Monday, August 5, 2013

Wordy Peeve

So, words change over time. The language evolves. I know this.

But people saying "antihero" when they mean "grouchy hero" still bugs me.

These days, the word antihero basically means a hero that's kind of a jerk. The word has been beaten into submission, the battle's over, it's dead, I admit it.

Here's your strong, smart, confident, intelligent, handsome "antihero".
But would you like to know what it actually means?

In classical literature, heroes were almost always strong, confident, intelligent, handsome people like Hercules and Achilles. They might have flaws, sure, but in general they were pretty capable human beings.

You may notice that a lot of modern "antiheroes" fit this description. Tony Stark, Jack Sparrow, Harry Dresden, and Sherlock Holmes are all cynical and snarky and morally ambiguous, but they're also treated as ideals, and they have very few actual flaws other than their occasional lack of good intentions.

A classical antihero is a main character that is flawed in almost every way. They're scared, unattractive, unskilled at combat, and maybe not all that bright. You might be interested in watching their journey, but very few people would actually want to be the antihero. A decent modern example might be Frodo Baggins. Frodo lacks pretty much all heroic qualities except a willingness to do a necessary-but-hard thing, and very few people would actually want to be Frodo, because he doesn't hold up to a heroic ideal. He's not super smart or attractive or strong.

Oh hey, Cain. Now THERE'S an anti-hero.


  1. I didn't realize Iron Man was called an anti-hero. That's weird. Lol!

    Wolverine might could pass for an anti-hero if he wasn't so dang cool. And skilled. And brave. And awesome.

    1. Hahahaha yes exactly. "So perfect in every way; such an anti-hero!"