Friday, June 3, 2016

Superweek Weres Wanna Know: Why Do We Love Anti-heroes?

We had so much fun with the Superhero week we put together recently that we decided to do it again. (Plus, we still have a lot of superhero reads in our TBR piles.) All this week we're bringing you more super-themed reviews and features. Don't forget to enter our super giveaway!

Weres Wanna Know is a new discussion feature where we share a topic that's been on our minds and invite you to share your thoughts as well.

This week has been all about superheroes, but with a side of Alpha Showdown. I also finished season 2 of Daredevil on Netflix this week. Originally, I planned to post a review of the show today, but what the convergence of all these topics has got me thinking about is Alpha males and anti-heroes.

There's been a lot of discussion in the comment section and on Twitter about why Showdown voters nominate female characters but don't support them when it comes time to vote. Top-ranked Jane Yellowrock lost her first round match to the bottom ranked character and a lot of people voted for him because they think he's sexy. Gin Blanco lost to a lower ranked male character for the same reason. When we define the term Alpha male we usually use terms like strength, power, dominance, and even possessive or protective. In romance novels, they often seem to be men who make decisions for what they think is the good of others, usually women, without asking. They're prone to mansplaining and general assholishness. Why do we think that's sexy? I, for one, am not a big fan.

An anti-hero, on the other hand, is often sexy. They're rebels who follow their own moral code whether society agrees with it or not. This season of Daredevil was largely about Matt Murdoch deciding if he wanted to be a hero or an anti-hero. (Whiny, waffling Matt, not so sexy BTW.) He believed he was following a code by refusing to kill anyone. He believed he was selflessly defending his community from criminals. But was that really why he did it? Was his way any more effective or any more heroic than Frank Castle's? 

Castle is the epitome of the anti-hero. He probably killed hundreds of people in search of justice as he defined it, regardless of whether society agreed with that definition. But he also protected Karen throughout the season and in the end, he even saved Matt. He was arguably the most likable character in the show. He was also a major badass. If we had an Alpha Showdown for TV characters, I'm pretty sure he'd win. The other thing about Castle is that he could easily have been a hero. It was only after his family was murdered that he became an anti-hero.

Back to my original rant, woman can also be anti-heroes. I've been watching Wynonna Earp on SyFy. Wynonna drinks, sleeps around and generally engages in unheroic behavior. She kills at the drop of a hat. Like Frank Castle, she only kills bad guys (in her case they're demons.) But she does it not to keep the town safe, but in order to break her family curse. And like Castle, she might have been a hero if not for the wrongs done to her.

So why do we love these anti-heroes? There's even been some effort to make iconic heroes like Superman and Captain America darker and more like them. Is it because we sympathize with the trauma that made them that way or because we wish we could be more like them?

What do you think?
Let's discuss!

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