K.P.B. Hinduja College of Commerce affiliated to Mumbai University
June, 2014 Research Guide
(Ms. Sneha Subhedar)
This is to certify that Ms. Richa Sharma, a student of K.P.B. Hinduja College of Commerce has completed his final semester dissertation titled. A study of the Anti-Hero Element in Hindi Cinema with Respect to Anurag Kasyap’s Films.
The dissertation is submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements of Master’s in Communication and Journalism (EJ) conducted by the college.
I have guided his on various topics and methods during the research project.
June 30th 2014 Sneha Subhedar
Mumbai Research Guide
I wish to express my gratitude to all the employees/Reporters of Mumbai Headlines (Tabloid) who shared their valuable knowledge and experience with me and without whom this research would not have been possible. The contribution of each and every respondent, faculty, my peers hold great importance to me.
I would also like to express my warm regards and heartfelt thanks to our Assistant Prof. Sneha Subhedar, research guide for their untiring support and guidance throughout which has been an inspiration and driving force of this research.
I would also like to thank other professors and colleagues at the Hinduja college of Commerce, who encouraged me at all times with their inputs and suggestions throughout this research process.
Findings and observations
Scope for Future Research
Hindi Cinema for long has been a very integral part of our society and life. We as a society have grown up watching Hindi Films for its action, drama, comedy, songs and dance. In this Research we will look into the world of Hindi Cinema and Director Anurag Kasyap has showcased the Anti-hero Element in films. We will also see how Hindi films have been influenced by the anti-hero elements of showcasing grey shades to its heroes. And how our audiences have been influenced by these on screen characters. Hindi Cinema has been dominated by various heroes on screen like the angry young Man in the form of Amitabh Bachchan, the local mafia godfather in Sarkar, and many more such characters who have time and again won the hearts of millions of viewers all around the country. We will look into the aspect as to what gave rise to these anti-heroes in Hindi cinema, and what bought about this transformation as a whole.
Indian cinema has forever shown us the various facets of films and characters, which the audiences have sometimes loved, while other times imitated and applauded the angry heroic element in all its films. The common man depicted in many of our Hindi films in the late 1970’s were liked for the basis of its heroics, and the angry young man formula of Amitabh Bachchan. He was not a good man, neither did he follow the rules, yet he was the hero of the film. And people loved and applauded his action, drama and thrill in all those movies. Trishul, Deewar, Sholay, Kala Patthar. Unlike the Traditional hero who is morally upright and steadfast, the anti-hero usually has a flawed moral character.
Of course, for some people, these films are just a bit too dark. But for the rest of us who watch these films (or binge watch them), what draws us to these stories? And what keeps us coming back? Is it that we have a sick fascination with watching the underbelly of society live out our own secret desires? Or is it that we waiting for redemptive resolution that affirms our understanding of right and wrong?
To answer that question, we must first consider the anti-hero.
The “anti-hero” (also known as the flawed hero) is a common character archetype for the antagonist that has been around since the comedies and tragedies of Greek theater. Unlike the traditional hero who is morally upright and steadfast, the anti-hero usually has a flawed moral character. The moral compromises he or she makes can often be seen as the unpleasant means to an appropriately desired end—such as breaking a finger to get answers—whatever it takes for the protagonist to come to justice. Other times, however, the moral flaws are simply moral flaws, like alcoholism, infidelity, or an uncontrollable and violent temper.
At different points in history, the culture-at-large has preferred stories featuring anti-heroes over those with traditional heroes, and vice versa.
For example, consider the popular Bollywood films and genres from the mid-1940s through the 1970s, have featured anti-heroes who have become some of the most iconic movie characters of all time, such as:
Kagaz ke phool
These films have depicted the anti- hero element in films very well and clearly.
So, what was the historical context that served as the backdrop for these films and characters? In the mid-1970s, India was going through a series of crises like the emergency declared during the Indira Gandhi period, the common man was fighting morally and socially to make its ends meet. He had a very practical approach towards life and so he first only and only thought of feeding his own family by any means. The world included far more shades of gray, and the characters on the silver screen needed to reflect a broader view of morally acceptable behavior. Traditional heroes were just far too un-relatable. And so the on-screen images depicted what our society was going through. The common man was angry and frustrated and so the screen heroes were no longer the
BROKENNESS IS A PART OF HUMANITY, AND WE CAN MORE EASILY RELATE TO THE CHOICES THAT A CHARACTER MAKES in a film IF THEY ARE BROKEN TOO.
So what about our lineup of dark realistic films today? I think it’s safe to say that we have more than our fair share of flawed heroes. From Abay Deol in DevD to, langada tyagi (Saif Ali Khan) in Omkara, Sharuk Khan in Don, to Manoj Bajpayi and Nawaz Uddin Sidhiqui in Gangs of Wasseypur (1 and 2). All these characters have played their part of being an anti -hero to the T, and the audiences have loved and applauded these actors, despite of the grey shades in their characters.
If we consider the 21st century so far—9/11 terrorist attacks, the kargil war,26/11 Mumbai attacks, Gujrat riots(2002) the economic recession, Uthrakhand floods, tsunami —there’s been a steady stream of terrible events to shake our faith in humanity. The promise of hard work resulting in economic prosperity and a stable future is no longer trustworthy.
Characters who shine as morally pure and upright don’t ring true to us anymore, because it’s not who we see around us in the world. Neither is it what we see when we look in the mirror. Brokenness is a part of humanity, and we can more easily relate to the choices that a character makes on a TV show if they are broken too. After all, a believable and relatable character is one of the single-most important elements of an enjoyable story.
But is this really what’s behind our love of these stories? Are we tuning in just to see a weekly reflection of our own brokenness? I don’t think so. It is against the depressing backdrop of history, amidst the disappointing reality of our mediocre lives and flawed humanity, we long to see truth.
We tune in week after week in the hope of seeing our cast of characters eventually turn it around through some kind of redemptive act. Whether it’s to see them make better choices, slowly improve over time, or lay down their lives so that someone else might live, redemption is a powerful and resonating piece of storytelling.
Or, maybe we watch because there is truth, no matter how painful, in the natural and just consequences to a slippery slope of bad choices.
Redemption or consequence? One way or the other, I don’t think we really want to see evil succeed. Why? Because we see ourselves in the anti-hero. And we don't want to be spectators to our own downward spiral of demise. We want to see truth prevail and love conquer hate. Seeing this affirms the deep sense of justice that all of us have in our hearts. Evil will not go unpunished, and no one is too far gone out of redemption’s reach.
Perhaps it’s the darkness that reels us in, because we relate to the darkness. But even so, we hope for the light.
Filmmakers in today’s times like Anurag Kashyap, Dibaker Baneerjee, Vikram Aditya Motwani, Imtiaz Ali showcase and know the audiences nerve and they also are completely aware of our current socio-economic conditions. They know that our audiences are smart enough to understand and distinguish between what is right, what is wrong, what is true and what is false.
Through this research the researcher wants to show and study the Indian Cinema, the contemporary filmmakers and the anti-hero elements to their characters, portrayed in their films. The Indian Cinema went through a series of transformations and eras and this is how diagrammatically we can divide the films over the past 100 years:
(Films like Raja Harichandra based on Hindu texts: Ramayana, Mahabharata)
1930s-40s Stunt movies
(Star persona: Fearless Nadia)
1950s Socials: The „Golden Era‟
(Directors: Raj Kapoor, Guru Dutt, Bimal Roy)
[1960s: ―Overlap with 1950s‖]
1970s „Angry Man‟ Era and Parallel Cinema movement peak
(Social retribution action films, Directors Shyam Benegal and Ritwik Ghatak)
[1980s: ―Overlap with 1970s‖, Dip in cinema-going due to rise of television]
(Doordarshan channel launches successful Ramayana TV series)
In the chapters ahead we will see how Indian cinema transformed itself over the decades with its anti-hero semantics. And we will also see a case study on A few Films of Anurag Kasyap and how he has shown and played with the anti-hero element in his movies. And also how other new aged filmmakers have changed the way the typical Bollywood films were being made and today we see more script and story oriented cinema being made.
But first we will look into the history of Indian cinema in our First Chapter.
In 1931 Alam Ara, the first Indian talkie, was made. It was a costume drama full of fantasy and melodious songs and was a stunning success (Gokulsing & Dissanayake, 1998). Subsequently, music and fantasy came to be seen as vital elements of filmic experience. Sometimes the use of music was overdone. For example Indrasabha in 1932 contained 70 songs. Since this era, music became the defining element of Indian cinema. The popularity of a new medium for mass entertainment encouraged filmmakers to explore new ideas for filmmaking. The 1930s saw a fascination for social themes and, subsequently, interplay of tradition with modernism that included questioning aspects of the feudal patriarchy (Gokulsing & Dissanayake, 1998).
By 1940s cinematography played an important role in Indian movies. There remained a great deal of western influence on Indian popular cinema along with the song, dance, and fantasy staples. The economic and political environment around this time was also undergoing changes - India was moving towards capitalism and modernism amidst political unrest and religious diversions. It was against this background that film directors and actors like Bimal Roy, Raj Kapoor, Guru Dutt, V Santaram, Mehboob Khan made films which became popular (legends) both in Indian and abroad.
By the 1950s Indian popular cinema had established itself as a form of art, entertainment and industry. Film historians call this period the golden age of Indian cinema. During this era, movies like Awara (The Vagabond, 1951), Pyaasa (Thrist, 1957), Kaagaz Ke Phool (Paper Flower, 1959), Shree 420 (Mr, 420, 1955), Mother India (1957), The Apu Trilogy by Satjyajit Ray consisting of Pather Panchali (Song of Road, 1955), Aparajito (The Unvanquished, 1956) and Apu Sansar (The World of Apu, 1959), were made. The international popularity for many of these movies and film actors like Raj Kapoor made the Indian government recognize the revenue-earning capacity of the film industry (Dwyer & Patel, 2002).
The subsequent government intervention resulted in censorships and heavy taxation, which made life difficult for filmmakers. In 1960, the Film Finance Corporation, which later formed the National Film Development Corporation, for financing and exporting films, was established and in 1961, the Film Institute of Pune was started. Around this time Indian state television, Doordarshan, became a daily service programming for an hour. The broadcast was restricted to Delhi (Rajadhyaksha & Willemen, 1999). In 1973, the Directorate of Film Festivals was started which organized annual International Film Festivals in India, opening doors for the common people to see world cinema. In 1976, Doordarshan, still the only television station in India, separated itself from All India Radio and later, in 1985, became fully commercial selling prime slots to private sponsors and TV soaps. Some of the box-office hits during this time include Aradhana (1969), Bobby (1973) and Sholay (1975).
While movies of the 70’s were influenced by the political and social trends, the 80’s saw an emergence of violence in cinema. The audience was also changing – the introduction of color television in 1982, the availability of VCRs and the numerous soaps on kept more middle-class people at home (Dwyer & Patel, 2002) (Rajadhyaksha & Willemen, 1999).
The theaters became more decrepit, being more a refuge for the lower-middle class than the middle class. In order to cater better to their audience, filmmakers increased the level of violence in their films with revenge dramas becoming more popular. Some of the popular movies of this period included Naseeb, Coolie, Hero, Ram Teri Ganga Maili and Sagar.
Indian films now entered the corporatization era (2004-2014), where now big industrialists started investing and putting money into movies. This was and is the new wave into Indian cinema, where no more the underworld money was involved, things got more organized, professional contracts were signed, and the money got much bigger. Multiplexes had a major role to play in this, as now movies were watched at a much greater and larger scale, with a thousand prints being released all over the country, which was earlier only a few hundreds.
The Indian film industry has become much braver and better in content and story wise, with big production houses like UTV Disney backing young talent for minor budgets as well. For examples Lunch Box (2013) staring irfan khan and Nawaz Uddin Siddiqui was one such film, which was backed and supported by Utv, Dharma Productions and Anurag Kashyap together and promoted oversees. Ship of Theseus (2013) was another short meaning full film which got a lot of applaud and industry support for its story, and it was majorly backed by Amir Khan and his Wife Kiran Rao. This new wave in Indian cinema has bought about a lot of changes in cinema content as well. Today the story and the script is recognized as the hero of the film and not just the heroes and actors are seen as important.
The Bollywood Eclipse: A new wave
In May of 1998 the Indian government announced that it would grant the Bombay film industry (commonly referred to as Bollywood) the right to finance its films through foreign funding, bank loans and commercial investment. With this new industry status, Indian filmmakers would no longer need to seek money from the government or resort to black money laundering via the criminal underworld, but could instead have their productions backed by global sponsors and multinational corporations such as Coca-Cola and Nokia.
Within this climate of economic restructuring, Bollywood also opened itself up to several aesthetic makeovers. In 1998 it adoptedthe frenetic editing techniques of popular Music Television (MTV) to re-image its song sequences (Dil Se, 1998). A year later in 1999, the release of Sanjay Leela Bhansali‘s film Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam marked the beginnings of new visually =excessive‘style of filmmaking. This novel aestheticism was achieved not only through Bhansali‘s designer mise-en-scene and extravagant cinematography, but also through the careful casting of Miss World contest winner Aishwarya Rai –a rising star who would exhibit a kind of hyper-femininity and visual perfection previously unknown to the cinema. Rai was soon branded as =the new face of film‘by Time magazine and her unique star quality was soon matched by that of male star Hrithik Roshan in 2000. Roshan‘s hyper-masculine physique and almost super-humanly fluid dancing abilities in his first feature Kaho Naa… Pyaar Hai made him an astonishing overnight success, with the Indian press even describing the Indian public‘s feverishly fanatical response to his cinematic debut as =Hrithik mania‘.
In this same year, India also witnessed the revival of its biggest film star Amitabh Bachchan, who (previously representative as a working class hero and socialist political figure both in and outsideof his films) now returned with a new internationalized affluent image – an iconic white goatee beard and designer suit – as a pop star and television show host3. Bachchan also used this time to re-launch his film career by starring as a cynical headmaster in Bollywood‘s Dead Poets Society inspired Mohabbatein and was subsequently voted the biggest star of the millennium in a BBC poll. Since this moment, Bachchan has continued to appear in almost sixty films in either middle class Patriarchal or darker anti-heroic (sometimes even villainous) lead roles.
A year later, 2001 saw Bollywood‘s industry status finally take effect and its global circulation realized. Santosh Sivan‘s Asoka was marketed across the UK and screened at London‘s Empire Even Hollywood’s then most popular actress, Julia Roberts, described Rai as the most beautiful woman in the world Time [Asia Edition] (2003) From 2000 to 2005 Bachchan was the host for Kaun Banega Crorepati, India’s version of the British quiz show Who Wants to be a Millionaire Leicester Square. Karan Johar‘s big-budget family melodrama Kabhi Kushi Kabhie Gham followed soon after, proving to be the industry‘s highest international grosser with many non-Indian European audiences flocking to see the film. This film, coupled with Farhan Akhtar‘s smart and stylish tale of urban youth Dil Chahta Hai, marked the beginning of a new generation of young Directors in Bollywood who promised to challenge old-fashioned attitudes and promote a newer,More modernized India. Meanwhile in Hollywood, Baz Luhrmann also helped draw attention to Bollywood with his homage to the cinema in his Oscar nominated Moulin Rouge. Further global awareness was received in 2002 with Hollywood‘s first fully-fledged Bollywood themed film The Guru and a similar tribute in the West End in the form of Andrew Lloyd Webber‘s musical Bombay Dreams. While the West showed its critical appreciation of Indian culture largely through East-West hybridized productions such as BAFTA and Golden Globe nominated Bend it like Beckham and Golden Lion winner Monsoon Wedding, Bollywood orchestrated its own international publicity by exhibiting Bhansali‘s even more visually operatic follow-up film Devdas at the Cannes film festival.
This hype was further exceeded in the same year by the Oscar nomination of colonial period sports Film Lagaan: Once upon a time in India and the promotion of Bollywood fashion by Vanity Fair and major department stores in London and New York. Meanwhile, in India, Sanjay Gupta inaugurated a new era of cross-cultural remakes in Bollywood with his successful adaptation of Quentin Tarantino‘s Reservoir Dogs. A year later, Bollywood produced another indirect Hollywood remake in the form of Koi…Mil Gaya – an unacknowledged reinterpretation of Steven Spielberg‘s E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial. 2003 also added another global twist as powerhouse 20th Century Fox became the First Hollywood sponsor of a Bollywood film (Ek Hasina Thi).
Whilst the West continued to play with mixing Hollywood and Bollywood conventions in Bride and Prejudice, 2004 brought about further hybridity and creativity in Hindi filmmaking. Farah Khan‘s Main Hoon Na wowed audiences with its Matrix-inspired special effects action choreography, whilst Hum Tum, one of the biggest hits of the year, experimented with inserting animation sequences into Its live-action digenesis. In 2005, Bollywood released its first full-length feature animation Hanuman, again something novel that was received well by Indian audiences.
One more landmark film came in the form of yet another Bhansali production, Black – a film which lacked the so-called ‗essential ‘song and dance elements required for a film to be commercially successful in India. Black presented a remarkably unglamorous role for its lead actress Rani Mukherjee (one of the industry‘s top stars), who took on a deaf, blind and mute character, earning her five awards and the film critical acclaim. Most importantly, the film‘s commercial success in India signaled the changing and diversifying tastes of the Indian viewing public. At this same time, India demonstrated the power and influence Bollywood stars had over their audiences when the Times of India group launched India Poised – a government supported initiative which combined politics with entertainment media in order to reinvigorate the country‘s future leadership.
Following the model of Western panel shows such as Pop idol, the campaign ran a television show called Lead India inviting members of the Indian public to apply and compete for a place in India‘s assembly elections. Audiences were able to vote for their favorite contestants via an SMS text or online ballot. Most significantly, despite the serious politics behind this campaign, the judges ‘panel on the programme comprised of Bollywood industry professionals such as lyricist Javed Akhtar and movie star Akshay Kumar. The India Poised publicity campaign also included adverts starring Bollywood megastars such as Amitabh Bachchan and Shah Rukh Khan, which were displayed on TV channels and before film screenings in Cineplex theatres across the country.
In 2006 Bollywood production companies realised the potential for mass profit through film Franchises and launched their first movie sequels, Krrish and Dhoom 2. This year also marked a first in the industry for self-adaptation, producing two big-budget remakes of landmark Hindi films from previous eras: Don and Umrao Jaan. Interestingly, these new sequels and remakes challenged assumptions regarding Bollywood‘s supposed moral high-ground, instead casting their lead stars in negative roles: Hrithik Roshan as a master-thief in Dhoom 2, Sharuk Khan the ruthless mafia in don: the chase begins. , and Amitabh Bachchan as a torturing psychopath in Aag (a 2008 Remake of legendary 70s ―curry Western Sholay).
Bollywood‘s innovation and trend for recycling has continued to proliferate in following years. In 2007 – the same year that the word Bollywood entered the Oxford English Dictionary and Indian film actress Shilpa Shetty won the public‘s vote on Big Brother in the UK – the industry‘s previous record for highest grossing film was broken by Om Shanti Om, a remake of 1980‘s Indian film Karz. Other films in the top ten of highest grossers that year included unacknowledged versions of Hollywood‘s Three Men and a Baby and Hitch. 2008 followed in similar vein with two more hit sequels (Golmaal Returns and Sarkar Raj) and Ghajini, which despite being a Bollywood remake of a South Indian film adaptation of Christopher Nolan‘s Memento, has since become the most successful Indian film of all time. These films showed us how audiences now were wanting and accepting to see their Heroes in an anti-heroic, villainous roles.
All of the above shifts in Bollywood‘s film production and content took place after its economic liberalization and point towards a new consumer centered, self-reflexive, visually spectacular and nostalgic style of filmmaking in India, which I believe signals the country and film industry‘s overall increasing shifts into postmodern territory.
Thus a Modern era of more powerful and brave films were born, who were not just rich in its content, but also rich in the emotional connect it has with its audience. Films like Barfi (2013) by Director Anurag Basu, gives us a feel that a film with two handicap or challenged characters can also work and do business in today’s market. The audiences have become much more intelligent and sensitive towards a story and script than the typical masala song and dance routine. Today we have space and demand for every kind of films, be it Bollywood masala entertainers or meaningful serious cinema. The line between commercial and art cinema has finally blurred with the actors becoming much bolder and experimental in their choice of films and roles.
In the next chapter we will look into a particular dimension of anti-hero in the Hindi cinema. And how has it risen to new heights even in commercial Bollywood cinema. How well have the audiences accepted their heroes in the shades of grey all over the world.
‘Auteur’s a French word which translated in English means ‘author’, the creator of the work. Having said that, cinema unlike the other arts like poetry, painting etc. is a collective art and includes contributions from other artists to make it a completed film and is not the work of a sole artist. However, the ‘Auteur Theory’ suggests that there is one prime force that leads to the creation of the film and that individual guides all the processes of filmmaking. It is the vision and worldview of this individual who makes the film special and thus a work of art. The ‘Auteur Theory’ was born out of the French New Wave movement in cinema pioneered by the critic and filmmaker Francoise Truffaut ( he wrote an important article ‘ a certain tendency in French Cinema’ for the Cahiers du Cinema magazine in 1954)which was a protest to liberate the medium of cinema from its old conventions, asking for freedom for the director to express himself beyond the reliance on literature and demanded respect for the director who is to be treated as an independent artist in the medium of cinema enabling him to create a body of work, like any other artist, dwelling on themes and developing his distinctive style. Why does the researcher regard Anurag Kashyap as an auteur and chose to analyze his body of work because I feel there is a struggle - there is a creative voice that wants to rebel and a heart full of feelings. His films contain a personal vision and a distinctive style which as an artist interests me to observe and examine.
In India after 1950 there was a parallel cinema movement which was literally created as a force opposed to the popular mainstream film industry with higher ideals and broke the conventional rules set out by popular cinema like happy endings, songs etc. Anurag Kashyap belongs to that alternate cinema movement in India today. It has evolved to not necessarily being opposed to mainstream cinema but seems to be seeking if it can maintain its soul and yet remain mainstream. It’s interesting to note that Anurag started his film career with his feature film Black Friday (2007) financed by Midday Multimedia (with a mere budget of Rs 4.5 Crores) who were new to filmmaking and with his latest film Gangs of Wasseypur (2012) has the support and backing of a major Corporate – Viacom 18 Motion Pictures, produced by Sunil Bohra (with an app budget of Rs 9.20 Crores for GOW Part One and a collection of Rs. 10 Crores in the opening weekend). History and common sense both suggest ‘Less money is more freedom’ for an independent filmmaker or a director in a studio system (rather corporate setup in today’s terms), so what interestingly remains to be seen is will all the bigger budget trappings compromise the ‘spirit’ of films in the near future for an auteur like Anurag.
For an Auteur to enter the system and yet retain his personal freedom and smuggle the ‘soul’ into it (as Martin Scorsese puts it) is an interesting challenge. Also till now he has largely been opposed to the star system and has not used big stars even for his recent film Gangs of Wasseypur – will he venture, in the near future making bigger budget films and using stars, if he does what will be the price he pays is the big question. Best summed up in Anurag’s own words on the release of his first film Black Friday (2007). “Every rebel becomes a conformist. My real insecurity begins now” (Feb 13th 2007 http://anuragkashyap.tumbhi.com/uncategorized/black-friday-introspecting-156)
www.rediff.com / black Friday interviews and reviews.
To understand the Anti-Hero element in Anurag Kasyap Films and in Hindi Cinema, We first need to understand what is the definition of an Anti-Hero and also the various kinds of heroes in films, theoretically and in Literature.
A protagonist who is a non-hero or the antithesis of a traditional hero. While the traditional hero may be dashing, strong, brave, resourceful, or handsome, the antihero may be incompetent, unlucky, clumsy, dumb, ugly, or clownish. Examples here might include the senile protagonist of Cervantes' Don Quixote or the girlish knight Sir Thopas from Chaucer's "Sir Thopas." In the case of the Byronic and Miltonic antihero, the antihero is a romanticized but wicked character who defies authority, and becomes paradoxically ennobled by his peculiar rejection of virtue. In this sense, Milton presents Satan in Paradise Lost as an antihero in a sympathetic manner--at least in the first half of the poem. The same is true of Heathcliffe in Emily Bronté's Wuthering Heights. Compare with the picaro.
According to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary entry, the definition of an anti-hero is
Antihero- a main character in a book, play, movie, etc., who does not have the usual good qualities that are expected in a hero; A protagonist or notable figure who is conspicuously lacking in heroic qualities.
In literary circles, there is much debate over what exactly an anti-hero is. Some believe any hero without heroic qualities (he lies, cheats, steals, etc.) is an anti-hero (think of Robin Hood). Others believe any ‘dark’ character would be an anti-hero (think Sirius Black post Prisoner of Azkaban). It is even argued that a non-protagonist-or-antagonist villain is an anti-hero (think Gollum). There are debates between what the actual characteristics of an anti-hero are. Is it a dark, gritty hero? Is it a selfishly motivated hero? Is it a villain with good intentions? All of these are debated ideas of what the anti-hero is in literature. The fatal flaw in these examples, I find, is that there seemsto be a hard-line of choices between Heroic protagonist, anti-heroic protagonist, and villainous antagonist.
In “Exploring the Dark Side: The Anti-Hero’s Journey”, James Bonnet says, “Villains become anti-heroes when the story is about them; when we see the process they undergo to become villains.”
However, in modern media and pop culture, it’s easier to see beyond this solid three-part spectrum and allow for a more flexible way of identifying a character in the story. I would argue that the best way to clearly identify characters is a five-part spectrum: Hero, Dark Hero, Anti-hero, Sympathetic Villain, and Villain.
Hero: The hero is your clear and true ‘good guy’. I don’t agree with the idea of ‘absolutely heroic traits only’ because unless we’re talking about Jesus or Captain America, almost every hero has his or her flaws. However, a true Hero is the clear and obvious ‘good guy’. Usually this person is the protagonist of the story who swoops in and saves the day.
1 A good example of the hero in modern media and pop culture:
Harry Potter, the eponymous protagonist of J.K. Rowling’s wildly popular Harry Potter series, is a great example of a pure, unadulterated hero. From the very beginning, the reader/viewer (depending on whether you’re talking about the book or the film) knows that Harry Potter is the ‘good guy’. He’s the protagonist who constantly saves the day, saves his friends, and saves the world in general. There are flaws, sure, but they are minor compared to his large heart and refusal to give up. You are left without a single doubt that he is a hero.