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Old 07-05-2020, 12:40 PM   #1
SundownInRetreat
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Default Rooting for Antiheroes

This thread focuses on specific antiheroes to address the question being asked so it's imperative you're seen Payback, Escape from New York, Strange Days, U-Turn.

The question is why are these antiheroes so likeable and why do we root for them? These characters are not the cheesy 'really a good guy' types that we usually get - such as Dirty Harry (trying to keep the streets safe and clean even if he does overstep the mark a few times), Dexter (a serial killer but only kills nasty people who, the audience accepts, deserves their fate), Cameron Po (killed a man but did so in self defence) or the usual mouthy types that thumb their nose at authority and are decent guys despite being hard work.

It's obvious why we root for all of the above but the film I'm asking about certain protags that lack those redeeming features:

Payback
Protag has his $70k stolen by his partner and has such a strong moral code that he just wants his money back and not a penny more - all well and good - but he's a ruthless, cold thief, the money he lost was money he stole, and he killed people in order to get it. Okay, one of the people who ripped him off was his estranged wife and the people he butts heads with are more vicious that he is but that doesn't make up for his traits and actions yet we want him to win.


Escape From New York
Protag is a convicted armed robber (no miscarriage of justice) who only agrees to rescue the President to save his own skin. Okay, the guy sending him in wants to renege on his deal but that doesn't excuse why the protag doesn't do anything heroic and ignores scenes of murder and rape. Everything he does is self-centred to ensure his survival. Being double-crossed doesn't excuse his attitude and actions. Despite this, he's one of the coolest characters of cinema.


U-Turn
Protag is on the run from the Russian mob he owes money to. He then agrees to murder a man's wife for cold, hard cash. Sure, he faces off against antagonists but again, none of this excuses his morals and actions - yet we still root for him, regardless.


Strange Days
Protag wa kicked off the police force for illegal activities and is now a seedy dealer of contraband. Utterly self-centred, a compulsive liar, a con man and always lets down the only true friend that he has. Yes, he ends up fighting badder guys but only when he's targeted by them. Okay, his embarrassing attempt to win back his ex that can't stand him is sort of endearing in a pathetic kind of way but again, none of this comes close to redeeming him as the selfish, cowardly low-life that he is yet we still love him and warm to him.

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Old 07-07-2020, 05:40 PM   #2
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Default Re: Rooting for Antiheroes

This sounds like homework -- maybe you should answer first to help move us along... Ha.

My quick take is that we identify with the main character and their POV -- it's their story. So if Star Wars was from Darth Vader's POV we'd like him more than Luke is my guess. The way the new Cobra Kai series takes the bad guy from the movies and makes him our lead -- changes POV and makes you rethink the whole thing.

Also in these movies, Snake is a good guy in a bad world. Or a bad guy in a world filled with worse bad guys. So if Snake was in a romantic comedy -- he'd be the bad guy. But in the movie he's in -- he's the hero.
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Old 07-09-2020, 02:09 AM   #3
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Default Re: Rooting for Antiheroes

I hear you but my point is that these guys are not sympathetic. Payback opens with the protag being a tool and then planning a heist that will severely injure or kill - isn't that too much to have us root for him. Snake may be in a world full of badder guys but he walks past a girl being gang-raped - just did not care.

In theory, it shouldn't simply be that we don't like them - we should also be turned off. If we write scripts with these characters, it would be expected to receive notes saying that they're alienating and without any redeeming features (or those merits being too little, too late).
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Old 07-09-2020, 02:54 PM   #4
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Default Re: Rooting for Antiheroes

Brass tax -- what's your question really? I assume you are writing a similar lead character and want to know will it sell? Is that it?
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Old 07-09-2020, 04:58 PM   #5
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Default Re: Rooting for Antiheroes

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bono View Post
Brass tax -- what's your question really? I assume you are writing a similar lead character and want to know will it sell? Is that it?
My 'real question' is what I asked in my OP - why do we care for these characters when we shouldn't? If we write such characters, as I tend to, how do we ensure readers, execs and audiences - who have no problem with these 4 protags - are onboard and not complaining about unlikeability?

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Old 07-09-2020, 05:43 PM   #6
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Default Re: Rooting for Antiheroes

Have them star a movie star and we will love them.
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Old 07-09-2020, 05:43 PM   #7
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Default Re: Rooting for Antiheroes

Quote:
Originally Posted by SundownInRetreat View Post
My 'real question' is what I asked in my OP - why do we care for these characters when we shouldn't? If we write such characters, as I tend to, how do we ensure readers, execs and audiences - who have no problem with these 4 protags - are onboard and not complaining about unlikeability?
Anti-heroes aren't a new thing. It shouldn't even be an issue.

I googled. This came up. Basically, ensure your anti-hero has a relatable backstory that invokes our pity or understanding. Means we are putting ourselves in his position and understanding why he's doing what he's doing, even if it's criminal or immoral.

https://www.collegian.psu.edu/arts_a...%20the%20crime.

"... We justify the crimes because the motive is relatable. We all know the feeling of wanting revenge or the need to help our family or friends. We can see the good because they stand for something that makes sense to us..."

Also, your examples -- Oliver Stone wrote U-turn. He can get that made on his name alone. Payback has a 55 percent on RT -- you're considering this successful?

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Old 07-10-2020, 03:05 AM   #8
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Default Re: Rooting for Antiheroes

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I googled. This came up. Basically, ensure your anti-hero has a relatable backstory that invokes our pity or understanding. Means we are putting ourselves in his position and understanding why he's doing what he's doing, even if it's criminal or immoral.
You're missing the point.


Quote:
We justify the crimes because the motive is relatable. We all know the feeling of wanting revenge or the need to help our family or friends. We can see the good because they stand for something that makes sense to us..."
You're missing the point.


Quote:
Also, your examples -- Oliver Stone wrote U-turn. He can get that made on his name alone. Payback has a 55 percent on RT -- you're considering this successful?
Missing the point and irrelevant.



I'd said in a previous thread we don't need to like them, though we usually do, just interested in them to want to know more and not alienated by them. If you've seen these movies then you'll know there's either a) no empathetic/relatable aspect or b) too-little and too-late to keep the reader/viewer onside - either before the redeeming elements are shown or after they've been revealed. None of the protags have anything like a Save the Cat moment. I'm guessing - from what you've written - that you haven't seen these movies. Which is key to understanding this thread.

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Old 07-10-2020, 07:37 AM   #9
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Default Re: Rooting for Antiheroes

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Originally Posted by SundownInRetreat View Post
I'm guessing - from what you've written - that you haven't seen these movies. Which is key to understanding this thread.
FYI -- Asking questions and then being accusatory to the people answering them is going to ensure no one answers them.

I did see U-turn and Payback, which is why I commented on them and not the other two. FFS.

U-turn, I'm guessing here, had the lure of OLIVER effing STONE writing it. And Penn being in it. I don't remember it making a ton of money, though I could be wrong. I also never hear anyone talking about it. It doesn't generate the continued love and chatter of Sopranos or Breaking Bad. So your claim of "Why are these antiheroes so likeable and why do we root for them?" MIGHT be misplaced. It could be in the case of U-turn that the names alone drew people in and gave it the box office it had. And then everyone moved on. In a way that they haven't moved on from Breaking Bad/Sopranos, or the Godfather.

Not sure. I'm guessing.

Payback -- I did not love. Maybe you did, which is fine. So, I thought to myself, gee, was everyone else holding up this antihero in Payback as "so likeable and why do we root for them?"

That didn't seem right. So I looked up Payback on RT. No, in fact, despite starring the hugely anti-semitic pile of alcoholism that is Mel Gibson, it didn't even get a fresh red tomato overall score. So your claim that "we" are all framing these characters as "so likeable and are rooting for them" doesn't seem to be super true. At least not in this instance, of Payback. As generally critics do like to root for characters too.

Quote:
Originally Posted by SundownInRetreat View Post

I'd said in a previous thread we don't need to like them, though we usually do, just interested in them to want to know more and not alienated by them.
See -- I was trying to answer the question in this thread. My mistake.

But I sense you could answer your own question as you are stating "we" meaning YOU love them. Your answer to this question is perfectly valid despite what anyone else says. That is what makes the movie universe go around. Instead, in these threads, it feels like you're mining others opinions hoping someone will agree with you -- except you won't actually voice what your opinion is.

Maybe you like them because you do. That's perfectly valid.

Here's my final thought. I love antiheroes because I love shades of gray. The reason antiheroes can succeed, imo, is because who they're up against is usually far WORSE than they are. So maybe that's something you could focus on as you write.
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Old 07-10-2020, 10:13 AM   #10
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Default Re: Rooting for Antiheroes

Quote:
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Brass tax -- what's your question really? I assume you are writing a similar lead character and want to know will it sell? Is that it?
Has the IRS levied a tax on brass? (It's brass tacks.)
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