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Waiting for the Fall: Our Fascination With the Antihero


Posted October 7, 2013 by


When I was a kid, I loved—no—I lived for superheroes. X-Men and Batman were particular favorites of mine, and, while my parents had no qualms about a psychotic, violent clown and a narcissistic billionaire with something to prove, X-Men was deemed “too violent” and “inappropriate” for one so young and delicate as myself.

catwoman2Naturally, I just snuck the cartoons in when they weren’t home. Rogue was my favorite: the hair, the flight, the ability to absorb anyone’s powers at any given time made her the undisputed champion of mutants in my mind. Not to mention the fact that those powers came at a price: the inability to touch anyone. Ever. She was always pulling away from everyone else and, at times, her loyalty was questioned. It stuck with me, and to this day I’m still a little bit jealous of her curse, and the fact that I could never pull off the white streak the way that she does.

It seems to me that this archetype, however, has become more and more prevalent in recent years. Used to be that we had cut and dried, black and white superheroes and super villains. The shining star do-gooders such as Captain America and Superman have become rather tired and under-appreciated, while the “bad boys”—the ones who constantly tread that line of right and wrong, who balance on the edge of the knife of morality and sin—are hailed as thrilling, box-office favorites and continue to enthrall millions world-wide. The Punisher tortures his victims without remorse, Batman will traumatize, disfigure and manipulate those he sees as evil in the name of justice (go on, say it in the Christian Bale voice—you know you want to, if you breaking badhaven’t already). Tyler Durden, Walter White, Severus Snape, Rorschach—we’re never sure what side they’re on, and boy do we gasp and cheer when we see them start to stumble.


Spies gone wrong, heroes collapsing under the lust of power and greed, passion steadily whittling away at the once-stoic and powerful morals of our favorite beloved idols—it seems that, more and more, we live to see the hero fall. We love to see them knocked from (or even better, slyly talked into leaving) the pedestals we have so dearly placed them upon. Why is this? Do we see something inside of ourselve that we fear would not be strong enough to withstand such a temptation, and feel justified and relieved when one perceived as “greater” than ourselves buckles under the same pressure? Perhaps we just love scandal and adultery of the physical and ideological kind—sex sells, after all, even if it only takes place in the mind.


Of course, the concept of the tragic hero is nothing new. Oedipus buggered it up so royally we have a psychological term named after him, and Othello brutally murdered his virginal bride with some well-placed rumors and a fit of passion. It seems to me, however, that instead of embracing the parts of these characters that make them so great, we are instead causing them to be used only as a tool to lead up to their ultimate downfall, using the good as a mere foil to the bad, always praying for worse to happen.


Regardless of the reasons why we love them, the chance of the pure-at-heart, knight-in-shining-armor hero making a comeback to replace these denizens of our dark hearts is unlikely, at best. I, for one, will keep loving to cringe at seeing Victor Freeze mourn, for Boromir to succumb, and for Rogue to run back to Magneto.

Tiffany Palumbo

Tiffany loves books, writing, and referring to herself in the third person. Tiffany is an unabashed nerd, and thinks you should be, too. Tiffany likes to write. Tiffany write good, Tiffany thinks. Tiffany thanks you for reading her writing.


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