I´ve been missing heroes from artistic works. It seems all we have now is the anti-hero and some point in between. I could name, right out of my mind, various modern works that don´t have actual heroes in them. Pretty much all of the protagonists of the anime "Fate/Zero" and the anime "Psycho-Pass" to name but a few of the most recent names. You got characters like James Bond, for instance. Who ever said that James Bond is a hero anyways for crying out loud? It´s not because of the uptight attitude, the suit, not because he is a womanizer... but the guy is a mercenary, and that´s it. He is close enough to being one of the "bad" guys, it´s just that he is portrayed as the "good guy" and also is working for the so called "good guys".
I get it. I get it that sometimes, people are not going exclusively for morality in their tales. They just want to mix and try something new, as it were. It´s alright, I guess. Some other times, the character is not purposefully portrayed as the "good guy", being more of an anti-hero (almost villainy at that) than anything else, and that´s also fine. But the problem I have is when someone is portrayed as being good and moral all the while not having such qualities for the most part. When the hero is in fact an assh*le.
It began with innovation I believe, Innovation as in the daughter of Mrs. Boredom. But I know, sure you´ll remind me that we have so called anti-heroes since times immemorial. Protagonists that are not exactly high and mighty. Well, they can be mighty, but they are not exactly pinnacles of morality. You got the idea. Thing is, around the 90's, people got bored from the old heroes from yore, who supposedly were awesome, honest to god decent people. Heroes like Superman - you know, after his superdickery phase. Heroes that exuded morals and virtue. Champions of the good deeds. It started, so the story goes, after the 90's. We have this from the website TV Tropes:
The Nineties Anti Hero is the polar opposite of your typical Silver Age superhero. Not only are they flawed, they may lack any heroic attributes. However, they're rarely ineffectual or pathetic (in the eyes of the writer, anyway), generally instead being totally committed to whatever they're doing at the moment. They have no compunction about killing villains, and indeed, this may extend to anyone who gets in their way; facing The Cape or any hero who does mind, they sneer at them as outdated. Their super-powers (if they have superpowers — many are Badass Normals) tend towards the lethal as well, and may include growing spikes out of one's body, the power to psychically boil blood, or turning any item into a gun. They are usually either demonic or technological in origin.
Usually they'll have one word, gritty names that used to be reserved for villains, often creatively misspelled ('Shade' becomes 'Shayde', etc) to appear more dramatic or, because poor literacy is kewl, to make the character look radical. Never, of course, for trademark purposes. In terms of characterization, they have four modes: brooding, sarcastic, badass, or just plain psychotic. How much of any one side they show over the others is the main thing that sets them apart from each other. Artist/writer Rob Liefeld is most prominently associated with Nineties Anti Heroes (and pouches). Todd McFarlane and Jim Lee are also prominent artists from the period. The origins of this trope extend at least to the mid-'80s; two critically praised comics, Watchmen and Batman: The Dark Knight Returns were both published in 1986. Both comics were influential in that they "deconstructed" traditional superheroic tropes, employing them for more sophisticated ends; Watchmen, after all, is considered by some to be the greatest comic of all time. The Nineties Anti-Hero was born when other writers connected the success of these series with their dark mood and overt violence, mixed their limited understanding of these works with tropes from the action movies of the time, and went from "heroes with flaws" to "characters constructed entirely of flaws".
Speaking of action movies, an argument can also be made that the Nineties Anti-Hero came about more from the influence of the Action Hero archetype that was popular at around the same time than anything seen in Watchmen. Indeed, many nineties anti-heroes would spout one liners that would not at all be out of place in an Arnold Schwarzenegger or Steven Seagal movie. Note that, in spite of the cynical-sounding write-up, this is not a bad trope, it's just very difficult to describe without making the whole premise sound inherently ridiculous. Much Darker and Edgier fiction tends to suffer from this problem. This can make sorting out the parodies a little tricky.
Anyway. So to recap. Around the 90´s people got bored with the morals of the good guy and demanded a different type of protagonist. This one should walk the thin lines between good and evil, and step onto grey areas like his life depended on it (and it often does). He should do things that are borderline evil, sometimes. And for the most part I get it, people want to relate, as they have difficulty telling good from bad in their daily lives, they want to be able to relate to it on fiction as well. They see their lives as a succession of choices that are not always clear, and sometimes they step on grey areas (or so they believe) and they want to see the protagonist deal with it. I get it. This spills until now in the more dark and edgier lines of old superheroes, that´s been in vogue (Batman - The Dark Knight Rises, X-men wearing all black costumes and so on and on).
And it´s perfectly fine. Sometimes life is full of difficult questions. Like the one in Batman´s existence - I´m chosing this one because it´s more known to a great audience - should he kill the Joker or not? People debate this aspect and many others from heroes (sorry, protagonists) lives', since ever. Because it´s linked to their lives and how they deal with the problems they have in life as well. Some are philosophies old age questions even.
On the other hand, I become very disappointed when I see that the one we are rooting for, the protagonists, is as cheap a son of a b*tch as the antagonist. When he kills for no reason - when he´s a jerk to someone for no reason, when he makes other people suffer with his attitude. I´m not being childish, nor foolish here. Here, let me give you an example.
I was watching the anime 'Psycho-Pass' the other day. So the main protagonists are investigating a murder. They come into a company, and they see that some of the employees there are mistreating one of their coworkers. They throw him into the ground, and kick his little juice box and that stupid shit. Nobody seems to care about the person being mistreated right in the middle of the work cafeteria, and even the boss is watching without doing nothing. When asked about, he says that it´s always like this, there, and that things are that way because the workers need to be jerks to someone so they can feel better about their lives (they live and work non stop at that place, because in the future in which the story takes place nobody cares much about labor laws apparently). So we have this situation when somebody is literally being thrown at the ground and nobody cares about the guy. The main protagonist then, goes there, and lifts the guy, giving him a smile and being nice. So it´s all good, right?
They later find out that this guy is the one murdering people. Why he was doing that, you ask? You think MAYBE it was because he was being used as mop every f*ckin day of his life while everyone and his boss were watching and laughing? So, we might show some sympathy then, right? Because, you know, there´s only so much a man can take right?
You know what the.. anham... protagonist does? He catapults himself to the bedroom of the poor man, and starts using scaring tactics, intimidation and threats, going as far as attacking the guy by throwing him in the floor, who is now at this point shaking in fear of being caught and afraid of react against the cop who was doing that to him. It´s written all over that if he has done it, he done it because he was feeling frustrated, he was humiliation as well. But what does the protagonist do? Let´s rough him up some more, and then he´ll confess. Bam. Right on, mister protagonist. That was, huh, really classy, of you.
That´s it - that´s the state of the art of our protagonists, our "heroes" - veritable son of a b*tches who disguise themselves as protagonists for the sake of telling a story. Where is the moral, where is the virtue? It´s so tainted with ugliness and amorality, the protagonist can´t be called a hero anymore!
Now, this is true for many other movies/books/whatever. We have weak, amoral people being portrayed as heroes, which have nothing to do with true, virtuous people they should be. This is where it gets me, this is where I´m frustrated, it´s when some jackass is advertised as being the moral, as being the the virtuous one. It´s the facade that gets me. When they are upfront about it, I don´t mind. Anyone who ever bought an (age old now) comic book from Lobo in the 90's, knew he was not getting a comic talking about a righteous, knight in shiny armor guy. The same goes to Conan, the barbarian, for instance. These are sometimes flawed, sometimes evil themselves, models of characters. They are made to be this way, and it´s fine. But when I´m getting a stubborn, idiotic jackass in the place of what was supposed to be a hero that´s when I get upset.
What the f*ck are the morals? Where the f*uck are the good guys? In real life they are hard to find, but in fiction they were supposed to be there! And they are not! Worst of all, what are they passing to people, with their flawed morals and attitude, being taken for right and good ones? You know? I wonder this all the f*cking time now.
One word to be said for so called anti-heroes. Sometimes anti-heroes are jackasses, sometimes they are not, sometimes it´s only their approach on doing things that is different from the hero. He is edgy and all, but in essence he is still a hero, and he still does all the good things a hero does, only dressed in black - once again, like Batman, or Punisher, or Ghost Rider. These are heroes as well. And then we have the ones that are hero only on their names, or actually just being advertised as heroes. These to me are the worst.