexter and Walter White from Breaking Bad may be close.

Alma's picture
Alma from Denmark is reading Warm Bodies + The Haunted Vagina June 9, 2014 - 3:53pm

Well, I guess that's in the eye of the beholder - there are plenty of (anti)heroes that I wouldn't root for...

I never really liked Dexter because I got so tired of him always justifying his actions (oh, it's okay that I kill all these people since they're bad so that must mean that I'm better than them...)

According to my high school English teacher it was 'quite obvious' that I sympathized with Bateman - but maybe that says more about me... damn...

Matt A.'s picture
Matt A. June 9, 2014 - 4:59pm

Well...there has to be some kind of dividing line between an antihero and a plain old straightforward villain. It will be a very fuzzy line though, a lot of opinion involved. I didn't sympathize with Walter White or Dexter, but I have a hard time considering them garden variety villains. Very subjective, but I think the one rule is an antihero I striving for something good (at least in his/her eyes) but the method is morally flawed. Extremely subjective.

Alma's picture
Alma from Denmark is reading Warm Bodies + The Haunted Vagina June 9, 2014 - 6:41pm

I guess the difference is that if a villain is the protagonist (as opposed to being the antagonist) then that is what you would call an antihero...

Nathan's picture
Nathan from Louisiana (South of New Orleans) is reading Re-reading The Soul Consortium by Simon West-Bulford June 9, 2014 - 8:58pm

I sympathized with Walter White until he watched Jane die toward the end of Season 2—that was it for me.

Dexter, on the other hand—that’s a tough one. He’s likeable and did his best to kill only those who were far worse, but ultimately proved that he was willing to kill anyone and everyone if it meant being stopped from doing more killing. I remember him raising a big stink in Season 3 over Jimmy Smits wanting to kill the DA just because she was on his tail, but Dexter reacted in exactly the same way to Doakes and LaGuerta when they went after Dexter. 

tristankneschke's picture
tristankneschke from New York City is reading The Fun Parts June 10, 2014 - 4:40am

my friend told me about a film out now called "filth" from the book by irvine welsh - if the movie stays faithful then it's about an antihero cop. i remember reading it and thought it was a particularly good example.

i guess i should have specified, was looking for more obscure references but the conversation about walter white and dexter is interesting all the same! :)

Alma's picture
Alma from Denmark is reading Warm Bodies + The Haunted Vagina June 10, 2014 - 4:52am

Can I assume that you're taking the class, Tristan? :)

Have you read Chicago Loop? I thought that was pretty weird...

tristankneschke's picture
tristankneschke from New York City is reading The Fun Parts June 10, 2014 - 5:55am

@alma, is that the one by paul theroux? thanks for the reco, and yes i am taking the class! see you there!?

Alma's picture
Alma from Denmark is reading Warm Bodies + The Haunted Vagina June 10, 2014 - 6:09am

Yep, it's Theroux - and yes, I'm also taking the class, it's gonna be awesome!

If you're looking for antiheroes in noir, what about Ellroy's LA Quartet? I thought a lot of his protagonists could fit into that category when I read those books a looong time ago...

Bob Pastorella's picture
Bob Pastorella from Groves, Texas is reading murder books trying to stay hip, I'm thinking of you, and you're out there so Say your prayers, Say your prayers, Say your prayers June 10, 2014 - 6:56am

Some confuse antiheroes with 'villains we like'. For me, I now use Riddick in Pitchblack as my template for antihero. He's a bad man who just happens to occassionally do some good whether he wants to or not, his reasons are ambigious.  Hannibal Lector, Patrick Bateman, and the like, are actually villains we like. Dexter fails under antihero by deinfition, but he's a little too flaky for my tastes. A lot of Ellroy's characters fall under the antihero label. 

MattF's picture
MattF from Tokyo is reading Borges' Collected Fictions June 10, 2014 - 7:21am

Would agree with Bob's definition. Rooster Cogburn from Charles Portis' True Grit comes to mind as classic antihero: an alcoholic, morally ambiguous, self-centered, charged with murdering his prisoners, but still, grumpily, perhaps unwillingly, saves the day.

Grigori Black's picture
Grigori Black from US is reading Radium Girls by Amanda Gowin June 10, 2014 - 7:32am

Riddick is a good one. Dexter always came across as a little too 'cutesy' to really be an anti-hero. He's clearly intended to be, but it's just a little campy for my taste. It's a fun show, but I don't take it too seriously. Hannibal is definitely a villain you root for, along with Patrick Bateman. Pulp fiction was chock full of anti-heros.

I always thought the Punisher was a classic anti-hero. Snake Plissken from the 'Escape' series too. Wolverine in his original incarnation was pretty much a standard anti-hero. I'd call the MC from 'Man on Fire' an anti-hero on pinciple. Han Solo, believe it or not, falls into that gray area as well.

The distinction (to me) is that the anti-hero is mostly out for himself. In general he won't do harm, and largely wants to be left the fuck alone. Now, he won't hesitate to do violence (in some cases extreme, borderline sociopathic violence) when needed.

V.R.Stone's picture
V.R.Stone from London is reading Savages by Don Winslow June 11, 2014 - 1:28am

I think a lot of the protagonists in spaghetti westerns and hard boiled detective novels would qualify. Porter in Payback/Walker in Point Blank (I haven't read the books). Rust Cohle in True Detective. Iron Man perhaps? James Bond.

Seems like an antihero is someone who wants the same outcome as a hero but breaks the rules, uses violence, has a drink and sleeps with a few people on the way.

Grigori Black's picture
Grigori Black from US is reading Radium Girls by Amanda Gowin June 11, 2014 - 1:45am

James bond is the epitome of the cool guy spy hero. He's partially driven by queen and country, doing bad things for good reason...

Tony stark is complete and total wish fulfillment hero schtick. He wants to be the hero and is narcassistic on an epic level.

Both are fun, don't get me wrong, but I don't see either of them as quite fitting the anti-hero mold. It's a gray area though. You could easily argue it either way.

Porter: Now there's an anti-hero. To a 'T'.

You could probably count Leon from Leon the Professional (or just The Professional) as a good example of an anti-hero. Though towards the end I think he crosses over to the hero side of things.

Sin City is another series full of anti-heros. Pretty much everyone in that franchise.

V.R.Stone's picture
V.R.Stone from London is reading Savages by Don Winslow June 11, 2014 - 4:52am

It really depends on how you define an anti-hero. Your classic hero is a good man doing good things. Villains are bad men doing bad things. 

Maybe Ironman and James Bond qualify as antiheroes because they're bad men doing good things. Same for the hard-boiled detectives. Some of the criminal-type antiheroes are sort of good men doing bad things as they're breaking the law but they have some good qualities, maybe a sense of honour and loyalty.

Tony Soprano is really a villain, but it seems that his psychological problems make people root for him. Alex from A Clockwork Orange and Cool Hand Luke are both criminals but are charismatic and we watch them get broken by authority figures, who become the villains and make us root for the protagonist.

big_old_dave's picture
big_old_dave from Watford, about 20 miles outside London, Uk June 11, 2014 - 5:39am

Donald westlakes parker

frank underwood - house of cards

Lorne Malvo & Lester Nygaard - Fargo Tv show

The mountain, jamie lannister - game of thrones

scarface

errrrr...skeletor?

 

Grigori Black's picture
Grigori Black from US is reading Radium Girls by Amanda Gowin June 11, 2014 - 5:52am

Frank Underwood is an interesting one. I'd definitely peg him as an anti-hero.

The mountain is a villain, through and through. He's pretty one dimensional, but we don't really care. He's just a big brutal thing, a force of nature. The Hound is more of an anti-Hero, or Bronn. Hell, the whole series if full of anti-heroes.

Jamie Lannister though, definitely anti-hero. He's had an interesting character arc through the story. If/when he gets killed, I'll be a little bummed.

Scarface? Villain we root for. Skeletor too.

I don't know about the rest.

big_old_dave's picture
big_old_dave from Watford, about 20 miles outside London, Uk June 11, 2014 - 6:16am

Got the hound and the mountain mixed up, doh!

Check out the Fargo Tv show when you get the chance it's bonkers mental.

tristankneschke's picture
tristankneschke from New York City is reading The Fun Parts June 11, 2014 - 6:59am

these are all great examples, love the more obscure ones as it looks like i have some watching/reading in front of me!

it seems the crux of the whole thing is to create a sympathetic cause, and then the character's actions determines whether or not they are hero/anti-hero, depending on their moral code. i expect it's an extremely tight line to walk. we see frank underwood go to extreme lengths to achieve power, but we are cool with it because he has been screwed over in the beginning after extending himself.

of course, i asked initially because i have a novel with an antihero and his antagonists tend to be more the story's heroes, and right up front people were saying they didn't sympathize with the guy, so i think i need to work on what he's trying to achieve/what he's fighting for.

Bob Pastorella's picture
Bob Pastorella from Groves, Texas is reading murder books trying to stay hip, I'm thinking of you, and you're out there so Say your prayers, Say your prayers, Say your prayers June 12, 2014 - 5:32am

The thing with antiheroes is that the thing that motivates them, the GOAL, is sometimes approached reluctantly, and that's what adds the 'hero' aspect to the character's personality. At the beginning of the story, there's usually a point where the character could just as easily walk away from whatever problem that needs to be faced, and walking away could cause more harm than good. When they make that decision to fight for the goal, their reasons are usually selfish...it's not to help out the other characters, it's to help themselves, only that if the actual goal is achieved, then it WILL help out some of the characters. The decision is one of self-preservation, that if they don't do this thing, that their life will be in danger. Antiheroes often don't do anything for anyone else...they see the Goal as a means to make their own lives easier. It's that selfishness aspect that makes the difference between a hero and an antihero. Heroes are usually helping others out and putting those other characters in a more important ranking than themselves. 

Ronzermonster's picture
Ronzermonster from Portland, OR is reading Forture Smiles July 16, 2014 - 1:51pm

Ignatius J. Reilly - perfect example. No likable characteristics, selfish motivations, disgusting habits, and yet you find yourself rooting for him, while simultaneously hating him.

Read A Confederacy of Dunces.

justwords's picture
justwords from suburb of Birmingham, AL is reading The Tomb, F. Paul Wilson; A Long Way Down, Nick Hornby July 16, 2014 - 10:01pm

@R.monster: Excellent example. If that's ever made into a movie, I'd love see who is cast. It won't ever be though; John Kennedy O'Toole's mom is Ignatius J. Reilly in reality, and she'd Never give up control of filming; anyone in their right mind would never let her do it. God bless New Orleans and their complex, crazy citizens.

I hate to give a movie as an example, but the character John Wayne played in a really old film (whose title I can't remember at the present) where he had to move a herd of cattle out on the Goodnight-Loving Trail and lost all his hands (I can't remember why either), and he ended up recruiting a lot of 13-, 14-, 15-year old boys. He Really didn't want them along, gave them every opportunity to quit; only reason he kept 'em was he had to move those cattle. He was pretty much an asshole, not a father-figure. But they ended up moving the herd, after he died.

Midnight Cowboy: may have an argument for Ratso Rizzo as anithero. 

Oh, that last Thor movie; Thor's brother (or stepbrother?) would be a candidate for anithero. Or did I get that storyline wrong?

Angel Colón's picture
Angel Colón from The Bronx now living in New Jersey is reading A Big Ol' Pile of Books July 29, 2014 - 1:26pm

"Fast Eddie" Felson from Walter Tevis' The Hustler.

 

J.C. Wigriff's picture
J.C. Wigriff from Carbondale, IL is reading Playboy (for the articles) July 29, 2014 - 2:32pm

It's another television example, but Jimmy McNulty from The Wire. In fact, there were several anti-heroes on The Wire, like Tommy Carcetti and Omar Little. Hell, just go watch The Wire. 

 

I also agree with Jamie Lannister, although when he has his big reveal with Brienne we see that he really just got a bad rap, and then eventually started acting the part because everyone thought he was an asshole anyway, which just made him more nuanced in the long run.