Why Readers Love Anti-Heroes – by Sue Coletta…

on Writers Helping Writers:

To understand why readers love anti-heroes, we first need to define what they are. An anti-hero is a flawed, complicated character who thrives in shades of gray. They play the hero of the story, but rarely, if ever, follow conventional expectations of heroism.

Anti-heroes aren’t new. One of the first to emerge was the deeply flawed Huckleberry Finn. Marvel’s Wolverine and Hulk also are deeply flawed anti-heroes. Then came vigilante anti-heroes like Dexter Morgan, who lives by a code. Even though he’s a serial killer, he only murders other killers who’ve escaped justice.

Modern media has grown tired of idealized heroes. Pop culture fell in love with characters who have less-than-heroic traits since they are more relatable. We can’t see ourselves in a hero who stands on a pedestal of perfection. Beloved characters like Jack Sparrow constantly challenge the line between good and bad. Which makes him more relatable than, say, Superman.

Thus, our adoration of the anti-hero is rooted in self-identification with their characteristics and backstories. When characters reflect versions of ourselves, we connect on a deeper level. Our love for these characters stem from empathy. Empathizing with a character immerses us in the fictional world.

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