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Old 07-13-2020, 01:04 PM   #21
JeffLowell
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Default Re: Rooting for Antiheroes

Got a little bogged down in some of the back and forth, so apologies if this has been covered, but I think one of the keys is to make the antihero's enemies worse than he is, so you root for him to win.

Obviously, antiheroes have been having their moment in tv for awhile, so to use a hopefully well known example - Tony Soprano was a mobster, but his mother and the other mobsters against him were worse, so you were on his side.

It's a trick that works in any genre. Frasier wasn't the hero of Cheers - he was an effete, condescending snob. So when he got his own series, they gave him a brother who outdid him in every one of those characteristics, and Frasier seemed like an everyman compared to him.

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Originally Posted by Bono
If you're writing a romantic comedy and you're hero is a jerk -- yeah that's harder.
I think the hero often starts out as a jerk who learns his lesson along the way. Liar Liar and Pretty Woman spring to mind, but it's pretty universal.
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Old 07-14-2020, 04:21 PM   #22
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Default Re: Rooting for Antiheroes

One thing that seems obvious, but I thought I'd point it out since I have time on my hands... As far as antiheroes in movies versus series, one thing is substantially easier in series - nuances.

Films, movies have much less time to capture the facets of an antihero. Unless it's a character study, which Payback or U-Turn or Escape are not, where the story is the character for 90 plus pages, you have a limited amount of page space to sketch your character.

A series can spend an episode exploring a flaw, addressing behavior, paying off something heinous that our antihero did a few episodes earlier, a season earlier.

John Wick is a good, present yardstick. He is meting revenge on bad guys who are worse than him. As far as nuances though, there are a few scenes. We know who he lost, why he got out, how he treats people above and below him in status. But really, more time is spent on kick-ass fight scenes. Does anyone care at the end that we've been rooting for a guy who took many lives in his past in return for money?

And as far Jeff's point about the antagonists being worse than the protagonist, Breaking Bad is a good example for my personal taste. By mid-season 5 I was tapped out as far as my emotional engagement in the series. By that point Walter White had Skyler's cooperation/consent and he was badder than the antagonists. They brought in Todd's uncle and his white supremacist buddies, but by that time, I was waiting for the end.
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Old 07-17-2020, 02:58 PM   #23
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Default Re: Rooting for Antiheroes

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John Wick is a good, present yardstick. He is meting revenge on bad guys who are worse than him. As far as nuances though, there are a few scenes. We know who he lost, why he got out, how he treats people above and below him in status. But really, more time is spent on kick-ass fight scenes. Does anyone care at the end that we've been rooting for a guy who took many lives in his past in return for money?
Ass mentioned before, the difference between him and my protags is vast - and this is what my OP is about. It's clear why we root for John but not the others. For a start we didn't see John Wick at his worst, and even then he probably only killed 'other' bad guys. To top it off, his innocent puppy got killed so the revenge angle is understandable.

But what I'm trying to figure out is why we stick with - even root for - any of them past the first 10-20 pages? Though they come up against badder guys, why do we stick with them before they do this considering the things they do? And why do we care after they butt heads with the antags? None of these guys are in the same position as John. He's introduced as wanting a quiet life and reasonable. These other guys, though, are nasty pieces of work and we see them in their element.

Imagine these specs were written by amateurs - what would make a script consultant/reader/exec/producer feel hooked rather than offended? What would make them stick with these guys (and the scrips) rather than offer big notes about them crossing the line and being too unlikeable and/or simply just too bad with no redeeming qualities? Why would they (and why did they) avoid the requirement to show a Save the Cat moment or mitigate their criminal exploits by having their manslaughter be in self-defence and their bank robbery because they desperately needed funding for their dying sister?

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Old 07-19-2020, 02:45 AM   #24
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Default Re: Rooting for Antiheroes

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The question is why are these antiheroes so likeable and why do we root for them?
basic empathy.

To make a morally bankrupt person the hero, you have to put them up against a worse opposition. The inner journey might be more transparent than with a romcom and the Anti-Hero can be more honest about their feelings or lack of... this leads to a stronger and more satisfying transformation by the protag and rewards the audience

[Taxi Driver] At one point Bickle plans to kill a senator and does take his date to porno movie... we're repulsed to a certain degree, but also root for him to change. I'm sure Schrader was a big Hitchcock fan and is deliberate in switching love interests from Cybill Shepherd to Jodie Foster, part of this the inner transformation of character is a plot device... has Bickle's goal changed? is the Senator different than the Pimp?

there are huge transformations by these characters and audiences empathize with their need to change... Lots of comedy do it too, Bad Santa, Uncle Buck...etc
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Old 07-19-2020, 03:00 AM   #25
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Default Re: Rooting for Antiheroes

Dude, read the OP before diving in.

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Old 07-19-2020, 08:23 AM   #26
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Default Re: Rooting for Antiheroes

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But what I'm trying to figure out is why we stick with - even root for - any of them past the first 10-20 pages? Though they come up against badder guys, why do we stick with them before they do this considering the things they do? And why do we care after they butt heads with the antags?

Imagine these specs were written by amateurs - what would make a script consultant/reader/exec/producer feel hooked rather than offended? What would make them stick with these guys (and the scrips) rather than offer big notes about them crossing the line and being too unlikeable and/or simply just too bad with no redeeming qualities? Why would they (and why did they) avoid the requirement to show a Save the Cat moment or mitigate their criminal exploits by having their manslaughter be in self-defence and their bank robbery because they desperately needed funding for their dying sister?
Why do we stick with antiheroes? The thrill of vicarious experience, reading or watching. The same reason millions of chubsters quaff massive amounts of beer and greasy food down their insatiable gullets while they watch in a homo-erotic fantasy stupor as their trim and fit football superheroes play like gods on gridirons and pitches.

Whether or not a reader or producer will “stick with” a script is a matter of its execution.
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Old 07-19-2020, 08:41 AM   #27
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Default Re: Rooting for Antiheroes

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Why do we stick with antiheroes?
That's not what I'm asking. Hence my above post to Julysses.
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Old 07-19-2020, 09:00 AM   #28
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Default Re: Rooting for Antiheroes

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That's not what I'm asking. Hence my above post to Julysses.
I’ve read all of your posts here. If that’s not what you’re after, the only thing left to consider is that when anyone—reader, producer, or script consultant—decides to take up a script and read it, already they have resigned themselves to accept a protagonist with whom they can somehow identify, an antagonist or antagonistic forces, and the conflict that makes the story unfold as it does.

The notion of “I am about to read a story” sets in, and we are conditioned to find, and naturally look for, a hero or heroine of some sort as they overcome their hurdles, hopefully in a story told in a way which we enjoy regardless of how dark or brooding the main character may be in the story.

When there is aught but dirt about, people build homes of adobe. When there is an abundance of trees, people build log homes or frame houses. When there is an abundance of stone, people build fortress-like castles.

Whatever material we are given when we pick up the script, we seek someone—or more rarely, something—to champion.
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Old 07-19-2020, 09:55 AM   #29
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Default Re: Rooting for Antiheroes

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I’ve read all of your posts here.
Then you'll know I'm specifically asking about the protags in the 4 films I mentioned.

I know full well that people who pick up a noir, crime or dystopian script and read the logline, are happy with the notion of an antihero and I know all the reasons why we like them and the concept of putting them up against even badder antagonists. So let's put to bed the question of why we like antiheroes.
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Old 07-19-2020, 09:56 AM   #30
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Default Re: Rooting for Antiheroes

I can't make it any clearer than I already have - and will assume people have skimmed my posts rather than read them carefully - but I'll try one more time.

Most antiheroes, except those in the 4 films I mentioned, have aspects that make them likeable. They can have Save the Cat moments and hearts of gold or they may have earned their prison sentence by taking the rap for a crime their kid brother did or because they were protecting their wife and accidentally killed someone. There's usually mitigation for antiheroes with criminal history and those that don't, are usually just lovable rogues who like to snub authority. But those in the 4 films I mentioned lack all of the above. And there's no redeeming features in act one, if not the whole film. Some, like Snake, even spurn opportunity when it's presented by casually ignoring a woman being raped.

I mean, this is Groundhog Day now but for the umpteenth time:

In the opening minutes of Payback, our protag steals from a homeless guy, pickpockets someone, assaults his wife, and plans a robbery whereby his method is not just to steal but also kill. So my question is why did people roll enough with this script to get it made? Why wasn't there balking after page 10 - with readers and prodcos thinking 'holy hell, this guy is a real piece of work - this can't be filmed as he'll alienate the audience'? Ditto the protags from the other films I mentioned an discussed in great detail in my previous posts.

I link this to feedback I had from one of my scripts about a low-level conman who's in debt to a violent mobster and has just two options: be killed or kill someone and get paid enough to pay off the mob boss and start his life anew. My protag is a teddy bear compared to the antiheroes of the 4 films that this thread is about and is backed into a corner regarding the murderous offer. Now even though this script got a lot of attention and interest, the one recurring note is that regardless of his quandry, rootability (and thus project viability) goes out of the window the moment he agrees to kill. Even those who had no issue with his decision said it would be an issue in trying to get the script greenlit even by prodcos who like noir and crime.

So my petty criminal, who doesn't want to kill anyone but is backed into a corner, antihero is 'too much' - that agreeing to kill someone is a step too far - yet the protags of the other 4 films, who are far worse, who repeatedly show how odious they are, who agree to murder just because they can, who blithely ignore gang rape even though they could end it in a heartbeat, who have no redeeming features and lie and con everyone including their friends, are fine? If my reluctant killer can lead people to say 'hell, no' once page 17 shows his grudging agreeing to kill in order to save his own life, then why didn't the 4 films I mentioned generate the same response - both from prodcos and the audience?

Snake is one of the most badass antiheroes, with cries for more adventures, and Porter has had a series of novels and 3 films - so there's an audience and perceived viability. So my question is why do these antiheroes - who have no redeeming features, who do things that should alienate even their core audience - avoid the note of 'I was with him until X but that was just too much and I didn't care after that'.

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