Stories of heroes and villains have fascinated from the birth of storytelling. Heroes like Iron Man, Batman, Wonder Woman, and the Hulk join the ranks of Hercules, Joan of Arc and Beowulf in the fight against evil and darkness.
Throughout history there are darker characters who play the role of both villain and hero. These “antiheroes” don’t always do the right thing. They make mistakes, do right things for the wrong reasons, do wrong things for the right reasons, and, occasionally, let emotions outweigh better judgment.
The recent surge of Marvel and DC films started with lighthearted humor and witty heroes who vanquished their villains. But, as the story arcs have progressed, darker and darker characters have been introduced.
In previous Batman films, Batman would only capture his prey and leave them for the police to arrest and send to prison. Now, as seen in “Batman vs. Superman,” Batman no longer has difficulty killing.
The Punisher in the TV reboot of “Daredevil” is another antihero. He comes to Hell’s Kitchen to dole out justice as he sees fit by brutally punishing and killing those he sees as evil. He mocked Daredevil as a half measure saying, “You hit ‘em, and they get back up. I hit ‘em, and they stay down” (“Daredevil” season 2, episode 3). The Punisher believes that his cause is justified, while Daredevil questions whether he’s doing the right thing.
The age of antiheroes has arrived.
But why are antiheroes on the rise? Aerlice LeBlanc, a senior graphic design major, explained, “Maybe we’re just more cynical.” She went on to say add, “We look at heroes and say ‘That doesn’t happen anymore.’”
No one has solely pure intentions.
Why should our heroes reflect values that no longer resonate with our society? Perhaps we are drawn to antiheroes because they are more true to life.
Suicide Squad answers the question, “What would happen if you took traditional villains and forced them to be heroes?” The result is a team of colorful and quirky antiheroes working against the Enchantress, a primitive deity.
In the film, Harley Quinn was once a psychologist who fell in love with her patient, the Joker, despite his psychotic nature. Her relationship with the Joker drives her insane. Harley isn’t inherently bad and only wants a normal life with the Joker.
She may be crazy, but her actions are governed by love.
Deadshot has his priorities straight. Though he kills men for money, his only concern is for his daughter.
He was only captured because his daughter interceded with him and begged for him to turn himself in. In his negotiations with Amanda Waller, Deadshot only made demands for his daughter’s future.
Diablo, a reformed gangbanger, turns himself into the police after the tragic deaths of his family. He swears never to use his fire power again. Though more powerful than anyone else on the team, he believes he’s too dangerous and refuses to join in the fight.
In the end, we’re left with a team of strong individuals who are by no means perfect, but who are true to themselves as they attempt to do the right thing. Perhaps we’re intrigued by these flamboyant characters because they speak to us on a deeper level than previous heroes and villains.
Like us, these characters have flaws, make mistakes, and do the wrong thing at times.
Maybe that’s why they fascinate us. They’re real.