Limyaael

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11:04 am: Rant on anti-heroes

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From:[info]illidanstr
Date:December 13th, 2007 07:47 pm (UTC)
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Created an account here just for you =)

I like interesting introspection, but there's nothing to turn me off a book faster then listening to the "good guys" think. I kinda think I associate them with banality, illogic, and a total lack of anything resembling (to me) human emotion...

As people, most of us really, really do suck hard insane. What with all the benefits of presenting a stereotypically good personality, there might be a facade on top of that.

But introspection is incredibly awesome, either with an anti-hero or a villain! If an author can't plausibly do that, can't show their point of view in detail, do they really have a believable villain/anti-hero in the first place? I think, to understand ugly beliefs or actions on the part of others, you have to dissect your own. Sure, we might *think* ourselves forward-minded with our tolerances and all, but..

We're not, obviously. Example: Darfur. Huge humanitarian crisis. People there are living in utterly atrocious conditions. We as people are more interested in the economic benefits of a tight relationship with China. There are major problems like that which would *not* be easily fixed; problems which even the first step toward a solution might provoke an economic downturn, might make things worse in the long haul. It's easier to hold one-day hunger fasts, isn't it?

Can it really be so hard for writers to understand that supporters of slavery and genocide could rationalize their own actions in the same way?
From:(Anonymous)
Date:December 14th, 2007 04:06 am (UTC)
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Can it really be so hard for writers to understand that supporters of slavery and genocide could rationalize their own actions in the same way?

They ought to try reading some of the arguments for bonded labor in Pakistan, such as those featured in the interviews of slaveholders found in the analysis of modern slavery in Kevin Bales' book Disposable People: New Slavery in the Global Economy. "It's for their own good" is one of the most difficult-to-disprove logics, as it's usually based on stereotypes and racial/religious/class profiling, and yet one of the most common.
From:[info]arterialspray
Date:December 14th, 2007 05:41 am (UTC)
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"It's for their own good" sounds sort of like Aristotle's supposed argument in support of slavery -- his argument was that for so-called 'natural slaves' (i.e people who have what he calls a slave-nature) they are actually better off being controlled and told what to do by people who know (better than they do) what's best for them. The interesting thing about Aristotle's argument is that we can't really tell whether he was in fact arguing for or against slavery (i.e. he could have been saying "it's only ever justified for people who have slave-natures, and there are no such people / or it is impossible to ever determine for sure that anyone has a slave-nature").
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From:[info]limyaael
Date:December 15th, 2007 03:59 pm (UTC)
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Can it really be so hard for writers to understand that supporters of slavery and genocide could rationalize their own actions in the same way?

The problem is that the writers usually come up with massively fake-sounding arguments when they don't base their arguments for the characters off real-world sources. It's on a par with villains who knowingly think about themselves being evil.
From:(Anonymous)
Date:February 2nd, 2011 06:31 pm (UTC)
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I tried this in one of my stories. Not knowing much about modern slavery, I just made the argument.

The society was formed out of artists/philosophers/scientists after the collapse of an empire. As such, they value logic, and see purity as the ultimate expression of logic. Therefore, the majority (which supports slavery) sees half-breeds and half-creatures as inferior, because they are impure... Since their society is dedicated to upholding logic, and these people are inherently illogical, they must be inferior.

I don't like the argument, but until I do more research I can't come up with anything better.
From:[info]topazlily
Date:December 20th, 2007 04:41 pm (UTC)
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I strongly disagree that "most people do suck hard insane". I'm not sure what you mean by this, but I assume you mean most people are bastards. Has this really been your experience of life? It certainly hasn't been mine.

I am not a bastard, my family and friends are not bastards and in fact most people I have known in my life are not bastards. Quite the reverse. In fact– dare I say it?– I actually do believe I and they are good, compassionate people. (And yes, if you say I'm not I will take it personally– how can I fail to do so?)

Sure, people aren't perfect, but let's not get so judgemental that we can only see the flaws in our fellow human beings. Morality isn't an either/or, black-and-white situation.

I think to write an anti–hero (or villain) it is necessary to have some perspective on the character. "Well, EVERYONE'S a creep, really, they just pretend to be good," is the sort of world-view an anti-hero might have– but if it's the author's view too, that anti-hero immediately turns into a de facto hero.



From:[info]illidanstr
Date:December 20th, 2007 05:02 pm (UTC)
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I love your last paragraph; somehow, the idea that someone's status as a hero or anti-hero is reliant on the views of the author themselves hadn't occurred to me as such.

People's behavior is mostly situational. The results of studies such as the Milgram and Prison experiments seem to show this, and certain situations can degrade otherwise positive behavior very quickly. To quickly Godwin this thread, Hitler was democratically elected. Compared to the average person's life in the history of the world, any modern first-world nation is paradise.

Regarding personal experience, I've found that you get out of life what you put into it. Very, very few people have a natural mean streak under normal conditions, and most respond positively to kindness. Funny enough, it seems that thinking negatively of others is bad for one's self - under this theory, concentrating on the believed stupidity of a blond might lead to the reaction of dumbing ourselves down.

I think there are many, many good arguments for either view of people; more importantly, I think we as a species know so little (of practical or philosophical matters) about our own mindset it's hard for any of us to truly conclude one way or the other yet. Whichever is "right" by whatever standard, though, your view is clearly more beneficial.
From:[info]topazlily
Date:December 20th, 2007 05:21 pm (UTC)
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Thanks... Your post crossed one of mine, which has a comment I just realized sounds as if it's directed at you:

If you think it's perfection or nothing... then maybe you should be writing straight heroes vs villains.

I actually meant "you" in a general sense. I was thinking of some draft stories I've read recently– the (teenage) writers say they're writing morally-ambiguous characters, but their ideas of morality are too simplistic to make it work.
From:[info]darkredd
Date:January 10th, 2008 09:00 pm (UTC)
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You know, you struck upon a problem I have with a certain anime, called Elfen Lied. In short, there are no good people in that story. Well, there are three, but they are summarily killed. The implication present is that humanity is fully deserving of its impending extinction.

It could be true, but I can't help but think that 'we all deserve gory death' is not a constructive worldview.
From:[info]topazlily
Date:December 20th, 2007 05:01 pm (UTC)
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Adding to my last comment: It seems to me that to write an anti-hero successfully one needs to be able to perceive different shades of morality. If you think it's perfection or nothing... then maybe you should be writing straight heroes vs villains.
From:[info]illidanstr
Date:December 20th, 2007 05:27 pm (UTC)
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I've always had a soft spot for the metaphor of colors, rather then just shades; the idea being, of course, that black and white viewpoints represent all-or-nothing good or evil, shades show that characters have some-good and some-bad, while colors are required to question the whole legitimacy of "good" and "bad" in the first place. Not everyone uses the same scale, and all; there are many dimensions by which to judge any action.
From:[info]topazlily
Date:December 21st, 2007 09:44 am (UTC)
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Indeed... but I would say that for a character to qualify as a real anti-hero, the author must present him or her as not measuring up in some way. I guess this does involve passing judgement.

Otherwise– in the worst case– the character can become a full-fledged Mary Sue, perhaps acting out the writer's fantasies of not being bound by laws/ethics/social conventions/whatever.
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