So Antiheroes and Gray Morality have become kind of a big deal in the reading community these days.
And, musing little bean that I am, I’ve pondered long and hard on the question, trying to decide where I stand on the matter.
Everyone seems to have a different opinion… Some people love love Antiheroes, while others are more skeptical.
Antiheroes intrigue me, there’s no doubt about it. But I can’t deny that it could be dangerous to glorify them or make them The Hero Of The Story.
A great many people are calling for the return of Good Old-Fashioned Heroes.
Heroes like Peeta, Captain America, Aragorn, and Superman. Just plain good kind honest dudes. People with a working moral compass, good manners, and a code of ethics. A sense of decency, honor, and chivalry.
I like this kind of Hero! I do. It’s just…
Well, I do worry that they might be a wee bit unrealistic not to mention a whole lot more unrelatable?
Because aren’t we all morally gray?
There are no perfect people and no one beyond redemption; no black and white when it comes to human beings. We are all gray… in varying shades. The lightest gray is still gray. The darkest gray is still gray.
For this reason, I like that Antiheroes – or at least heroes who struggle to be Heroes – are on the rise. Flawed people are easier to relate to. We connect with them, we care about them, we cheer for them as they grow, and we understand when they fail. Not to mention that Antiheroes classically have fabulous hair and plenty of snark.
And yet at the same time, I agree with those who want more of the old kind of Hero. The Obvious Hero.
…Guys, I think Twenty-One Pilots has given me the answer.
That sounds ridiculous, but hear me out. In their song Polarize, Josh says, “I wanted to be a better brother, better son. A better adversary to the evil I have done.”
And it just clicked.
What if a Hero was someone who was more aware than anyone else of their own demons, of their own potential for evil, of the darkness they saw inside themselves every day?
I gave Peeta and Captain America and Aragorn and Superman as my examples of kind, genuinely good Heroes.
Cap is one of my favorites characters of all time, not to mention my favorite Avenger and a true Old-Fashioned Hero. And it’s there. This palpable fear… of himself.
Aragorn is noble and chivalrous… and fears his own weakness more than any orc from Mordor.
Peeta doesn’t care if he dies… he just hopes the Games won’t turn him into a monster.
Superman is virtually invulnerable, but he doubts himself. His power is too much and he wonders if it won’t corrupt him.
They all do.
In another Twenty-One Pilots song, Not Today, Josh wonders if the world would be “better off without me in it, trying to transform it.”
So maybe heroism is less about destroying the darkness in the world and more wrestling with our own demons.
Maybe trying to change the world does more harm than good, in the long run. Who knows? We don’t know everything.
Maybe the goal is to realize that evil originates in the human heart and we are human. And have hearts.
Maybe we don’t need to write good upstanding Heroes, just ones who realize that they are their own worst enemy.
Maybe that’s why we relate to the Hero. Not because he wears his flaws on his sleeve the way the Antihero does, but because he doesn’t trust himself, not for one second.
We can’t relate to perfect Heroes, but we can relate to insecure ones.
And this is not to say that we shouldn’t be brokenhearted over the evil of our world or stand up to darkness whenever we get the chance; we should.
I’m simply suggesting that perhaps the evil we choose should always concern us more than the evil Out There.
I think I know how to write a Hero now.