It’s number three, and that is the number of archetypes we’ll be looking at today! Or, more specifically, the number of protagonist archetypes. Yep, we’re not done with the protag yet, but I promise, we’re nearly there!
Anyway, this may come as a surprise to you, but there is more than one way to have your protag… well, protag. As opposed to the Goody Two-Shoes Luke Skywalker (until the sequel films, that is), there are other ways to have your protag develop.
One of the more popular, and more misinterpretation, is the anti-hero. The bad boy, the dark brooding loner, the “I am a troubled and dark soul you should stay away from, baby.” Aka, the vampire, the Wolverine, the Batman, the Punisher. The anti-hero is all of these things and more, and yet… there are a lot of ways to be an anti-hero. The general idea is some dark and gritty person running around punching people in the face, as opposed to oh say, Captain America giving a speech and having everyone flock to his side to get a look at that jawline. But there are few surprising ways to go it.
For comparison, let’s use the aforementioned Captain America and the world-famous Batman. Batman is, by the general idea of the term, the ideal anti-hero: he roams around at night, punches people in the face, has a tragic backstory, etc. But the thing is, he’s also very much a contender for the more modern interpretation of hero. He never kills, always saves lives, is a force for good in a crime-ridden city, and does what he can to make everyone better in some way. And, ironically, Captain America is more likely to fit the anti-hero bill than Batman. For starters, Captain America is a soldier who fought and has killed — he’s not really loyal to the American government as so much as the American Dream. So, if the all-American hero is an anti-hero, and the dark, bad boy is a classical hero, then what exactly is an anti-hero?
Well, simply put, an anti-hero is a person who goes against the norm. If the world is black and bleak, and the regular heroes are like that, then an anti-hero is the guy who goes above and beyond to be good. While vice versa for cases like our own. See Spider-Man for a good example.
Hero as Villain
Now, what if your protag wasn’t a hero, but a villain? Shocking, I know, but it’s totally possible for the protag to be the moral bad guy. After all, a protagonist isn’t the hero by default, he’s just the guy who pushes the plot forward. A villain is just as capable as that as a hero. The biggest difference between the antagonist and the protagonist depends on who the camera is focusing on. But then you run the risk of the villain protag being, well, the villain, and therefore, unrelatable to your audience. So, treat this one with caution, and make sure that you know what you’re doing, otherwise your audience just won’t care.
Next up: The Five Man Band, or as I like to call it: Go, go, Power Rangers!