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Old 06-01-2018, 05:23 AM   #1
Crayon
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Question Is revenge only for anti-heroes?

If a story has an innocent person seek revenge for an extreme personal injustice, (they have no access to justice within the law) then are they an anti-hero, and therefore the 'hero's journey' monomyth does not, or cannot, apply?

Also, if the protagonist is indeed an anti-hero, is there no reason for them to 'save the cat', and the injustice that they suffered is reason enough for the audience to want to see them succeed in their goal of revenge?

Any advice or opinions will be much appreciated.
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Old 06-01-2018, 05:35 AM   #2
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Default Re: Is revenge only for anti-heroes?

If you try to apply the hero's journey to your story, you will get a hero's journey. One of a million hero's journeys.

If you just write your story in the best way possible, Save the Cat bedamned, you might create something new and fresh.

My advice: be true to your characters, be true to your story, don't cheat your story logic, and treat the audience like we're smart and clever and have seen a million hero's journeys and saved cats (because we have).
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Old 06-01-2018, 11:36 AM   #3
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Default Re: Is revenge only for anti-heroes?

MoviePen - Thank you. Yes, I wholly agree. I'm not forcibly trying to apply the old 'hero's journey' and 'save the cat' formulae to my revenge story. I want my protagonist to behave credibly, as most befits their character and circumstances.

My questions were somewhat academic. I'm more just curious -- is a 'revenge seeker' an anti-hero by default? -- and therefore they couldn't go on the 'hero's journey', even if one wanted them to.

I'm also wondering if a protagonist seeking justifiable(?) revenge is enough of a reason for an audience to care about them achieving their goal, even when they're not overtly good or likeable.
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Old 06-01-2018, 01:20 PM   #4
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Default Re: Is revenge only for anti-heroes?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Crayon View Post
I'm also wondering if a protagonist seeking justifiable(?) revenge is enough of a reason for an audience to care about them achieving their goal, even when they're not overtly good or likeable.
In Mel Gibson's "Payback" it worked. It's probably my favorite Mel Gibson movie.

He was a reptile in this -- the only reason it worked is he went up against people who were far scummier.
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Old 06-01-2018, 01:36 PM   #5
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Default Re: Is revenge only for anti-heroes?

no, but if they're not an anti-hero, there is usually a moral price to be paid for the character if they undertake it (see every Coen Bros. movie ever made)
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Old 06-01-2018, 02:40 PM   #6
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Default Re: Is revenge only for anti-heroes?

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Originally Posted by Crayon View Post
My questions were somewhat academic. I'm more just curious -- is a 'revenge seeker' an anti-hero by default? -- and therefore they couldn't go on the 'hero's journey', even if one wanted them to.
An anti-hero is a protagonist who lacks heroic qualities. A revenge seeker can be a heroic protagonist or an anti-hero depending on the story. A revenge seeker is not an anti-hero by default.

For example The Gladiator saught revenge for the slaughter of his wife and child. He was definitely not an anti-hero.

Last edited by jonpiper : 06-01-2018 at 03:38 PM. Reason: changed definition of anti hero
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Old 06-01-2018, 06:34 PM   #7
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Default Re: Is revenge only for anti-heroes?

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Originally Posted by StoryWriter View Post
In Mel Gibson's "Payback" it worked. It's probably my favorite Mel Gibson movie.

He was a reptile in this -- the only reason it worked is he went up against people who were far scummier.
Death Wish (1974), starring Charles Bronson.

When his wife is killed by street thugs, this good guy gets mad and gets even.
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Old 06-01-2018, 07:15 PM   #8
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Default Re: Is revenge only for anti-heroes?

I wrote a revenge movie called "Crossed the Line" where the protagonist was not an anti-hero. There was a price to pay at the end but that wasn't due to any particular paradigm or character archetype. The theme was "revenge begets revenge" and it resonated more if the final act of vengeance was against her.

On a different note - there are many ways to get an audience to root for a character even if they're not overtly good or don't have a "save the cat" moment. One way is to show how much the goal means to a character. What they're willing to put on the line to achieve it and revealing why it's so important to them.
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Old 06-01-2018, 11:32 PM   #9
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Default Re: Is revenge only for anti-heroes?

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Originally Posted by Crayon View Post
My questions were somewhat academic. I'm more just curious -- is a 'revenge seeker' an anti-hero by default? -- and therefore they couldn't go on the 'hero's journey', even if one wanted them to.
No. Just call revenge "justice" and you've basically got about every Western movie ever made. I think, though, if you want people to like your character, there has to be that moment when he "comes to his senses" and doesn't pull the trigger ... just long enough the evil antagonist to try one last time to kill him. Then it's pure self-defense and the audience gets the satisfaction of seeing the antagonist pay for his crimes, while we get to see the protagonist "pass the test." It can be very dramatic.

I remember when Magnum P.I. "jumped the shark" when they had Magnum kill the bad guy in cold blood (because he had diplomatic immunity or something). It shocked the audience. The show was never the same after that. I think it only lasted one more season.

I also remember (I think) the 2nd Lethal Weapon where the evil jerk says "Diplomatic Immunity," and (I believe) the Glover character shoots him anyhow. Somehow that seemed right because the guy was so -very- slimy. I also think the Glover character thought the Mel Gibson character had been killed. So emotions were high and the action seemed warranted.

Sorry to ramble. I do that sometimes.

One more example ... probably one of the best Westerns ever made, Tombstone – you could say it was a vengeance movie, but there was always the proviso drop the cowboy "red" sash and you can go free. But you wanted the bad guys to NOT drop the sash.
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Old 06-02-2018, 11:53 AM   #10
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Default Re: Is revenge only for anti-heroes?

Great replies, one and all. They'll help me to better write my revenge seeker protagonist. Many thanks.

While this may be craft, not science, we could be a little scientific: first define 'anti-hero' and then see how revenge fits with that.

anti-hero - a central character in a story, film, or drama who lacks conventional heroic attributes. (oxforddictionaries)

In movies, taking revenge is usually to be a vigilante outside of the law, often for reasons such as grief, wrath, and despair. Does that sound like a conventional hero? Where does revenge sit within the spheres of ethics and politics? Are the rules for and attitudes to revenge not very different between fiction and our real world? Do conventional heroes ignore the following guidance?:

"Do not seek revenge, but give place to God's wrath, for it is written: Vengeance is mine, I shall repay, said the Lord." - Romans 12:19

I guess I may now be of the opinion that a revenge seeker is more often an anti-hero, but not one by default. (Revenge seekers could be clear thinking, and gather evidence and take their target to the authorities, rather than desperately shoot them in the face.)

My protagonist may straddle the line between hero and anti-hero. Whilst he's screwed-up and seeks revenge for himself, he'll also be stopping the bad guys from doing further wrongs.
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