Underrated fictional (anti)heroes

The whole thing about Twilight and Team Edward/Jacob got me thinking about how women and girls seem especially susceptible to becoming enamored of fictional characters.  I am no exception.  If you don't know what I'm talking about, think of Mr. Darcy--how many girls have shamelessly swooned over that one? (Hint: 50,000 on Facebook alone)  Or Gilbert Blythe, from Anne of Green Gables?  

In all practicality, falling for a fictional character makes zero sense.  But here's where the often irrational nature of the female psyche makes all things possible--something about the way we're wired that makes it fun to eschew reality.  I wonder how real-life guys feel about this, because I rarely hear of guys going gaga over fictional women (with exceptions like Psylocke from the X-Men).

Thing is, I'm not here to talk about the conventional heroes who exercise romantic superpowers over legions of moony womenfolk.  As I had eccentric (and eclectic) taste in the opposite gender throughout my adolescence, it follows that my pick of fictional characters would be similarly offbeat/oddball.  SI share with you some of my favorite anti-heroes, from books and movies, who capture my imagination.  Sometimes they get the girl, but usually they don't.  Sometimes they die.  But they are all human, deeply flawed--some seek redemption, and some remained unabashed villains.  Yet somehow they win you over with their bravery, tragedy, humor, undiluted charisma, or all of the above. Reader Poll: who are your favorites?
  • Sydney Carton, A Tale of Two Cities: one of my earliest literary loves, for his brokenness and unexpected heroism.  "It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known."
  • Mr. Edward Rochester, Jane Eyre: Ornery and flawed, yes, but way more witty and sexy than dull old Mr. Darcy.  "Do you think me handsome, Jane?"
  • Jacob Black, Twilight Saga: I already explained this one in my previous post.  "Normal humans run away from monsters, Bella,  I never claimed to be normal.  Just human."
  • Jeff Rankin, Stranger With My Face: I don't expect anyone else to have read this one, but it's one of my favorites, and I loved this irascible outcast with the half-burned face as much as the heroine did.
  • Calvin O'Keefe, A Wrinkle in Time: Probably the most well-balanced and well-adjusted pick on the list, but who doesn't melt at his laid-back, sweet game?  "Well, you know what [Meg], you've got dreamboat eyes...You go right on wearing your glasses.  I don't think I want anybody else to see what gorgeous eyes you have."
  • Russell Hammond, Almost Famous: I wrote on my old blog when I watched the bootleg cut: I'm hopelessly in love with Billy-Crudup-as-Russell-Hammond.  As all romantics/idealists/delusionals should be.  This discovery made possible by Billy Crudup's impossibly expressive eyes and rockstar haircut, and some revealing footage that was cut from the theatrical version.  "Miss Penny Lane, I'll tell you what rock 'n' roll will miss, the day you truly retire.  The way you turn a hotel room into a home, the way you pick up strays wherever you go.  That cream coat in the middle of summer... That real name that you'll never reveal."
  • Harrison Bergeron, from my favorite story by Kurt Vonnegut: He's so bad-ass. "Even as I stand here - crippled, hobbled, sickened - I am a greater ruler than any man who ever lived!"
  • Nino Quincampoix, Amelie: He's lost, lonely, and a bit odd.  We're lost, lonely...and a bit odd.  Instant "affinity."
  • Shogo Kawada (川田 章吾) a.k.a. Boy #5, Battle Royale: Take bad-ass guy, the only one who ever survived the Battle Royale (presumably by killing everyone). Add selfless self-sacrifice.  Swoon.
  • Brendan Frye, Brick: Passionate high school outcast stops at nothing to unravel the mysterious murder of his true love. "Throw one at me if you want, hash-head. I've got all five senses and I slept last night, that puts me six up on the lot of you."
  • Ben Hawkins, Carnivale: Taciturn, tough and infallibly decent young healer who never asked for an extraordinary destiny.  "I dunno, I'm not really interested in all their jibber jabber."
  • Tony Stark, Iron Man: Bombastic, obnoxious, and the one superhero whose "alter ego" you prefer.  Men want to be him, and women want to f him. "Let's face it [Pepper], this is not the worst thing you've caught me doing."

And the best of the rest:
  • Spike, from Buffy the Vampire Slayer: I never got into the show, but based on what I know about it, Spike is a veritable paragon of anti-heroism (is that an oxymoron?)
  • Edward Scissorhands: Poor odd creature. Don't you just want to give him a hug? "I'm...I'm not finished."
  • Michael Corleone, The Godfather: Thou art a villian.  An intensely charismatic (and powerful) villain. 
  • The Beast, Beauty and the Beast: "I let her go...because...I love her."
  • Atreyu, The Neverending Story: He was beautiful, courageous, and he loved his horse.  Who didn't cry when Artax died?
  • Jack Merridew, Lord of the Flies: I don't know why but I always had a thing for the evil choir boy in this book. It's a little f'ed up, I know. "Sucks to your ass-mar!"
  • Justin, The Secret of NIMH: Ok he is literally a rat, but so heroic.
  • Chris Chambers, Stand By Me: played by the incomparable River Phoenix.  "Not if I see you first!"
  • Madmartigan, Willow: Hilariously irreverent.  "Oh, I'm sorry, peck! Peck! Peck, peck, peck, peck, peck, peck, peck!"
  • Akira Fukushima, Nobody Knows (Dare mo shiranai): Ok so he's like 12 years old but he had to grow up so fast in this heartbreaking tale about a mother who abandons her four children.
  • U.S. Marshal Vince Larkin, Con Air: "That would be loquacious, verbose, effusive. How about 'chatty'?"
  • Irvine Kinneas, Final Fantasy 8: Interesting fact from Wikipedia: "[In creating Irvine,] Nomura tried to strike a balance between not overshadowing Squall and not becoming too unattractive. He gave Irvine a handsome appearance, but a casual personality, hoping that this would make him less attractive than Squall."  Little did Nomura know, the casual personality actually makes Irvine more attractive, especially when grinning and carrying a large gun.
10 responses
Great post. I had a (man) crush on Jerry Mulligan, Gene Kelly's character in American in Paris, when I was 12 and you have brought it back for me. Thanks.
Men always act foolish over the fictional women characters. I see it a lot in Animation and Gaming, especially gaming.
I heart Calvin O'Keefe.
le sigh.. me too!
Ever notice how often in violent video games, the male fighters wear so much armor that in real life they wouldn’t be able to move—while the females are dodging bullets, blades, and blows nearly naked?
@Wes that's because videogame makers are mostly men. Nerdy, deluded men =P
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From all of them the only two that I know it is the one from Amelie that it is my favorite movie. because it has everything to make a noon pretty enjoyable. They are looking for happiness and everybody grow at the end of the movie in more than one way and even he that he is a little bit fragile that he can take Buy Viagra fulfill his dream.
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